Saturday, June 23, 2007

"Thank you, consecrated women!"

Anon wrote, “Father, my Mom says that the church does not recognize nuns very much, and that they are sometimes mistreated. Why is that? Why do we still use the Adam and Eve story to blame women? Anyhow, that is what my Mom says.” Thanks, Anon. I’ve asked our seminarian, Jim, to answer your question; he’s given a really good answer:

To start with your last question, the story of Adam and Eve is not meant to blame women, and anyone who uses the story to blame women is forgetting that Adam, too, ate the fruit, and then tried to get out of trouble by blaming Eve. He could have refused to eat the fruit, but did not, and it was the sin of both that brought sin and suffering into the world. The Church has long taught that both men and women were created in the image of God, equal in dignity before the eyes of God. Sometimes people fail to recognize or forget that equality, but ignoring the equal dignity of women is not done as a matter of policy by the Church. Certainly, the honor encouraged by the Church to be given to Mary as the Mother of our Savior should stand as a model of the Church’s esteem for all women.

Sometimes recognition doesn’t get publicized the way it should. I’m not sure what your Mom means by nuns being mistreated, whether she means by the Church, or by society in general, or in specific cases where some have been martyred in recent memory. The Church has recognized many nuns by naming them as saints – St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila (these three are Doctors of the Church), Mother Katherine Drexel, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Rose Phillipine Duchesne (these four are American saints) and many other nuns and holy women over two thousand years. Pope Benedict just canonized Mother Marie Eugenie of Jesus, a French nun, on June 3. And it is only a matter of time before Mother Teresa of Calcutta is recognized as a saint. And this is just a small sampling of the women religious who have been declared saints by the Church.

As for nuns who are living today, the Church has also long recognized the invaluable contribution made by women religious in areas such as teaching, healthcare, and work with the poor, as well as in theological, philosophical, and liturgical studies. Pope John Paul II, in his 1995 Letter to Women, wrote, “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.”

Sometimes we take each other for granted, and that happens in the Church as well as outside it. Many times priests, nuns, deacons, and all other religious do not get the recognition they deserve. We should always remember to thank all of those who give themselves so selflessly to others.

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