As we approach their canonization, Catholics around the world are buzzing with excitement as they reminisce about the lives of two men. Their names? Angelo Roncalli and Karol Wojtyla – aka Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. On this historical weekend I want to share with you a little of the incredible legacy left to women by John Paul II – a man I have grown to love as if he were still with us!
As the third longest serving pope in history, John Paul dedicated his life to serving others, regardless of race, gender or social status. Even his motto – ‘Totus Tuus’ (Totally Yours) – reflects his selfless nature and utter self-sacrifice for the Lord and for the Church. Most importantly, he aimed to restore the dignity of women and reveal to us our true worth.
Feminists worldwide criticised what they saw as his ‘traditional’ views of the role of women. He was shunned for what they called outspoken discrimination, because he defended the Church’s teaching with regard to women priests. But the truth of his ministry was NOT one of oppression, it was one of beautiful freedom.
He took us back to the basics of what God intended for us from the beginning. He gave us the freedom to live out our authentic femininity without feeling the need to conform to society’s expectations of us. He reminded us that life wasn’t always meant to be this way. We weren’t supposed to be restricted or rejected. Neither were we meant to be totally self-sufficient, or to change ourselves in order to achieve. We have our own purpose – one which complements, contributes to and is enabled by the purpose of those around us. We are meant to be women, with the unique beauty and strength which that entails. Above all, we are meant to be ourselves.
John Paul gave us both his papal exhortation – entitled Mulieris Dignitatem (The Dignity of Women) – and his heartfelt Letter to Women. He was incredibly vocal and open about his sadness at the way in which women were treated, and his desire to see us regain our faith in the purpose of our creation. Possibly most beautifully of all, he gave us his Theology of the Body: a teaching which revolutionised what it means to be a woman.
He opened our eyes to the true marvel that is femininity, when viewed correctly. He showed us how to give all our guilt and shame to Jesus, how to embrace God’s plan for us, and how to love ourselves for who we are. For me personally, he taught me that being a woman isn’t a chore, it’s a joy! I know I can’t thank him enough.
“The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way… This fundamental vocation speaks to women of the dignity which they receive from God himself, and makes them ‘strong’.”
(Mulieris Dignitatem, no. 30)
(Saint) John Paul II… Pray for us