What is the role of women in the Church? What is the role of men in the Church? Is it to gain position, power, or a chance to display their natural ability? Father Frederick Faber summed up the answer to these questions by saying, "Holiness is the thing." Holiness is the role par excellence of a true follower of Christ, man or woman. It is the one thing lacking in the Church today on a grand scale. Where are our holy leaders and our saintly examples especially in these troubled times? If women (or men for that matter) desire a position in the structure of the Church more than personal holiness, then they miss the whole point of the Church.
The Church is not a modem or an outlet for self-gratification, it is rather the living safeguard of Christ's teaching. It is not an end in itself but a means to our true end in eternity. To reduce the divine institution of the Catholic Church and its mission to a bureaucratic structure filled with worldly achievements is to return to the days of the Pharisees.
There was no mincing of words when Jesus spoke to the multitudes and His disciples concerning the Pharisees. He admonished His followers not to imitate their ambition and denounced divers "woes" against them for their hypocrisy and blindness. "All their works they do to be seen by men...and they love the first places at feasts and the first chairs in the synagogues and salutations in the market place." How can anyone who intends to follow Christ betray these same ambitions, quibbling for his role in the Church? Should we not rather imitate Christ if we desire to serve Him? How is this possible if we disregard His words which we should imprint upon our hearts as a rule of life? He that is the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled: and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matt 9:23.11) Then Jesus added to this list of qualifications, the absolute fundamental insistence that: "If any man (or woman) will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For he (or she) that shall save his life shall lose it: and he (or she) that shall lose his life for My sake shall find it. For what does it profit a man (or woman) if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?" (Matt 16:24) Is it not obvious that promoting the role of the Church in society through self-abasement and personal holiness is the role Christ intended for His true followers?
The frustrated women headlining current media reviews with their demands for ordination are basically devoid of inner peace which is so essential to holiness. They hide their lust for notoriety behind a cry for equality, their desire for power is called liberation and their sense of pride – "to be like unto God"- is called education. They are sadly unaware or have forgotten that a vocation is a life-affair of service compelled by a desire to imitate our Crucified Savior. They have lost all sense of what the priesthood means, or they would be ashamed of their demands. It is not a job or an ecclesiastical promotion- its attainment is not achieved by a "success-drive."
In previous years women responded to the call of a vocation by serving the sick in hospitals, teaching in schools, and mothering the orphans. Today almost every vestige of the old established religious orders is disappearing, as they close down one by one. Yet, at the same time, the remaining vocal elements are clamoring for ordination. The simple Gospel concept of sacrificing oneself, dying to oneself to become all for Jesus has been obliterated in the minds of the ambitious. The false god of Self-worth has blinded its victims and driven them into a frenzy of "rights" and demands.
The devil has many pomps and clever tricks to ensnare the unaware, or the selfish. But Truth cannot be obscured by sophistries for long, and Christ Himself, Who is Truth Eternal deemed it necessary to reveal the height of His triumph in the lowliness of His beginning, which took place at a simple fiat (let it be) of the Virgin Mary. Need we look for a more fulfilling role of woman in the Church than in the very Mother of God, the little girl of Nazareth who unselfishly yielded to the eternal plans of God the Father? "My soul does magnify the Lord," she said in the few words of hers recorded in Holy Scripture. (Luke 1:26) Her soul does not compete with God or man; it is like a convex crystal through which the power and love of God grow because it is not obscured by the film of self-importance. "And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior", she continued. Her rejoicing was not in herself or her position; she did not confuse the means with the end. She was absorbed in God and He became absorbed in her because He has regarded the humility of His handmaid.
Why all this fighting over the "role" of women in the Church? It is an already established fact, for anyone with spiritual insight, that Mary, our leading role model, is always within prayer reach to guide us in our quest for holiness, and holiness is our role in the Church. She, the frail "virgin-mother," is our mentor. She, unordained, un-college educated, alone amongst women, towers threateningly over the would-be triumph of the devil, and it is she who will crush his head with her heel, for it is through her and all that follow her example that "God has showed the might in His arm: He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their hearts, because He has exalted the humble." Let us follow her to participate in the role Christ has intended for us in the Church, and not make one to our own liking.