Dignity? Vocation? Huh? “You’ve come a long way, baby.” If you’re old enough to remember this was a cigarette slogan, you know a lot has changed in forty years. But, according to some, not enough has changed in the Catholic Church. They point to the work of Pope John Paul II suspiciously. He did not advocate ordaining women, nor did he re-jigger a single word of Humanae Vitae. Is it possible to promote the dignity of women without those changes?
He had been writing about married sexuality since at least the early 1940’s. We can assume he understood the depth of antipathy out there on the subject. Maybe that’s why he didn’t mention Humanae Vitae in this encyclical.
I think the pope wanted to say, “I’m not your enemy. Feminine liberation is about so much more than sex.” He wanted to redefine the problem for women in terms of a shared relationship with men, and especially to In 1988, twenty years after Humanae Vitae affirm the responsibilities of men to bring upheld the Church’s prohibition on artificial forth the talents of women beyond La Leche contraception, Pope John Paul II wrote League and Playboy centerfolds. this little encyclical, “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women.” (Mulieris Dignitatem) (continued on page two)
Take a Break with Edith! Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta) was a Jew who became Catholic in 1922 after reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. When asked why she converted, she wrote, “secretum meum mihi.” She became a Carmelite in 1934, but was murdered at Auschwitz. Her feast day is August 9.
Introduction: Mulieris Dignitatem August 2008
Dignity? Vocation? Huh?.............................Page 1 Meet: Zoe St. Paul, Life Coach.....................Page 3 Study: Song of Songs.......................................Page 6 Pray: for Women in Poverty........................Page 8 Learn: The History of the ROsary............Page 9 Read: The Violent Bear it Away..................Page 10
Copyright 2008 All Rights Reserved
www.MySecretisMine.com Volume 2, Number 12
The women’s movement did not begin with the summer of love and the birth control pill. From the beginning, the crusading women were concerned with the problems of real women – not just vocational issues. And for women, sexuality presents certain “problems.” Pregnancy and motherhood are herculean tasks that do overwhelm women physically and mentally to the point that their other talents are sometimes postponed or ignored while they raise the next generation. Heck, even menstruation presents logistical concerns that men simply do not have. “The pope has no business in my bedroom,” proclaim many women, including many Catholic women. Permit me to be a contrarian. What might happen if one were to permit the old geezer in the boudoir? Shame on you. That’s not what I meant. What if the pope has something worthwhile to say? It’s not like most Catholics don’t know what the Church teaches on contraception and abortion. Oh, they know. I converted in 1992, and I knew. Actually, until the Episcopalians started the domino chain in the early 1930’s, even most Protestants taught that contraception and abortion were sins. Comedians and pundits take every opportunity to point out how backward the Church looks on this point. “Every sperm is sacred.” Ha, ha, ha. But Pope John Paul II does have something to say. I first read Mulieris Dignitatem as a young mother with many small children underfoot. I was deeply afraid that I would never do anything again but change diapers and adjudicate toddler tantrums.
Perhaps for that reason, two sentences of that encyclical stood out for me above all the rest. “It is therefore necessary that the man be fully aware that in their shared parenthood, he owes a special debt to the woman. No program of “equal rights” between women and men is valid unless it takes this fact fully into account.” (Mulieris Dignitatem, 18) “Amen, brother!” It was my take-away, my sonar in a world where those “special debts” were clouding my vision and my ideals. In the history of the world, men have often mistreated women, physically and emotionally. There has been violence, and repression. This isn’t heaven. Even a relatively affluent suburban mom can feel like a slave. But there is hope, and God’s plan is bigger and better than we realize. Women are right to hate sin and reject violence. The pope said so. In fact, women play a special role in that very area. To the extent that women are marginalized in society, there is a corresponding increase in the danger of inhumane and unjust actions. There was, and is, a need for women to find liberation…even from irrational toddlers. In this series on Mulieris Dignitatem, I will explore the nature of the exact “debt” owed to women by men, and the spiritual economics of the relationship between the sexes, and the “solvency” open to Christians who embrace the payoff offered by our Lord Jesus Christ. And I invite you to join me. In these uncertain economic times, the treasure that matters remains free. --Kristen West McGuire
Photo courtesy of Zoe Romanowsky St. Paul
Meet Zoe Romanowsky Saint-Paul: Life Coach
(BIO: Zoë Romanowsky Saint-Paul holds undergraduate degrees in psychology and public relations, and a masters degree in counseling. A former radio host and producer, she was a professional stage actress. Zoë has worked in communications, media, public relations, event planning, and fundraising, and is a published author. She lives with her husband in Baltimore.)
