Remnant Youth Corner…
The book, ‘The Nature, Dignity, and Mission of Woman’ was written by Father Karl Stehlin in 2009, and published by Te Deum Sp., Warsaw, Poland. Angelus Press later republished it in June of 2013, translated to English by Michael J. Miller.
This book was originally a series of talks that Fr. Stehlin gave to the students of Sankt-Theresien-Gymnasium [St. Theresa Preparatory School for Girls]. He later compiled the talks into a book under the title ‘Wesen, Wurde und Auftrag der Frau’, translating to: ‘The Nature, Dignity, and Mission of Woman’.
The principal of St. Theresa Preparatory School, Sister Maria Metz, was very grateful to the Reverend Father Stehlin for compiling these talks about the dignity and mission of woman in this book.
Fr. Karl Stehlin begins by saying:
This little book is an attempt to answer those questions which every girl asks herself in the quiet hours of her life: ‘Who am I really? What distinguishes me from other people, from the things around me? Why am I the way I am? Why am I in this situation? Why am I living in precisely this time and at this place?’
He goes on to answer these questions in the book:
Woman, in contrast [to] man, who is the image of God ‘over us’…is the image of God’s loving devotion to His creation; she shows forth God as the one who is present ‘in us’…she is privileged to serve life with God and in Him, to be the source and mother of life. Man represents God in…the uniqueness of His individual personality…[while a woman] represents instead…the nameless ALL of God…what is general, what transcends throughout history.
The feminine…[vocation] compromises three great realities; [Virgo, Sponsa, Mater].
‘For mankind in our time…the virgin appears to be useless…her life is thought to be squandered…[while] the opposite is the case. From virginity bursts forth the most precious, most valuable, and most perfect gifts that can be granted to a human being. The highest perfection of…beauty and sanctity of the body is the completely intact virginal body. Thus God has placed this exalted virginal character in the nature of woman. A woman must actualize this ideal image that is imprinted in the deepest part of her nature, and she must do this throughout her life.
‘This means that one develops an even greater aversion and loathing for anything that is impure…especially the kind of sin that poisons the source of purity, [the kind that] wants to destroy feminine beauty and harmony in its entirety. Virginity requires putting one’s interior life in order, bringing it into that harmony in which everything has its place as God intended…[ranking] things as Most Important, then Necessary, then Useful, and only then, finally as Pleasant. According to this hierarchy we should plan our daily agenda and lead our whole life. This positive element has to develop and unfold in everyday life. It is the preservation of the flower’s beauty [that matters]. A woman will be appreciated and respected only if she does not abase herself by making herself the object of other’s concupiscence.’
‘The most profound element in the mystery of virginity is the total orientation of the virginal heart to God. We have…noted that woman is always created by God for a Thou; she comes into being second after man, as ‘flesh of his flesh, bone of his bones’. It is not good for [man] to be alone, for he needs her, as the other half of humanity. She [in turn] needs him as the one to whom she can give and confide all of her inner strength and power to love.
‘Then the time comes [in a young girl’s life] when her first love stirs for a specific male person. What takes place in the girl’s heart with respect to this beloved ideal image? She wants to be there for him…to cook the finest dishes for him…to put her home in order…for him and to make herself as attractive and beautiful as she can. Another experience is of a rather religious nature.
‘For [a] girl the Fatherhood of God is especially important at first…but when Christ becomes central…when the young woman meditates on His hidden life, she would like to be His sister or even, like Mary, His Mother. She would like to sit at His feet…or serve Him in practical ways…she would like to…soothe His Pain. What moves her most of all is Christ’s love for her…the way his blazing eyes look at her as only a husband and wife can look at each other. [This] demonstrates sufficiently that a woman is fulfilled by being for a man.
‘The world’s response to God’s action is represented by the woman’s attitude: she is the receptive one who receives God’s action into herself…[conceiving] the child and [carrying] it for nine months in her womb. To God’s challenging word, ‘I will!’ she answers, ‘Behold here I am! Let is be done to me according to Thy Word!’ There are many symbols that depict this attitude…the rose and lily which open up to the light of the sun…the wide open vessel…[reaching] up like two outstretched hands full of expectation and longing. Therefore to receive the divine life in this way, to be possessed by God, is to be a bride. A woman will live out this bridal existence in her devotion to…her husband…or in her total, spousal self-donation to Christ.’
‘‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.’ [These words of Christ to His Apostles] for the woman [means] that her virginal being…must likewise bear fruit. Her bridal existence is not the ultimate good; the gift of self to the beloved THOU is likewise supposed to bear fruit. What is the fruit of the union of a man and a woman, the outward expression of their love? A child! This task of woman, which is her mission on earth, the ultimate reason why she is a virgin and bride…[is] motherhood. The very structure of [a woman proves] that she is designed to be a mother.
