Part 20: The Triumph of the Feminine Genius Through Mary

The following is final installment of a 20-part series. Read the entire series at

Before we address the main topic of this final installment of our web series, it is important to look at a couple of examples of what I suggested last time: "the transformation [of our culture] can begin with each one of us, in the choices we make in how we choose to live each day."

For instance, what if more women in the West, starting with young Christian women, decided really to practice modesty in the way they dress (as recommended, for example, by St. Paul in I Tim 2:9: "[W]omen should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion.").

Today, violations of modesty more often involve open displays of sexual magnetism than the garish displays of wealth that St. Paul was concerned about. In almost every western country today, for example, many women - young through middle age - strip down in warm months wearing attire that can hardly be called modest by any standard: hot pants, tank tops, off the shoulder shirts. Fashions that used to be the sole preserve of prostitutes are now commonly accepted, mostly for the sake of maximizing personal comfort in the heat. Women should feel free, uninhibited, and liberated enough to do this - so the reigning social ideology of the West tells us.

But freedom must always be bounded by charity, and it is simply not charitable to men to have to have their chastity assaulted whenever they walk down the street in the summertime. Men cannot help this: They are naturally more sexually stimulated by sight than in any other way (that's one reason why the porn industry thrives!). Even virtuous men have to struggle not to see women primarily as sexual magnets when the way many women dress (or undress) in the summer proclaims loud and clear that that is precisely what they are - whether those women intend to send that message or not. As the Japanese say, "It is not what you say, it is what the other person can hear that really matters."

Besides, the freedom to strip down in public generally has been a false liberation. It has led to a culture of body obsession among young women, enslaving them rather than truly setting them free. To be able to strip down with psychological comfort means you have to have a near perfect body to put on display: slim, trim, and beautiful. Whole industries now feed on the desperate struggle by young women to keep this up: diet fads, exercise centers, self-tanning products, and never-ending quest to stay thin (contributing also to the epidemic of eating disorders in the female population).

No one is advocating here a return to prudish, Victorian fashions, or the wearing of burqas! Rather the virtue of modesty is closely related to the virtue of moderation: a charitable and sensible "golden mean" between stripping down and covering all. Look at how most women in India have traditionally handled the heat of their native land (the beautiful, light summer dresses and the sari), and you have an idea of the way we could live in this regard as well, if we really were open to healthy cultural change.

As for men in the West: Suppose they really decided to practice chivalry in the way they behaved towards women? By chivalry I do not mean the patronizing, Victorian kind of chivalry that honored women by holding doors open for them while treating them as necessarily weak and helpless. Rather, I am referring to chivalry at its best: "Girls go first" - they are to be honored and respected because they are extra-special (the pinnacle and crown of God's creation, as discussed in this web series). An integral part of the male vocation, therefore, is to make sacrifices on their behalf, and to put their needs first.

Ashley McGuire reminds us of what this really looks like, and how far we have slipped from this ideal:

Emily Efshani Smith opened a 2012 piece on chivalry for the Atlantic with a reference to the hundred-year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, in which chivalry was on full display despite the panic of those on board. The vast majority of survivors were women; the overwhelming majority of those who perished were men. This was because chivalry taught men that women are owed preferential treatment - not just because we are the "weaker" sex, but because heroism and self-sacrifice are prized virtues in men.

But the Sexual Revolution enshrined the notion that this preferential treatment - meant to correct for physical inequities, quell the male propensity toward violence, and tame man's often-overwhelming sexual appetite - was little more than "benevolent sexism." ...

Yet without chivalry, the worst masculine qualities run rampant, and women are expected to conform to them, rather than demand that men conform to higher standards. Nothing exemplifies this more than the hookup culture. ... "Seriously, who goes on dates anymore? It's all about hooking up, getting a number, grabbing a drink and getting down."...

Cohabitation represents the ultimate male triumph in a non-chivalrous world. Men get all the goods of marriage without any of the commitment. Women, meanwhile, face all the same risks as they do in sexually active dating, with no assurance against their partner simply deciding to move on to the next willing (and often younger) domestic partner. (Sex Scandal, p. 138-140).