Kristen: Tell me about your childhood. Zoë: I’m the oldest of ten but I grew up as the oldest of nine, because number ten came along when I was 24. I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, then moved to New England for seven or eight years and then moved back. Most of my childhood memories are Nova Scotia – based. Kristen: Did you enjoy being the oldest? Zoë: I had a positive experience. My mother made sure I was not overburdened. I had my moody teenage years when I was trying to do my teenage things. I have a lot of traits of a typical oldest child, including being maternal and nurturing. I didn’t end up marrying until very late in my life and I don’t have any children yet – and that has been a big surprise. Kristen: Was your family Catholic? Zoë: I was raised in a culturally Catholic home. I made all my sacraments and went to church on Sundays up until I was about 14. My parents divorced when I was 18, but separated when I was 12. My mother didn’t drive and it was hard to get to church during those years. Kristen: That had to be hard. Zoë: Our story always sounds like our dad left our family. That’s not what happened.
I have to say at the time it was not that difficult. My father was home very little and my mother was the main parent, so in a sense we had the same day to day life. As I look back on those years now, I see the effects of not having father in my life during my teenage years. My identity and self-confidence were very affected by the lack of a male presence. My mom is an extremely intelligent woman. She was doing her masters in science when she had me and had to give her scholarship back. She wasn’t your usual woman with a big family, not crafty or overly domestic. She’s one of the most amazing women that I know. Because of her experience, her advice to me when I went to university and wanted to be an actress was to study something practical so that I could always have a job. Kristen: I guess she wanted you to be able to take care of yourself. Zoë: Yeah. You know, I depend on my husband for certain things and I am not careerist. But I just grew up with that idea. It’s important to be able to take care for yourself.
(continued on page four) www.MySecretisMine.com
Meet Zoe Romanowsky St. Paul, , continued
It was an overwhelming experience of love and personal intimacy. That is another part of the experience of receiving Christ himself and the grace of faith. Mine was an intellectual as well as a heart-conversion. They went hand-in-hand, because I needed the intellectual conviction as well.
Kristen: When did the Church begin to play a larger role in your life? Zoë : Basically while in university, I started to attend Mass as a freshman and realized one day, “I don’t believe any of this stuff.” It was hypocritical– I didn’t know what was going on. I really wanted to know what the truth was… what is the meaning of my life? I was fascinated by those basic questions. I didn’t think the answer could be in the Catholic Church.
Kristen: Tell me about being a life coach. Zoë : Coaching is a relatively new field. It focuses on personal growth and change. Like an athletic coach, a life coach helps an individual to step into the fullness of who they are and what they’re doing with even more enthusiasm and ability and skill.
I read a lot of New Age stuff. A friend at the time was evangelizing me. He would get me to read things that were Christian and he eventually challenged me, “I don’t think you are interested in the truth. If you were, you would give Christianity a fair chance.” That woke me up.
It is distinct from consulting and therapy. Years ago we had a lot more people who were built into our lives who played these helping roles. Now, we are in a culture where people are disconnected from roots and family – it is a culture of disconnection.
Not long after that, I went on retreat and had an experience in Confession. I hadn’t been to Confession for years, and that led me to go back to Mass on Sundays and to start reading spiritual books on the faith.
Interested in life coaching for yourself or someone you love? Contact Zoe at email@example.com www.TheIntegratedWoman.com www.MySecretisMine.com
Kristen: Are your clients mostly young? Zoë : No, they’re all ages. Most are women, but I do coach men too. There is less
Zoe’s Favorite Quote: “The Glory of God is Man Fully Alive.”
stigma attached to coaching than therapy for men. Kristen: Do you find any common themes for the women who seek a coach? Zoë : One of the things I see in women today is that they are challenged to keep so many balls in the air. We are in such a fast pace now, and women are looking for ways to get connected and to live a life that is meaningful and cohesive. You do it alone a lot of times, because you don’t have that community around you. The women who come to me often have a lot of fears. I am suspicious of someone who doesn’t think they have any fears. They probably are moving too fast to admit to them. Kristen: How do you help your clients get past fears? Zoë : I try to help clients understand that they actually have free will and that they are always making a choice. Sometimes that choice is to sit by the roadblock, or fear, or obstacle and not make any moves. That is a choice. When they understand that it is their choice to sit by it because they just are not ready to get up, that can also be empowerment. We do have choices about a lot more than we think. We can choose how to approach or look at something, and the action we are going to take or not take. Fear of what might result from our choices can repel us. We need to see fear for what it is, the awareness that our choices have consequences. I try to find ways to help someone move through fear, and that is where faith really comes into play. It’s wonderful to coach someone who has faith.
