Pamphlet from the National Catholic Rural Life Conference in 1946 concerning the function of woman in the social order. Its message is applicable today, to help a Christian “woman know her power, her role, her destiny” in today’s world.
National Catholic Rural Life Conference, 1946, written by Janet Kalven
“The important thing for a country is that the men should be manly, the women womanly.” This comment of Chesterton’s embodies a fundamental principle of social order. In society, as in any organism, unity and order are achieved through the cooperation of very different members, each fulfilling his own functions and contributing his special qualities to the common good.
The deepest difference among human beings–far more fundamental than any difference of intelligence or ability, nation or race– is the difference of sex. “And God created man to His own image: to the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
This basic difference is not merely physical but also psychological, coloring the total personality. In the whole range of her being–her mind, her senses, her emotions, her will, her interests and reactions–woman differs profoundly from man.
It is obviously of the greatest importance that this difference find its proper expression in the social functions of the two sexes. Each has unique qualities to contribute to the enrichment of human life. It is essential for the full and harmonious development of society, and especially for a Christian society, that “the men should be manly, the women womanly.”
Man and woman are made to complement each other at every point. Man’s capacity for theory, for forming an abstract and comprehensive view, is matched by woman’s practical sense and her gift for detail.
Man’s ambition and self-assertion which spur him on to great achievement must be balanced by the creative power of woman’s spirit of sacrifice and self-surrender. Man’s ability for leadership and desire for power must be tempered by woman’s spirit of love and selfless devotion.
The undue predominance of either masculine or feminine qualities creates profound disturbances which reverberate throughout the entire social structure, as we can see in our own culture.
In our time we need women with a vision of their great task as women who will help to restore the social equilibrium by creating a vital current of the great womanly virtues: the spirit of love, compassion for the suffering, generous self-sacrifice.
As women our fundamental contribution to the new order lies in finding our proper role in society. Our most urgent task in the work of reconstruction is to face this problem: What is the function of woman in the social order?
The Universal Mission of Woman
Woman’s essential mission in the world is to be for mankind a living example of the spirit of total dedication to God. To love God with her whole heart, her whole mind, her whole strength, and to radiate that love to the world—this is the universal task of woman. It is true that every human being is made for the love of God and is meant to be totally consecrated to His praise. In what sense, then, can we say that it is the particular mission of woman to be both an example and guide of man along the way of dedication?
There are two poles, two principles in human nature. Father Gerald Vann, O.P., in his recent book, The Heart of Man, distinguishes these two basic tendencies as “man the maker” and “man the lover.” Both principles are present to some extent in every human being, but man the maker is realized most perfectly in man; man the lover in woman. It is the maker who asserts, who imposes his idea and his will on the surroundings. The race takes its forward motion along the way of organization and invention from him. It is man the lover who gives, who yields his own will and gladly surrenders not only his will but his very self to the beloved.
Mankind has always recognized that love plays a far greater role in woman’s life than in man’s. Every woman when she looks into her own heart finds there the deep desire to surrender herself completely in love. Woman is by nature total in her giving; love absorbs her whole being. Byron was expressing the common experience of mankind when he wrote:
“Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart
‘Tis Woman’s whole existence.”
In relation to God, we must all fulfill the role of the lover, awaiting the divine initiative, surrendering completely to the divine will. As C. S. Lewis writes so beautifully, “Our role must be always that of patient to agent, female to male, mirror to light, echo to voice. Our highest activity must be response, not initiative. To experience the love of God in a true and not an illusory form is therefore to experience it as our surrender to His demand, our conformity to His desire.”
Christian tradition has often expressed man’s relation to God in the beautiful phrase: the soul is the bride of Christ. But woman’s nature has the greater innate affinity for the bridal role, for the act of loving surrender.
That is why woman has been throughout Christian history a symbol and example of the spirit of complete consecration to God. Woman’s natural capacity for wholehearted giving of herself in love is the basis for her glorious supernatural vocation. It is her function to help to lead mankind to God by becoming herself a radiant example of total dedication to His will.
