A new book, When Women Pray: Eleven Catholic Women on the Power of Prayer explores what unique gifts women have to offer a Church Pope Francis so often says is “Mother” – in a world that aches for motherly care.
“Women, having been transformed into Christ sacramentally, model Mary’s humble heart that attracts people to Christ,” said Kathleen Beckman, the editor of the book.
“Contrary to the world-view, authentic Catholicism isn’t off-putting, it is thoroughly attractive,” she said.
“It’s important to be impregnated with spirit of the Gospel in order to be authentic disciples,” Beckman added. “Intellectual, moral and spiritual conversion develops when the spirit of the Gospel permeates our entirety.”
Beckman spoke to Kathryn Jean Lopez, one of the book’s contributors, about what women offer the Church, modeled best by the Blessed Mother.
Lopez: We didn’t coordinate this but I notice you opened with the statement I wrote a bit about in my chapter from the end of the second Vatican Council: “But the hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect, and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.”
Why is it important?
Beckman: This is an important message at many levels. I perceive this Vatican II message to women as a trumpet blast from the heart of the Church to awaken and enlist the feminine genius (cf. John Paul II); calling forth the dignity and vocation of all women to be standard bearers, Christ-bearers, life-bearers. The Church looks to women to help lift up the human family that is sinking in the quicksand of sin, evil, and death.
What on earth does the Vatican Fathers’ message about being impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel mean anyway? Is there a danger here that we just sound incredibly pious and even self-righteous?
To be impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel means that the Word of God has permeated our hearts and minds thoroughly so that, as St. Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal 2:19-20).”
Jesus Christ is the living Word and in baptism we are transformed into Him. In response to the second part of your inquiry, there is always a danger of sounding too pious or self-righteous among fellow Christians and/or to non-believers. The Vatican Council Fathers message develops and states, “Women know how to make Truth sweet”—thus, women, having been transformed into Christ sacramentally, model Mary’s humble heart that attracts people to Christ. Contrary to the world-view, authentic Catholicism isn’t off-putting, it is thoroughly attractive.
It’s important to be impregnated with spirit of the Gospel in order to be authentic disciples. Intellectual, moral and spiritual conversion develops when the spirit of the Gospel permeates our entirety. Pregnancy not only affects the womb, but the entire person.
Does Easter and Mary Magdalene have anything to do with this aiding mankind from falling bit?
Scripture places Easter and St. Mary Magdalene together: “Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).
Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her” (John 20:16-18). The Risen Lord commissioned St. Magdalene to be a witness to resurrected life. Women are commissioned to do the same—to proclaim Christ by word and deed. In so doing, women aid humanity from not falling into the despair and destruction of a world absent the truth of Christ.
As readers will note in the book, When Women Pray, prayer has not only transformed the eleven Catholic writers, but prayer is the foundation of the active work of their respective apostolates. Christ is proclaimed and “contemplatives in action” help to save souls.
What did Fulton Sheen mean by “To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood”? How are you trying to help with this book?
Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s quote is quoted in the book as a reminder of the dignity, vocation, responsibility, privilege and duty that women have for the care of souls—not only within the all important domestic church (family), but also within the moral fabric of the culture.
There is much more that I could say in this regard but to keep the focus on the purpose of the book, I believe that readers will be edified by the personal stories of the eleven women writers who, with transparency write about their struggles, challenges, and triumphs in living according to the Gospel.
“When Women Pray” is a vehicle that encourages, strengthens, and deepens faith, hope and love. In fact, when you read the stories and interior lives of these women, it is evident that Christ is at work in every part of our lives. Grace enables to us see what is needed to help the world from not falling into the abyss. And it is one soul at a time that women help to save, especially in caring and forming the children of the world.
Is there an understanding about prayer and women and urgency that a semi-contemporary Edith Stein can help us with?
Indeed, the feminine wisdom of saints like Edith Stein helps women to understand the importance of prayer and how to respond spiritually to the urgency of our present world situation. In the book I quote Edith Stein’s teaching on spiritual motherhood of souls and how this relates to women becoming “God’s special weapon against Evil.”
I also refer to Edith’s message just prior to her death—a message to all women that reads like an invitation to join with the Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross. I relate Edith Stein’s quote to the scripture in Luke 23:28: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”
Perhaps this is a calling not to sentimental tears but to tears of repentance, of reparation. Here, we refer to intercessory prayer and women have a special sensitivity to pray for others, and to suffer on behalf of others.