The rain to the wind said “You push and I’ll pelt,” they so smote the garden bed, that the flowers actually knelt and lay lodged though not dead-I know how the flowers felt... --Robert Frost
-- Kristen West McGuire
Study: Song of Songs How Does Your Garden Grow? 12 My vineyard, my very own, is for myself; you, O Solomon, may have the thousand, and the keepers of the fruit two hundred. 13 O you who dwell in the gardens, my companions are listening for your voice; let me hear it. 14 Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag upon the mountains of spices.
Song of Songs 8:5-14 5 Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? Under the apple tree I awakened you. There your mother was in travail with you, there she who bore you was in travail. 6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame. 7 Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned. 8 We have a little sister, and she has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister, on the day when she is spoken for? 9 If she is a wall, we will build upon her a battlement of silver; but if she is a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar. 10 I was a wall, and my breasts were like towers; then I was in his eyes as one who brings peace. 11 Solomon had a vineyard at Baalhamon; he let out the vineyard to keepers; each one was to bring for its fruit a thousand pieces of silver. The Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1966 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Context: This work expresses the love between God and His people. It’s more of a parable than an allegory, an affirmation that the passion we feel within is indeed something good created by God. The biblical writer looked at Genesis 1-2, and strove to express exactly how beautiful the love of a man and woman could be. Translation: Love sometimes is the most painful of emotions, and this passage reminds us that the pain is related to the fact that God created us for this first love, this primeval sensuousness and passion. After the fall, we love imperfectly…and thus painfully. Though attributed to King Solomon, it probably was written after the experience of exile many centuries after the time of Solomon, just a few hundred years before the birth of Christ. Vocabulary (Hebrew): love: ‘ahabâ – true love jealousy – qin’â – connotes ardor more than covetousness “flashes of fire” - šalhebetyâ – “a flame of Yahweh,” conjures hot intensity peace: šālôm – peace or well-being
Meditation The Song of Songs is beautiful, and yet uncomfortable. Perhaps it is a sign of our degraded gender relations that we are reticent to describe God as the passionate Bridegroom.
indeed, to be an enclosed garden for the bridegroom. So, in these obscure passages, that express love this side of the veil, we can be encouraged to ask God to ignite in our own hearts a meaning that was created for us alone.
St. John of the Cross experienced a great spiritual awakening through the Song of Songs. His Spiritual Canticle was written while he was unfairly thrown in prison. He was trying to express the deep peace and joy that he had found in the love of God despite all hardships. While the Dark Night of the Soul is more well-known, the flora and fauna of the Song of Songs were the foundation of his work.
Verse 8:5 begins with the Bridegroom offering His love, that survives even death. And we end with the vineyard that we cultivate for the sake of our Beloved. You might wonder, though, about that middle section about our little sister – what is that all about?
3. What is the relationship between peace (shalom) and passion? How can we understand a God who encompasses both?
So, shall she be a wall, or a door? Biblical scholars point to the wall as virtue, building a foundation for society, a safe haven for love. When women build safe havens, love can abound in a protected place. Conversely, the image of the “door” refers to spending too much time opening to others in ways that imperil the inner life of the soul. Boards of cedar would enclose such a soul, protecting her from harm.
1. Has a passionate love ever taken your heart by surprise? Was it more carnal and physical? Or was it more spiritual and hidden? What were its promptings? 2. Do you have a little sister, literally or figuratively? How would you nurture her faith? How would nurturing her faith affect your own faith?
