Well, poppets, I cannot stick around and chat for I have to finish my lecture on Mulieris Dignitatem this morning. Next up is "How I Became a Completely Seraphic Single Something Like Six Months Before I Met B.A." How will that sound in Polish, I wonder.
Mulieris Dignitatem is an apostolic letter promulgated by John Paul II on the Feast of the Assumption, 1988. In English, it is 42 single-spaced pages long. It is all about the dignity of women, as you might have guessed from the title, which stems from being made (like men) in the image and likeness of God and (like men) being called to service although (being uniquely women) we tend to be a bit more naturally enthusiastic about this service stuff.
As does Saint Teresa Benedicta a Cruce (Edith Stein), John Paul holds up Mary as the great model for all humanity but also women in particular. He has a lot of cool things to say about this, especially the part about Mary's active dialogue during the Annunciation.
The striking thing about Mulieris Dignitatem is how repetitive it is. If you read it out loud to an audience, they would all fall asleep. Zzzz. And believe me I am thinking about this because I am terrified of boring the beautiful women of Poland (and Polonia) who are coming to my Majówka. Since I am to have a translator, there is of necessity going to be a lot of repetition.
Seraphic: John Paul asserts yet again that women are equal to men.
Translator: Jan Pawel powtarza, że kobiety są równe mężczyznom.
But actually it is quite interesting that John Paul bangs on about how men and women are equal (and different) because he seems even more convinced of this than Saint Edith Stein and how come people told me my whole life that John Paul didn't like women? In the context of Mulieris Dignitatem, it is so BIZARRE that even Catholic women in the 1980s moped and complained and groused that the pope didn't like women and what did he know, he grew up without a mother, and blah blah blah. This attitude is so obviously unfair, I don't know where to begin except, obviously, with Mulieris Dignitatem.
I have three eeny weeny little niggling thoughts about Mulieris Dignitatem, which should not take away from the excellence of that document. The first is the dividing up of all women into Mothers and Virgins, by which John Paul means, specifically, wives and female religious. This leaves long-term Single women out in the cold, not to mention all females too young to make marriage or religious life commitments, which can mean females up to 25 in these immature days, up to 32 or so if they're me.
He mentions that remaining Single is not the same as consecrated virginity, for being unmarried, he believes, is a "No" whereas consecrated virginity is a "Yes." Now I agree that embracing consecrated virginity is a "Yes" but being Single might not be a "No." If no man is knocking on your door, you're not saying "No." You're just not saying anything. And meanwhile, there exist all kinds of women who cannot marry or take religious vows for all kinds of reasons, some which are our fault, okay, but others which simply are not. And then there is the "Yes" implicit in living as a Single person in a community like "L'Arche." One thinks of long-term Single Jean Vanier.
One also thinks, incidentally, of John Paul's great bachelor layman mentor, Jan Tyranowski.
My second niggle is about the definition of virginity. John Paul writes that Mary wanted to preserve her virginity. So do the women who choose consecrated life. Great! He doesn't explain, however, why Mary was betrothed to Joseph in that case. I am sure there is a good explanation, but he doesn't give it. Meanwhile, is virginity a physical thing (and, if so, in what way), or a spiritual thing, or both, or an orientation towards God-as-one-and-only-Husband? Mulieris Dignitatem does not sort this out although it does talk about motherhood in detail.
My third niggle is about Mary as a model for wives. Most wives do not spend our marriages as consecrated virgins. And since ordinary traditional married women feel a bit protective of virginity and innocence, there is a part of our lives that we might not want to share with Our Lady or believe she would understand. Since lack-of-virginity entails certain knowledge, I would tentatively posit that there is something the Blessed Virgin Mary doesn't and by definition can't know.
I can feel the perspiration breaking out on my forehead with that one. Oh well, maybe it's all in "Love and Responsibility." And I suppose one could always have a conversation with Saint Anne on topics that one feels are not suitable for Our Lady.
But I realize that I am in dangerous theological waters so I will now rush off and wash the dishes. And then it's back to Mulieris Dignitatem.