Suppose groups of young men, beginning with Christian young men, publicly pledged never to touch women's bodies in an impure manner, never to engage in pre-marital sex, and not to live together. And (to go back to the first article in this web series) suppose that that they pushed for and obtained a federal law that any male who sires a child out-of-wedlock (which can now be proven by DNA testing) will be held legally responsible for the basic upkeep of that child until that child is 18 years old.

Coupled with tighter laws protecting unborn children, what would our culture of male sexual irresponsibility look like then? What would this do for the widespread lack of respect for women's bodies in our culture, often treating them in advertising and relationships mere sex objects? On the contrary, every woman's body should be respected as the beautiful expression of her femininity, and as a special sanctuary of human life, to be honored and protected from manipulation and abuse.

These cultural changes (and others recommended throughout this web series) are more than possible, if only we have the courage, the will and perseverance to undertake them.

Also, we need to remember that we are not alone in this struggle. At Fatima, the Blessed Virgin Mary promised the coming of the triumph of her Immaculate Heart and a new era of peace for the world. Surely, the spread of a true understanding and respect for the dignity of women will be an important part of our Lady's triumph! So, this cultural sea change is not just something we have to strive for all on our own: It has already been promised to us by a woman, the Woman. And she is already "on the case"!

Time and time again down through history, the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven has been the chosen instrument of God for the transformation of culture, for the protection of human rights and dignity. It was so when the images and statues of Mary gradually tamed the violent passions of the barbarian invaders of Europe. It was so when our Lady of the Rosary fended off the invasion of Europe by the tyrannical Turks at Lepanto, and when the Black Madonna blocked the Muslim invasion of Europe before the gates of Vienna.

It was so when our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego in Guadalupe, Mexico, and gave him the miraculous image of herself on his peasant tilma, an image that converted millions of native Mexicans to the faith almost overnight, and put an end once and for all to the practice of human sacrifice in that land. It was so when prayers to our Lady, and a miraculous appearance of her image in the sky, turned back the invasion of Europe by the Soviet Red Army at "the Miracle of the Vistula" in Poland. And this list is far from exhaustive.

The point is that Our Lady has been "stepping on the serpent" of falsehood and human degradation from the very day that she received our Savior into the world at the Annunciation (Lk 1:38, cf. Gen 3:15). She spelled out clearly in her Magnificat the kind of cultural change that she constantly seeks to obtain for us by her maternal love and intercessory prayers: "[God] has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy ... "(Lk 1:51-54).

In so far as the New Catholic Feminism is both truly "Catholic" and authentically "Feminine," therefore, it is all part of the divine plan to renew the world through the "Feminine Genius" - in fact, through Mary's feminine genius above all. Genevieve Kineke sums this all up for us in her book The Authentic Catholic Woman (p. 67-70), and so with her wise words we will bring this web series to a close:

Mary is the first fruit and the most perfect image of the Church. Truly she is the pilgrim who walks before us, the perfect follower of Christ and the model of faith we should all revere. But more specifically she is the archetype of bride and mother who teaches all women how to live authentic femininity. From her acceptance of God's plan at the Annunciation to her Assumption [into heaven], she exemplified receptivity ... in a way that was life-giving and grace-filled for her and all who knew her. ...

An obedient daughter [of the Father], fruitful spouse [of the Holy Spirit], and beloved Mother [of the Son], Mary holds a place in heaven beyond compare: she is rightfully called Queen of the Universe. Her queenship is a feminine thing, a motherly honor and a boast for all women, for it is by her womanhood that God could reach mankind and bridge heaven and earth. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, "This maternity of Mary in the order of grace ... will last without interruption until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect."...

All women, whether single, married or consecrated, should establish the Motherhood of Mary and the image of the Church as the foundation of their lives. The life of the world depends on it.

Next Year: The New Catholic Feminism on the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood, and on the Morality of Contraception

Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.


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