4. The bride tends her own vineyard, yearning to hear the Bridegroom’s voice. What kinds of gardening does your soul need today? Why? -- Kristen West McGuire
The maturity of the bride then emerges from the “wall” as “mountainous” breasts, capable of great nurture. And the milk of her breasts is that interior peace. In our culture, in which so much commotion predominates, the notable women of peace are beacons of light to me. Our hidden souls are as mysterious as the very life of Christ itself. We were created, www.MySecretisMine.com
Pray: for Women in Chronic Poverty
With gas averaging $4.00 a gallon, middle class households may be pinched, but families below the poverty line are squeezed. Yet compare the plight of the poor in our country to the desperate situation of victims of chronic poverty resulting from war, famine, natural disasters and dictatorships. The order to help the poor in Matthew 25 is not to be taken lightly, even in bad economies. The Center for Global Development recently analyzed aid and economic growth in poor nations, concluding that foreign aid that rises above 8 percent of the gross domestic product of a country actually has a negative effect, causing stagnant growth and worse conditions for the poor. Their takeaway is that we should help, but not help too much. People want to pull themselves out of poverty. It feels good to be able to earn a living. Perhaps some of the anger directed at the U.S. in third world countries can be traced to our “excessive” generosity? Already, there are many organizations that are dedicated to helping spread local solutions to poverty: It may not be Lent, but for the poor, it is always Lent. Those to whom much has been given, much is expected. Kiva is a special program uniting first world donors with third world entrepreneurs. Click through to find the special person overseas waiting for your investment in their future. www.kiva.org www.MySecretisMine.com
Women for Women International works with women who have been victimized by war, helping them to rebuild their lives and become leaders in their communities. You can learn more about the needs of women in war-torn parts of the world. You can donate directly to the organization, or sponsor a woman, like Save the Children. http://www.womenforwomen.org USCCB has a tour of life below the poverty line in our own country. See what the budget looks like to live below the poverty line in the U.S. http://www.usccb.org/ cchd/povertyusa/tour.htm
Lord, We Pray: • for women victimized by wars or violence; • for women working hard to obtain the barest necessities for their children; • for women who share even when they are in need; • for women who grieve too many losses; • for women too sick to participate in new programs; • for women whose leadership is ignored and attacked; and • for those women who persevere anyway. Grant them the success of their hands.
Amen -- Kristen West McGuire
Learn: The History of the Rosary St. Dominic did not “create” the Rosary. He died in 1221, and the earliest recorded rosary similar to what we know today was dated in the 1300s. It is possible that he taught people to recite the first half of the Hail Mary. St. Peter Damian (1007 – 1072) told the story of a priest with only one virtue – saying that Angelic Salutation daily. (Luke 1:42a) Soon, it was called the Psalter of Our Lady, with peasants reciting the Angelic Salutation 150 times in a row as an imitation of the 150 psalms of the Divine Office. The rest of the Hail Mary (or in Latin, Ave Maria) was a monastic addition. Several Cistercian orders developed some meditations on the life of Christ, divided the “Aves” into groups of ten, punctuated with a “Pater Noster” (Our Father). Finally, another Dominic, a Carthusian monk of Polish descent, popularized his version with 50 meditations to keep wandering minds focused on the task at hand. This version dates to the early 1400s, and was called a Rosenkranz – a garland of roses.
Knotted cords and beads for prayer counting predate the Hail Mary. They were also used to count “Paters.” The genius of the rosary was that anyone could say it. The rosary confraternities were free, and open to all. (Other religious confraternities had membership dues and requirements that suited only the nobility.) The Carthusians and their Dominican confreres were simply concerned with providing spiritual succor to their flocks, all of whom were reeling from the effect of the Hundred Years War and bubonic plague. The Rosary also satisfied the need to idealize love and relationships. In Stories of the Rose, historian Anne Winston-Allen says, “Like most works of the devotional allegory genre, it calls up the language and images of the Old Testament Song of Songs and fuses them with the conventions and terminology of courtly love.” Woodblock prints were widely used to disseminate popular religious images to those who couldn’t read. Rosary books, devotional paintings, and sculptures abounded on the rosary theme. At the same time, most peasants said the Rosary using a knotted cord. The first Rosary woodblock print dates to 1483, in Ulm. Each picture is framed in ten roses, one for each Ave. Easy, artistic and free-- the Rosary endures as a devotion for rich and poor.
Wedding Rosary - $239.00 available at www.AveMariaRosaries.com
--Kristen West McGuire www.MySecretisMine.com
READ: The Violent Bear it Away (O’Connor)
(New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007) 256 pp. $11.20) It’s my favorite first line in all the novels I’ve ever read. “Francis Marion Tarwater’s uncle had been dead for only half a day when the boy got too drunk to finish digging his grave and a Negro named Buford Munson, who had come to get a jug filled, had to finish it and drag the body from the breakfast table where it was still sitting and bury it in a decent and Christian way, with the sign of its Saviour at the head of the grave and enough dirt on top to keep the dogs from digging it up.” There. Now you will have to stay up all night and read the whole thing. I call this book a rubber-necker, because even though you know you shouldn’t stare at the scene of an accident, you do. You just can’t help it. And her crime scenes are just gruesome.
