And I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people: and God himself with them shall be their God. Apocalypse 21: 2-3
One of the most appealing aspects of the work is that Genevieve approaches the role of women from the high ground of Church doctrine, as well as from the realities of daily existence. It is taken for granted that even women with demanding careers are still the ones who oversee the running of the house, the care of the children, and arrange for the needs of elderly parents. Some women are more burdened than ever before. As the author points out:
….The final danger for women is to create for themselves unrealistic images of piety that no mortal can imitate….Many wrongly assume that authentic femininity means a blissful marriage, abundant pious (and well-mannered) children, a husband to rival Saint Joseph, an orderly home, a variety of community and parish activities, an even temperament, ample time for spiritual and corporal works of mercy, cheerful generosity toward extended family (also pious of course) and a prayer life patterned on that of any number of saints and mystics. This sort of conjecture can indeed be a woman’s worst enemy. (p.6)Much of this mirrors some of my own experience of Catholic womanhood. We should all be striving for holiness, but many Catholic women take on too much. They are hard on themselves and on others. Ladies’ church clubs and home-schooling groups are too often pervaded by a nit-picking, critical spirit about one another’s homes, husbands and children. I have seen such attitudes (and the gossip which flows as a consequence) destroy relationships which could otherwise have been a source of moral and spiritual support for Catholic women alone in a pagan world.
We ladies need to start being sisters to each other and not in constant competition. That is why it is excellent that Genevieve recommends devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. A true devotion to Mary fills the heart with joy and trust, helping the soul to move beyond all pettiness.
Mary is the first fruit and most perfect image of the Church. Truly, she is the pilgrim who walks before us, the perfect follower of Christ and the model of faith we should all revere. But more specifically she is the archetype of bride and mother who teaches all women how to live authentic femininity. From her acceptance of God’s plan at the Annunciation to her Assumption, she exemplified receptivity to the Father in a way that was life-giving and grace-filled for and all who know her. (pp. 67-68)
Therefore, motherhood demands the “total gift of self” (p.58) We stand with Mary at the foot of the cross, in patience and humility. “This view of feminine love is a relief during times of trial, when we place the burden of concern at the foot of the cross where it belongs. Such is the vocation of mother; such is the Church that waits to embrace us all.” (p 85)
The home should be a place of beauty and peace, with art that lifts the heart to God, while avoiding clutter. Genevieve discusses how it is the special role of women to “enhance their living spaces” (p.109) through tasteful decorating; to create the ambiance of welcome, of safety, of fun, so that the house becomes a place where love can grow. This has less to do with money and more to do with prudence and thrift. What makes many homes unattractive is the overabundance of material possessions. (p.109) Simplicity is a form of beauty and sometimes less is more.
Etiquette is an important part of this, for children need boundaries in order to thrive and build safe relationships. “The ultimate goal of etiquette is to enhance the dignity of the person. Etiquette can be a tremendous vehicle for ordering the culture along the proper lines. It certainly has the capacity for being abused or misunderstood when it becomes reduced to ‘manners’ and ‘protocol,’ or when it becomes detached from charity.” It should not be used to alienate others, but to embrace them. (p.114)
Modest and appropriate attire is also an integral part of building a sense of worth in our children. (p.115) It is crucial for adolescents to be guided in avoiding garments which over-sexualize, and can indeed build strength of character when our teenagers are encouraged not to go along with the crowd. (p116)
I think that many young women are told of the burdens and inconveniences that accompany having children, but they are not told of the great happiness that children bring, a happiness for which women of past generations longed and prayed. Love and sacrifice go hand-in-hand. To forgo the struggles of love, marriage and children, or the oblation of consecrated virginity, in favor of unfettered sex and total freedom, is to choose emptiness.
By modeling the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church, by overcoming fear and trusting in God, and by imitating the Blessed Virgin Mary, women can reclaim the world for Christ.
It is in those little ways, however, that we rebuild the
Every woman can do her part to restore the image of the bride. Women together can embrace motherhood in all its forms: nourishing, teaching, building bridges, healing, confirming the beauty in souls, forgiving, building Christian culture in a myriad of ways and radiating purity. Thus they give flesh to Sometimes, that means seemingly insignificant tasks, like taking clothes to the thrift shop, or sitting up all night with a sick child, or listening an to an old person repeat themselves. Such situations, which the world does not esteem, require a great deal of love and patience.