The role of women in Catholicism cannot be understated. After all, the Blessed Mother Mary is one of the most venerated people in all of Christendom, particularly Catholicism. To modern Catholics, she represents the grace, purity, and strength that all women should strive to have. She also is the quintessential mother, who raised Jesus Christ.
In the centuries since, the role of women inside and outside of the Catholic Church has changed dramatically. No longer are women beholden to the patriarchy of the past; the Church has led the way on many of these reforms.
There are many questions regarding what the Church says about women’s roles, and theologians have tackled the answer at length. The essence of the Catholic Church’s answer is that women are the equal counterparts of men and have the same expectations as men: follow Jesus above all else (Luke 10:38-42). Ultimately, the Church believes that all are one and of equal worth and dignity (Galatians 3:28), which is indicated by the fact that Jesus told the women he passed to endure while he was on his way to the Crucifixion, as noted in the Eighth Station.
The Givers of Life
Women are assigned a very special role in bringing up a child: they physically bring forth life. This is one of the utmost blessings that can be bestowed on a person, and it’s given exclusively to women!
Because of this, mothers hold a very special place in the hearts of their children. After all, children were raised from contraception by their mothers. This produces an instinctual bond that cannot be broken.
Because of the fact that women are ordained by God to be the givers of life, men are taught to fashion a bond of their own by being instillers of spiritual life. This is especially important when referring to the priesthood and the unique bond that can be cultivated through spiritual birth. This augments the role of women as the givers of life and emphasizes the dual and cooperative nature of men and women in the Church.
Catholic Prayer: The Fertility Blessing – From conception to birth, every step of the way should be taken with God in mind.
Regarding raising children, women again have a special role that is based around human nature. Since the dawn of time, men have been hunters, protectors, and providers, while women have had an inclination towards caregiving, comforting, and nurturing. This is true across temporal and cultural boundaries, and it rings true today.
While the Church believes in the distinctive roles of men and women, modern times make this distinction a bit more flexible. There are times when the father must take on the traditionally female role and the woman must venture off to take on more of a masculine role. This brings about more of a mutual understanding and respect between men and women, cultivating further harmony and a sense of egalitarianism within the home.
Catholic Prayer: Prayer for Expectant Mothers – Although this prayer is intended for expecting mothers, it speaks volumes to those with children. It emphasizes the role of Mary in Jesus’ life and how important it is for a mother to teach her children in the way that Mary taught Jesus.
Within the Church
Without the people of the Church, everything would come to a halt. There is no devaluing the role of men and women in the Church, though there are distinct roles for each.
As mentioned, men are to give spiritual birth to those around them. The role of women, on the other hand, is to build a foundation that provides continuing education and the installation of virtues, making the Church’s values unassailable in the minds of parishioners.
In Romans, Paul particularly lauded the women of the Church and praised their support in his time of need. The Church recognizes their majority role in Catholicism and venerates them, saints them, and beatifies them as readily as men. After all, Joan of Arc and Mother Teresa are two of the first names to spring to mind when many think of the people of Catholicism.
Catholic Prayer: Prayer for Vocations – When considering your role within the Church, be inspired to make a continuing contribution to the Word of God.
The Role in Marriage
The woman’s role in marriage is complex and multifaceted, as is the man’s. For both, it is a sacred covenant between the individual and God that cannot be broken. To continue a healthy marriage, each party must value the other’s contribution to the whole. This requires recognition of each other’s equal, if different, vocation in the sacred bond of marriage.
The foundation of a solid marriage is a solid Catholic faith. For both men and women, it is advisable to meet a partner where Catholics congregate: Catholic outings, Catholic meetings, or even Catholic singles dating websites, to name a few. Finding a Catholic partner will play a large role in cultivating the mutual respect and willingness to sacrifice that is necessary for a long future together.
Once married, the woman is to stand on equal footing with the man, but in the role of the caregiver and the future mother. It is the duty of the Catholic woman to nurture and care for the man while each partner keeps the other from going astray from the tenants of the Church because, again, above all is a wholehearted devotion to Jesus Christ.
Catholic Prayer: Nuptial Prayer – In the happily married home, women are to strengthen weakness through stern discipline and know the Word of God so that the family never strays from its one earthly duty.
As you can see, a woman’s place in the Church is extremely varied, interesting, and multifaceted. Because the Church is egalitarian, it lacks the trappings that bring forth conflict and disharmony in other religious teachings. Being a Catholic woman does not mean that one has to lose her identity and only be known in relation to a man (the sister/mother/daughter of…); instead she is encouraged to be autonomous and individual with a strong foundation in the Church and the Word of God.