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The concealed strength of Woman

Updated: Feb 29

I was wondering how to pass the time on my 14-hour drive to the south of France recently. As it turned out, a phone call to my father’s GP surgery covered a good chunk of it. French towns were punctuated with updated positions in the queue.  By Troyes I was caller number 32, and by Dijon I had made it into the top ten. 


My dad, at 90, is mystified by this new world he finds himself in.  “We’re lost” he said, and he wasn’t talking about my driving.  He struggles to recognise the world he now inhabits.  A world of increasing automation and de-personalised interaction.


This sense of loss, I proposed, was due largely to a kind of feminism run amuck.  A feminism which claims radical egalitarianism and so disdains the role of woman as mother that she would kill her child before it is born and press for laws to protect her right (and the right of others) to that killing.  It’s an assertive, putatively powerful and apparently emancipating stance women are told, but it is one which has robbed our culture of the concealed strength of woman, and its effects have been devastating. 


Unfettered liberty, untethered from our creator who gave us the freedom to choose life, has resulted in a culture of sterility and death. Women have become objects to be used and discarded like the bras they threw off in the 1960s.


In her 1954 The Eternal Woman, German novelist and essayist Gertrude von Le Fort warns that “a world in which the influence of the religious force of woman is absent, is a world at risk.” The sin of Eve was her refusal to surrender.  The tempter said, “you will be like unto God” and with Eve’s ambition sin enters the world.


The fiat of Mary (the new Eve) turns that on its head in an astonishing way and reveals to us the power of surrender.  It is this surrender which opens the way for our redemption from the chains of sin and death.  That surrender is what the world is crying out for now and it requires women to recognise and harness their unique power as women, and not simply to imitate men.


Woman sheds her role when she makes herself into a man or into an object of use for a man.  With her role discarded, she too is easy to discard. She becomes a sterile shell to be medicated, penetrated and abandoned in a contraceptive culture of casual sex.  Only in such a culture could gay men rent a woman and dispose of a mother, ripping apart what God has glued together.


As US philosopher Peter Kreeft astutely quipped, “When God uses glue, don’t use scissors”.


But we do, repeatedly, in the modern world.


God glued together union and procreation, man cuts them apart with contraception and surrogacy.  God glued together sex and marriage and man cuts them apart in fornication and masturbation.  God glued body and soul; man cuts them apart in mutilation and killing of all kinds including euthanasia. God glued babies and mothers and man cuts them apart in abortion.  God glued husband and wife and man cuts them apart in divorce.  God glued male and female and man cuts them apart in homosexuality.  Only the big picture lets us see the connections.


We have lost sight of the big picture, that we are creatures made in the image and likeness of our creator, that freedom was given to us, not to progress blindly whatever the cost, but “as an exceptional sign of the divine image in man” (Gaudium et spes 17, Catechism 1731)


Absent God, we fail to recognise that not only a visible (masculine) but an invisible (feminine) pillar, supports the world. The power of the religious is the invisible power without which the visible pillars of the world have no integrity.  Feminism has robbed us of this integrity.  What follows is a world dominated by machines which embody the worst stereotypes of a godless masculinity.


The end point of a vision apart from God eradicates woman because its horizontal worldview cannot acknowledge the invisible pillar which gives integrity to all that is visible.  Feminism has, as Alice von Hildebrand noted, succeeded in securing a great masculine victory.


“Man exercises his historically effective talents publicly and, in that performance, spends his strength, woman is also the carrier of historically effective talents and while her endowment is equal to that of man, she expends it not for herself but for the next generation. She is the carrier of the religious, the concealed strength of the culture, which is the surrendering power of the cosmos in the face of the eternal God” Says Gertrude von Le Fort “In this surrendering power lies the font of reverence for God and the appropriate humility of creature as creature”.


When man and woman come together in marriage, we hear the words “What god has joined together let no man put asunder”. This same message of harmony between the masculine and the feminine echoes through all creation.


Only the big picture lets us see the connections. But instead of daring to look at that awesome panorama, our myopically focused world is full of policies, programmes and initiatives designed to heal the wounds created by our constant and continuous acts of self-harm.

The abortion act, intended to benefit women and make abortion safe, legal and rare has resulted in the state sanctioned killing of over 10 million babies.  The response? Make it even easier! Sex education was touted as an essential way to prevent the spread of STI’s but just last week it was reported that sexual health clinics are at breaking point with soaring rates of infection threatening to overwhelm the NHS. The answer? Build more clinics and make sex education compulsory. 

Men, deprived of their role as protector, slump in their bedrooms playing video games, watching porn.


In no longer acknowledging our dependency on God we claim strength in our own salvific power and using the broken pieces that we have pulled apart; we construct a world according to our own image.  But our own image, (if not a reflection of the divine) is beastly.

So is it any wonder then that a world created in our own image is likewise beastly.


Never before has a true understanding of Mary the Theotokos been so important.  Only Mary can show us the true meaning of woman as bride and mother and reveal to us the lost power of the feminine.


Unless we restore the charism of woman as woman, to be an instrument of God in the world, to be the surrendering power of creature before the creator then we will bleed out from wounds inflicted by the enlightenment myth of perpetual progress by human power alone.

There is no way apart from God.  Eve tried it and it didn’t work.  It’s time to do the Mary thing and teach it to our girls.

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Thank you Catherine. A wonderful article. Many women have lost their way in the world. Alice von Hlidebrand was not one of them. A beacon of light for us all.

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