‘A woman has a much better sense than a man for…the little everyday things, since raising a child takes place precisely in the specific everyday events…the little hidden details…[which, if overlooked will make the child’s] education…be neglected. Thus, the woman is much more at home in everyday family life [than out in the world as a business woman etc.…] Thus a penchant for keeping a house in order…and a thousand little everyday things is mainly characteristic of a woman.
‘A woman is initially inclined to motherhood. Thus the first woman was named Eve, the life-giver. There is also a spiritual motherhood, which already begins within physical motherhood. True child rearing is not just concern for the child’s bodily welfare, [it is also concern for the child’s spiritual welfare, in spiritual motherhood]. This spiritual motherhood or care for supernatural life is just as superior to physical motherhood as the soul is to the body, as eternal life is to life in this world. A true mother is also the spiritual mother of her children. That is why the Church also needs women who devote themselves wholly and entirely to spiritual motherhood. The woman who devotes herself to this, her greatest goal in life, can do it in religious life [or] in the world…whenever and wherever she devotes herself to the protection, nourishment and support of life.
‘All motherhood comes from the Mother of all mothers. The Immaculate Mother of God is the model for every mother…the ideal, the basis, the heart, and the goal of all creaturely motherhood. In Mary [the intimate relation between the Father and Son within the Most Holy Trinity] is…a spiritual and bodily reality: bodily since she is the physical mother of God…[and] spiritually, since she conceived him ‘first in her heart, and then in her body’. Thus in her own motherhood she becomes the prototype and ideal of all bodily and spiritual motherhood. Mary’s motherhood is the model and standard of every sort of motherhood on earth…[meaning] that the mother experiences her motherhood fully when she views it in light of Mary’s motherhood.’
‘First of all, one thing must be made clear: [in] Christian life it is absolutely necessary to lead [one’s life] according to the Will of God. So our state in life…must be chosen so as to correspond to God’s will. Generally a woman is free to decide between two paths that lead to eternity…the usual path of marriage and the special vocation to the religious state. Indications of a religious vocation [are] when a young woman feels in some special way drawn to God…if her vocation is to marriage, then the young woman absolutely must realize that God knows from all eternity the bridegroom appointed for her. With unconditional trust in Him, she will pray that she might find him. She should realize that the path of earthly married life is only a temporal one…[that] love for the earthly Thou can never be an end in itself, but only a path that leads to the supreme, eternal love, to the divine THOU.
[Then there is the ‘Third Way’]: the consecrated life of laity in the world. Without a habit or a veil the human being lives as a bride of Christ…in a desert where faith has grown cold. Where no priest can make headway today, the woman consecrated to God can establish the kingdom of God. This vocation is genuinely feminine…unassuming, hidden, discreet, requiring perseverance and a motherly sense of mercy.
‘Because a woman with such a vocation receives no outside protection…she needs all the more a profound spousal relationship to Christ. This is the third way, but in a sense the first, because it demands the most love.’
‘[A woman’s] task is to let the ideals of virginity, spousal union, and motherhood reach fulfillment in [her], knowing that these are simply the threefold expression of [her] love, which should increase constantly until death. But it increases only:
IF [she] keeps alive within [her] the actualized ideal of womanhood, the Immaculata and her faithful icons.
IF [she herself arouses and preserves] in [her] heart the yearning to become an evermore faithful icon of the Immaculata.
IF [she directs her] unbounded power to love and [her] womanhood entirely toward Christ and love Him…as [her] ‘Way, Truth and Life’.
IF [she entrusts herself] entirely to the Immaculata. She should be [her] prototype in everything. [She should] live in her, the Virgin of virgins, the Bride of the Lamb, the Mother of the whole Christ, both the Head and the Mystical Body.
In that way [she] will bring all creation home to God in [her] heart through Mary.’
This book was very inspiring for me, as Fr. Stehlin outlines beautifully the mission, nature and dignity of woman; to live your whole life as ‘Virgo, Sponsa, Mater’. He, as the quotes demonstrate, explains why a woman is the way she is, her mission in life, and the reasons she was made the way she is.
Now, after reading this book, I feel very proud to be a woman, to have this distinct and unique mission in life.
Women today have their mission so totally twisted and skewed that is it no wonder they can’t make any sense out of it and consequently go about life thinking that they have to be as good as men, by having jobs, being business women, etc…
But really, unlike the modern world’s idea, the woman’s place is to be hidden, unnoticed, being ‘Virgo, Sponsa, Mater’, and living out these ideals either in the home, in religious life, or in the third way as a consecrated lay person. If married, they should strive for the ideal of Virgo, Sponsa and Mater, letting both physical and spiritual motherhood come to light for their children. If not married, they must let their spiritual motherhood come to light for the people they care for and look after. And if in religious life, be perfect virgins, spouses of Christ, and spiritual mothers.
If women today could only find their TRUE mission in life, to be ‘Virgo, Sponsa, Mater’, they could restore their lost dignity and true nature, and live out fruitful lives as ‘Icona Immaculata.’
This is what I pray for every day.