In his comments at the close of the International Congress marking the 20th anniversary of Mulieris Dignitatem, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko noted that this is a prophetic moment for women. The head of the Pontifical Council for the Laity was clearly pleased at what had transpired over the course of the three-day event, in which the document was discussed from almost every academic angle possible.
Having heard from philosophers, sociologists, historians, and theologians, from political figures to mothers, it was clear to all that humanity is at a crossroads. Trends in all corners of the globe show the family being deconstructed, traditional structures dismantled, relationships undermined by technology and the truth and meaning of human sexuality widely misunderstood.
With children, who are the most vulnerable among us, clearly prey to dire harms, marriage in disarray, and the poor being handed stones instead of bread, why should this aging Polish Cardinal have been so pleased? Why were all the women present energized and inspired?
The message of John Paul II to women, indicating their importance at this historical juncture, was not a call to arms, nor was it a call to rattle cages of international power brokers. It was a reiteration of the basic Christian message that has always been a sign of contradiction—only in this age it is a message that must be crafted to women, who must “keep mankind from falling.”
The irony of faith has always been that the mighty of this world hold no sway with God. It is humility that prevails, and barrenness on earth often brings in abundant harvests in the world to come. Thus, the Church has no fear in the present age as long as the seed of truth finds a home in the hearts of women, who will nurture it according to their nature.
Near the end of Mulieris Dignitatem, we are reminded that love is the answer and that in the inscrutable plan of God, it is precisely women who are to reveal this to the world (cf. MD, 29). There is an order to creation, and in the order of love, woman comes first. Love—being the essence of the woman’s vocation because of the way that the human person is entrusted to her—has been foundational to the feminine genius manifest throughout history. Now more than ever, woman is called simply to love, to rediscover her own vocation as balm to the suffering world.
This document outlines the fall from grace, the promise of the Savior, and the way that our restoration to God depended on the free collaboration of a woman. That collaboration is still needed today, as men and women must refrain from antagonism and seek ways in which their complementarity can bear lasting fruit.
Realizing that the family is the cornerstone of every culture, the greater beauty is in the discovery that the very Trinity is reflected in that most intimate little society. This call to image God is a privilege, a solemn duty and a comfort—yet it cannot be done without the joyful response of women. If women seek recognition and esteem, what greater worth could be imagined than to live as icons of the bride, so cherished by Christ and for whom He shed His blood.
The chaos surrounding us is no cause for alarm, but simply an invitation to love. Granted, the request is urgent and the response overdue, but restoration begins when women say yes. God once entrusted so much to one lowly handmaiden and all of humanity was redeemed. Women today need only look to Mary, and all things are possible.