The Heart of Woman

“One thing is certain: When the time has come, nothing which is man-made will subsist. One day, all human accomplishments will be reduced to a pile of ashes. But every single child to whom a woman has given birth will live forever, for he has been given an immortal soul made to God’s image and likeness” (33). – Alice von Hildebrand, The Privilege of Being a Woman

Every woman is given a womb, the very place in which a soul is created by God and a child is given to grow. A woman’s womb is the very first place where a child encounters love. To be pregnant with life is one instance in which a woman gets to be everything to another person; she gets to give of herself in a way only she can give—and what she gives is everything a person can possibly give in this world—life.

All around us, we hear pregnancy, childbearing, and motherhood labeled as bondage for women. And we hear women crying out that they are oppressed and controlled. It is possible, or rather, true, that women are indeed oppressed and controlled, but maybe it is the very things women hail as their freedom that actually holds them bound in chains. 

Our society worships anything that offers convenience, control, and pleasure, so it should come as no surprise that so many individuals try to avoid, or worse, throw out, the very persons who break down our dependence on convenience, control, and pleasure—that is, babies. Babies need love, and that requires immense sacrifice. At the same time, though, women are created for life. Women are made to give of themselves, to give of their very bodies, and this is a beautiful, sacred thing. In The Privilege of Being a Woman, Alice von Hildebrand writes about women, motherhood, and abortion:

In her book, The Eternal Woman, Gertrud von le Fort writes: “To be a mother, to feel maternally, means to turn especially to the helpless, to incline lovingly and helpfully to every small and weak thing upon the earth.” The diabolical work that has taken place since the legalization of abortion is that it has destroyed, in those tragic women who have allowed their child to be murdered, their sense for the sacredness of maternity. Abortion not only murders the innocent; it spiritually murders women. Those who devote their loving attention to these victims of our decadent society know that the wound created in their souls is so deep that only God’s grace can heal it. The very soul of the woman is meant to be maternal. Once this sublime calling has been trampled upon, such women become ‘unsexed;’ they are “sick unto death.” (96) 

Many of us have lost any sense of a higher calling when it comes to the family—a calling to offer ourselves as total gift to another and to God. In many ways it is a call to death, but the crazy thing about this kind of death is that here we find life. It is actually life-giving to sacrifice oneself for another, to offer these little daily sacrifices with gratitude for another human being in one’s life. Here, in the day-to-day loving of another human being, in both the joys and the sorrows, is love. The alternative is a life of what-ifs, a life of regret. It is a sickness that goes unrecognized in many cases—that is, when a woman gets rid of the one person in the world she is made to protect and nourish and love. Despite what the voices of the world shout at women for their supposed freedom, women cannot flourish when they murder their children. In reality, as Alice von Hildebrand writes, this is the spiritual murder of women, and our merciful God is the only one who can bring a woman back from the darkness of spiritual death and into the light of life.

Our spiritual mother, Mary, shows us in every way what it means to be human, humbled before God. Furthermore, she shows us what it is to be woman. As human persons, we are all made to bear life to the world, to be tabernacles of the Holy Spirit and to present Christ to those around us. And as women, we get to be signs of this life in our very bodies. We get to be signs of what it means to give our bodies for the life of another, as Jesus poured His life out for us out of love, as Mary gave her “fiat” to God and received His very Son in her womb, giving birth to the Son of God, her son, and nursing him with the food of her own body. This is a profound mystery, and we, as women, get to take part in this mystery. We get to love in a unique way, caring for, nourishing, and loving our children in the very same ways the Mother of God loved our Savior.

Motherhood and childhood remind us of what it means to be human. Here, we remember the intimacy of persons to one another, we remember we need each other so deeply—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. To deny that we were made for one another deeply wounds women, and for men to indifferently go along with the attack on women in this way wreaks havoc on what it is to be man, to defend life, especially the vulnerable, and to fight for truth, justice, and peace.

The March for Life was yesterday, and the Women’s March is today. Both fight for women, but they are at war. We need to fight for women, but today, we desperately need the world to remember who woman is. Hildebrand reminds us, “Kierkegaard wrote that ‘woman is the conscience of man.’ But her conscience must be illumined by faith and enlivened by true love; it must not be a conscience distorted by self-centered relativism” (29). In discovering the dignity and mission of woman, we discover the true dignity of the human person.

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