I chose this title on purpose. Why? Because, truly, there are things my mother never shared with me. Things she should have told me but didn't know how to or simply evaded all together. Yet, there are things my mother never had to tell me. Why? Because she embodied it. The message was in her hands, her gestures, her nurture, her love.
What does it mean to be a woman? What’s so special? What’s the difference between man and woman?
Ladies, we usually grow up fighting our womanhood. Whether it’s through medicine to numb the pain of menstrual cramps, or trying to break out of the “girly” dress code by wearing sweatpants, or by avoiding at all cost crying in the middle of a movie so that we don’t have to hear the words, “don’t be such a girl!” The examples can go on and on. Often, our femininity can seem more of a curse than a gift.
But really, to be a woman is a gift. And men, this is also true of your manhood. Our sexuality is a gift. Humanity is male and female, both are equal in dignity, both reflect God, both are made for greatness. Both tell a story through their bodies and we need both to get the full story.
Anyone who has grown up in a household with siblings of the opposite sex knows very well that the following is true: we are different. Men and women are equal but not the same. (That’s a bold statement to say nowadays).
Example #1: Though this first example is obvious, it's worth noting. Men use the toilet standing up. Women use the toilet sitting down. (Just saying).
Example #2: A man and a woman both look at the same picture. The man notices the overall landscape, the smiling faces, etc. The woman zooms in. She notices the beautiful bracelet the girl in the third row is wearing, while at the same time realizing so and so is missing from the picture.
Example #3: Men compartmentalize. Women have a “spaghetti” brain.
Why? Because women are wired to be able to take care of multiple things at the same time. While you’re stirring the pot with tonight’s dinner, you are also breastfeeding, as you respond to work emails, and also make a list of the shopping for tomorrow, keeping in mind it’s your husband’s birthday in a week etc.
The man, on the other hand, focuses more on one thing at a time. Ladies, this is why you don’t go in and try to have a deep heart to heart conversation with your husband, boyfriend, or brother while he’s cooking dinner. You’re not going to get the attention or the thought-out answers you are looking for.
We are different. Yes or yes? We are equal, but absolutely not the same. And thanks be to God for that!
John Paul II in his Letter to Women used the term, “the treasure of womanhood.” Can we just sit with that for a moment? The treasure of womanhood. This means there is something to be discovered and cherished here, and that as a treasure is given and received in order to be opened and shared, so too our femininity. It has been given to us by God, we have to receive it, in order to open up this gift and share it with the world.
(If we were to take a moment and think of all of the women in our lives who have been a treasure to us we would be overwhelmed-- we’d have enough with only mentioning our mothers).
We see this treasure clearly in the story of Adam and Eve. God gifted woman to man. Woman was created to not only be a gift by her very presence, but also by being man’s helper.
We cringe at times when we hear this word-- “helper”. God, what do you mean? I wasn’t good enough to make the major leagues so I’m just the waterboy who helps out the all-star baseball player?
Not quite. It's actually an amazing thing. Jesus in chapter fourteen of the Gospel of John promises the disciples that He will send the Advocate. In the Greek text the word used is “parakletos” which can be translated in many ways, including “Helper.” Yes, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity is called Helper. Looks like we women are in good company! We are called in a very real way to image God, especially the Holy Spirit, who comforts, defends, teaches, helps, gently inspires, and loves.
The Holy Spirit is a fire that cannot be contained yet is also subtle and quiet. The Holy Spirit speaks in the mundane, in the whispers. The Spirit is persistent and attentive. The Holy Spirit is known as the Consoler, says Ven. Archbishop Luis Martinez, because His sole job is to create a heaven in our souls. Ladies, what an amazing thought. Imagine if we sought to be more like the Holy Spirit and create small heavens-- places of encounter with God-- in the lives of those we meet.
Yet we struggle to accept our role as women. We fight it and we don’t want it. We grow up thinking we have to become the man. We want to lead, we want to be the head, we want to be in charge. We want to be independent and die at the thought of ever having to depend on a man.
We've even gone so far as to try to take men out of the equation when it comes to conceiving a child. How many anonymous sperm donors are out there?-- told that their fatherhood is not needed, only their seed. “Don't worry about watering it and helping it grow to become healthy. We don't need you. We got this under control.” But really, ladies, do we?
I think we women struggle so much with accepting the fact that we need each other, because we’ve been let down by men in the past. As a society, our defense mechanism against chauvinistic and horrible men has been to empower women to the point that we make them believe they are better than men, that they can replace man in society, and that, at the end of the day, women don’t need men anyway.
This is a lie. In reality, if we women were more true to ourselves, we would be raising men who were more true to themselves. Men need to know they are needed and this helps them rise to the challenge and do the hard work, go the extra mile, pick up the cross.
Yet, if all we do is spend our time making the men in our lives feel they're useless and that we got this all figured out without them, instead of helping them rise, we'll be pushing them down to crawl into complacency. We will be moving them away from their identity, from being the men we need them to be. Men who authentically live their manhood: defending, providing, caring for, fathering and striving for great things.
It would be a pleasure to be a “helper” to this kind of man. Then that word wouldn’t bother us so much because we’d realize that men are actually on our side! They are not against us but for us. And we’d realize that we are on the same mission: to express to the world through our humanity--fully alive-- the grandeur, the beauty, the awesomeness of God in whose image we have been created, male and female.
My prayer is that we women discover the treasure that we carry in our very existence. In order to share the gift of our femininity, we must first receive it. As Bruno Mars put it, “I know that you don't know it, but… treasure, that is what you are.”
Come, Holy Spirit, our Divine Helper, and lift the veil; open to us the treasure; create in us and through us a heaven on earth.
Rocio Perez is currently living in Ethiopia where her days consist of orphanage visits, English classes, chastity talks, and UNO nights with friends. She has lived in a discernment house called Casa Guadalupe and served in the chastity ministry, Corazon Puro, as well as other groups within the Catholic Church. Rocio considers herself indebted to John Paul II and hopes to spend the rest of her life sharing the Good News of the Theology of the Body. She loves to dance and enjoys good chocolate and bold sunsets.
Image by: [Marisel Rodriguez https://www.flickr.com/photos/mariselrod/]