On this first-ever feast day of St. John Paul the II, I’ve been reflecting on my gratitude for the example of the late, great pope. (This beautiful post by Fr. Robert Barron is a good short read if you’re looking for a brief tool for your own reflection.) Meanwhile, I also find myself in the 8th month of pregnancy, and my husband and I are eagerly anticipating the arrival of our first son or daughter!
With that in mind, I decided to reread the pope’s Letter to Women this morning, which was written in advance of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. The entire letter is worth a read, but I’m frequently drawn to this portion of the letter where he thanks all women in the world for their “vocation and mission.” Emphasis in italics is from the saint himself:
“This word of thanks to the Lord for his mysterious plan regarding the vocation and mission of women in the world is at the same time a concrete and direct word of thanks to women, to every woman, for all that they represent in the life of humanity.
Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.
Thank you, women who are wives! You irrevocably join your future to that of your husbands, in a relationship of mutual giving, at the service of love and life.
Thank you, women who are daughters and women who are sisters! Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your sensitivity, your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity.
Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of “mystery”, to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.
Thank you, consecrated women! Following the example of the greatest of women, the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, you open yourselves with obedience and fidelity to the gift of God’s love. You help the Church and all mankind to experience a “spousal” relationship to God, one which magnificently expresses the fellowship which God wishes to establish with his creatures.
Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.”
I wish so much that women who struggle with understanding their own dignity in ways big and small would hear these words and take them to heart.
St. John Paul II, pray for us.
Related posts you may like re: St. John Paul II and/or women in the Church:
- Setting Out to Find Meaning in Suffering
- Moving Away from Miracles
- The Hassle and Blessing of Saints
- My Most Beautiful Cathedral
- To Say #YesAllWomen, Say #LayLeadership
- One Eye Shut: On the Need for Women’s Voices
- Am I Pretty? The Trouble with Online Comments