The lover’s surrender opens the way for the action of God’s grace in the world. “The world can be moved by the strength of man, but it can be blessed in the real sense of the word only in the sign of woman,” writes Gertrude von Le Fort.
It is first of all to Our Lady that these words apply. In her, the universal mission of woman, the lover, was fulfilled most completely. Her “fiat” is the perfect expression of the creature’s wholesouled surrender to the creator, and through her surrender the fullness of blessing entered into the world. These words may be applied, too, to the universal task of womankind, for it is the function of every woman to re-echo the “fiat” of Mary and thus to become a source of blessing to humanity.
One who, in order to please God, perseveres in prayer although he finds no consolation in it, but rather repugnance, gives Him a beautiful proof of true love. –Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, Divine Intimacy
Review: Love these!! So far I’m only on the Spring edition but I love it! Short little inspiring blips here and there that a busy mom and wife can pick up and put down and receive encouragement and inspiration for the day to live out her Catholic faith and vocation! Thank you so much for putting these maglets together! The seller is wonderful with communication and didn’t hesitate to fix the problem when I hadn’t received my order. Meadows of Grace is a wonderful, personable, and professional shop that I will definitely return to!
A masterpiece that combines the visions of four great Catholic mystics into one coherent story on the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Based primarily on the famous revelations of Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich and Ven. Mary of Agreda, it also includes many episodes described in the writings of St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Elizabeth of Schenau. To read this book, therefore, is to share in the magnificent visions granted to four of the most priviledged souls in the history of the Church.
In complete harmony with the Gospel story, this book reads like a masterfully written novel. It includes such fascinating details as the birth and infancy of Mary, her espousal to St. Joseph and her Assumption into Heaven where she was crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth.
For young and old alike, The Life of Mary As Seen by the Mystics will forever impress the reader with an inspiring and truly unforgettable understanding of the otherwise unknown facts concerning Mary and the Holy Family. Imprimatur.
He was called the man of his age, the voice of his century. His influence towered above that of his contemporaries, and his sanctity moved God himself. Men flocked to him–some in wonder, others in curiosity, but all drawn by the magnetism of his spiritual gianthood. Bernard of Clairvaux–who or what fashioned him to be suitable for his role of counseling Popes, healing schisms, battling errors and filling the world with holy religious and profound spiritual doctrine? Undoubtedly, Bernard is the product of God’s grace. But it is hard to say whether this grace is more evident in Bernard himself or in the extraordinary family in which God choose to situate this dynamic personality. This book is the fascinating account of a family that took seriously the challenge to follow Christ… and to overtake Him. With warmth and realism, Venerable Tescelin, Blesseds Alice, Guy, Gerard, Humbeline, Andrew, Bartholomew, Nivard and St. Bernard step off these pages with the engaging naturalness that atttacks imitation. Here is a book that makes centuries disappear, as each member of this unique family becomes an inspiration in our own quest of overtaking Christ.
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Michelle Snyder said:
Thank you for all the wonderful wisdom you share with us through these gems! Your site is so wonderful for goodness, and beauty! God bless you and your lovely family! You are an inspiration, Leane.
Thank you Michelle. 💝
Is there supposed to be a link here for the book?
Hi Lisa, it was taken from a pamphlet so there isn’t any link.
Thank you for this post. Written in 1946, the year I was born, it is so needed in these present times! Bless you for sharing.
Thank you, it is beautiful.. I think young ladies have difficulty finding this without a good mentor. So many are imbued in the world, they have lost this vision… And as st Francis de sales said, there go I except by the grace of God.”
Hi Leane, this is a wonderful post, thank you! I would love to see an article (or perhaps you can recommend a book,) on the temptations of external activity outside the home, that distract us from our primary duty. I feel there is a lot of pressure on mothers and house wives, that if we are not in the workforce, then we should at least be doing some form of apostolate / ministry in our parish or in the world etc..
I appreciate if we love God, then it is proven in our works and our love of neighbor. But it still feels like a distraction, and can be hard to discern when these are ‘good and holy’ activities that we are asked to be involved in. Thank you and God bless.