Flannery O’Connor was a fearless novelist. She didn’t shy away from describing the vilest of evils, convinced as she was that the Grace of God was still greater. O’Connor’s portrayal of a boy raised by a crazed Pentecostal “prophet” in the woods of Alabama is an emotional roller coaster. I don’t recommend it for anyone in the midst of serious personal misfortune. It’s just too dark. So, this may not be the year for you to read the story of Francis Marion Tarwater. Even the original publisher, Longwood in England, questioned her about the symbolism of the evils described, worried that the reader might become confused. There is a reason why O’Connor’s work is controversial, beyond her use of racist terminology. On the other hand, there is a strange comfort in recognizing the truth of human suffering in her expert characterizations. Within their insanity, she manages to retain that kernel of our lived reality. She pushes our imaginations so far, to the point where we say, “Thank God that’s not me!” And in the same moment, you realize that it could be you. It really could. O’Connor said later that she was more interested “in the moment when you know that Grace has been offered and accepted… and these moments are prepared for (by me anyway) by the intensity of the evil circumstances.” I can’t tell you the details. When you’re ready, you’ll have to read it for yourself.
Discussion Questions: 1. The women in this novel are peripheral to the action. Either they are too drunk or too listless to intervene and protect the lives of the young people around them. Are women essential to the proper care of the young?
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2. Rayber rejects Jesus and chooses to pretend there is no God, to pretend that his rational brain will save him. Tarwater sees through him, correctly noting that he is already dead to the life and love of his soul. In comparison to both Rayber and to his wild uncle, Tarwater does appear sane. How do we know we are sane? What is sanity? 3. The novel covers only seven days in the life of Tarwater, but it extends out to past, present and future by virtue of its flashbacks and momentous action. Have you ever experienced a painful week in which you found clarity about your mission in life? 4. The name of the novel comes from Matthew 11:12, where Jesus is preaching on John the Baptist: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.” Another translation is that “the violent take it by force.” What do you think that verse means? -- Kristen West McGuire
OCTOBER 11 & 12, 2008 BOSTON, MA All are invited to attend the MAGNIFICAT PILGRIMAGE OF HOPE, a two-day renewal of faith, October 11-12, at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. Special guests include Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., archbishop of Boston, as well the archbishops of Bordeaux and Toulouse, France. For a full schedule, special group rates and to register, please call (914) 502-1840 or visit www.PilgrimageofHope.com. www.MySecretisMine.com
“St. Edith Stein” © 1999 Lu Bro • Reproductions at www.BridgeBuilding.com
NOVENA to Edith Stein, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (feast on August 9)
St. Teresa Benedicta, your hunger for truth and courageous example still inspires us. You spent your life humbly accomplishing great works, focusing your energy into the few minutes allowed for your intellectual work. Look upon your tired and needy sisters on this earth, and pray that we will receive the grace needed each day to make every minute of every day fruitful. We ask your intercession for:_____________(mention your petition here). We place all things upon the altar of God, not knowing how they will be used, and asking for the humility to receive God’s grace and to sacrifice willingly for the sake of the Kingdom where we yearn to join you in eternal peace.
Secretum Meum Mihi Press Kristen West McGuire, Editor in Chief Jessica Maleski, Webmaster
Quote of the Month
“The spirit of God is like soft refreshing water as long as it remains hidden in the soul’s veins; but when it serves as a sacrifice of love offered to God, it again leaps up in living flames. ” -- Edith Stein, in Science of the Cross
translated from the German by Josephine Koeppel, O.C.D.
Editorial Advisory Board Alexandra Burghardt Meredith Gould, Ph.D. Genevieve Kineke Beverly Mantyh Margaret McGuire Sandra Miesel Alicia V. Torres
Coming Next Month:
Secretum Meum Mihi is a monthly periodical dedicated to fostering the spirituality of Catholic women. Subscriptions are $12.95/year for PDF download, and $24.95/yr for U.S. Mail delivery. (International mail delivery $29.95). Address all correspondence to: Secretum Meum Mihi
Pray: For Women and Children Sold into Slavery
Mulieris Dignitatem: Ethics of the Handmaid
Meet: Ruth Harrigan, Esq. Study: Magnificat
P.O. Box 1501 Great Falls, MT 59403
Learn: The Chemise of St. Bathildis, by S. Miesel Read: Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy by Rumer Godden