By Luke Parker, Columnist
Note: Clarifying Catholicism does not usually publish content during the Summer (aside from our reflection series). However, in honor of Mary’s month of May, we have made an exception. Enjoy!
She was a proficient artist. A girl I had just met and her fiancé were in town (Washington, DC) to attend the 2017 Women’s March, and she was diligently creating illustrations on her picket signs. While admiring her drawing abilities, I inquired about the couple’s reasoning for attending the march, promptly receiving an account of how women in America have chains dragging them down and that they must be socially empowered, one indispensable channel of such empowerment being reproductive rights.
After a pleasant conversation, I left this amiable couple, differing from their worldview. I was more saddened than angry. More concerned than frustrated. As beautiful as that inked cardboard sign was, I was disappointed with what little it would do to promote the power of women.
Given the current state of feminism, I think many of us are confused about what it means to be truly empowered. To some, it may be satisfactory to close the wage gap or secure the access to abortion, thereby warding off the oppressive patriarchy. But when I think about what it means to be a powerful woman, I like to think of a good example, some role model every woman, young and old, can strive to emulate. Who is better to look to than our Blessed Mother?
What is strange about Mary, as a powerful woman, is that she never exhibited any sort of self-interested ambition, which the rest of humanity falls into all the time. In fact, she seems to show no concern for worldly gain, except when it comes to running out of wine at a wedding. Even Mary wants to avoid that travesty at all costs!
While I am sure Mary is in favor of just and fair treatment for everyone, Gospel accounts and messages she has sent to us since her Assumption show that her eyes have always gazed upon something much higher: salvation for all her children through obedience to the Father, discipleship of the Son, and guidance from the Holy Spirit. We see her unwavering humility and faithfulness in her greeting to her cousin, Elizabeth: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has looked upon His handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all nations call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name.” A far cry from worldly interests, Mary again affirms her heavenly desires in her dialogue with the children of Fatima, beckoning them to “make sacrifices for sinners, and say often, especially while making a sacrifice: ‘O Jesus, this is for love of thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’”
It is compelling to note that any notion Our Lady makes regarding suffering or injustice on Earth is associated with sin, not some nebulous definition of the “degenerate patriarchy.” In reference to World War One, Mary warns, “This war will end, but if men do not refrain from offending God, another and more terrible war will begin during the pontificate of Pius XI.” With a heart of pure charity, Our Lady’s mission of delivering all her children from the bondage of sin and suffering to the Sacred Heart of her Son, not once showing a glimmer of interest in self-advancement, makes her worthy of the heavenly might and majesty bestowed upon her.
Mary’s rise to power came through neither a protest nor legislation – no earthly source. As recorded in the Gospel of Luke (my favorite), it came through her “yes” to the angel Gabriel’s invitation to bear the Messiah in her womb, totally surrendering her life to God’s will: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” This would totally rock our world today! Modern culture dictates that we idolize strength and independence, taking our fate into our own hands; whatever satiates our carnal desires should be tirelessly pursued in the name of “happiness.” But then there goes lil’ ol’ Mary, likely not educated to an advanced degree, not a STEM worker, not a CEO, just a simple, humble girl whose complete service to her Lord earned her the title Queen of Heaven and Earth.
Our Lady did not seek to break any glass ceiling. She did not have to. She was already soaring high above that.
I have been blessed to encounter some legitimately powerful women who have a talent of making a positive impact on those around them. They, like Mary, adopt an unconventional strategy in life’s battles. Their weapon of choice is virtue, as they speak uplifting words instead of constantly pointing out others’ imperfections; they practice modesty instead of flaunting themselves for attention; and they make a conscious effort to be Christ to others in all that they do. These are not women who see masculinity as an opposing force, simply demanding my respect in a march and crying foul when men like me voice an opinion contrary to mainstream, or “woke,” rhetoric. Rather, their very presence commands my respect and awe, inspiring me to be the best man I can possibly be around them. After all, anyone who walks in the ways of the Queen of Heaven and Earth is worthy of honor.
Justice and equality are absolutely necessary to uphold human dignity within society. Let us not forget how just our God is and how serving Him with our whole being is the surest path to empowerment. Our Blessed Mother understood this, and in glorifying her God, she in turn is glorified beyond human measure. May we all closely follow her example by seeking holiness above all else, shattering the real glass ceiling of sin and attaining true liberation.