Mary, Model of Womanhood

That was the theme of the retreat I gave last weekend to 90 women at the Sacred Heart Retreat Center in Alhambra, California. From Friday evening to Sunday afternoon we prayed together and I gave five talks and two homilies.

The talks were entitled: "Listen Like Mary," "A Woman and a Snake," "The Genius of Woman," "Mary our Model," and "St. Therese, a Child of Mary." To help me prepare I used the following resources: "Mulieris Dignitatem," Pope John Paul's 1988 Apostolic Letter to Women; Pope John Paul's 1995 Letter to Women, on the occasion of the United Nations Conference in Beijing; the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's 2004 "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World;" and Alice von Hildebrand's little book "The Privilege of Being a Woman."

This is a topic that has interested me for a while. In the 1960's Dr. Karl Stern, a Jewish Freudian psychiatrist who became a Catholic, wrote a book entitled "The Flight from Woman." Part of the back cover's description goes like this: "The scientific revolution of the last 300 years has yielded, in Dr. Stern's view, a de-feminization and de-humanization of society, in the sense that it is a rejection of the kind of wisdom, called sophia, that man comprehends intuitively. 'If we equate the one-sidedly rational and technical with the masculine,' he states, 'there arises the ghastly spectre of a world impoverished of womanly values.'"

More recently, Pope Benedict spoke about the need for the complementarity of the sexes. In an address that he gave in Luanda, Angola on March 22, 2009, he said:

Man and woman are both called to live in profound communion through a reciprocal recognition of one another and the mutual gift of themselves, working together for the common good through the complementary aspects of masculinity and femininity. Who today can fail to recognize the need to make more room for the “reasons of the heart”? In a world like ours, dominated by technology, we feel the need for this feminine complementarity, so that the human race can live in the world without completely losing its humanity. Think of all the places afflicted by great poverty or devastated by war, and of all the tragic situations resulting from migrations, forced or otherwise. It is almost always women who manage to preserve human dignity, to defend the family and to protect cultural and religious values.

I enjoyed the retreat very much and hope to return to Alhambra to give the retreat again in the Fall. Truly I was "blessed among women!"