Julie Vickery discusses supernatural womanhood: its meaning and how to achieve and sustain it in the current age.
More than a century ago, Father Bernard O'Reilly wrote The Mirror of True Womanhood, a guidebook for women in which he put forth the notion that, if every mother were to become a supernatural woman, the sanctity of the home would be preserved and the best interests of the Church and society would be well served. In this article, I hope to demonstrate that all mothers (spiritual and biological) are called to supernatural womanhood — what that means, how it can be attained and sustained in the present age.
Taking first things first, it is important to know that while the term "supernatural womanhood" may sound strange to our post-modern ears, it is nothing new. The reality of the supernatural woman can be traced back to the beginning of time — to the creation of the first woman — Eve, "the mother of all the living (cf. Genesis 26-27, 3:20). We all know what happened to our First Parents and the grief their disobedience brought down on all future generations. But, no sooner did Adam and Eve fall from grace than God promised salvation to the world through the Woman and her offspring (Gen 3: 14-15). As Catholics, we believe that Mary, "full of grace," is the Woman of Genesis. She is the perfect Mother, Model and Mediatrix. She is God's Mother (Theotokos) and ours: "the most perfect mirror of womanly perfection" (O'Reilly 2).
With the above image of Theotokos: Searcher of the Lost icon in mind, we can briefly recall a few Old Testament mothers (biological and spiritual) who clearly demonstrated lives of supernatural womanhood and are considered by the Church to be types of Mary: Leah (Genesis), Miriam (Exodus), Judith (Book of Judith) and Queen Esther (Book of Esther). In the New Testament, we have, among many others, Mary Magdalen, her sister, Martha, and the Daughters of Jerusalem to whom Jesus spoke on the way to His crucifixion (Luke 23:28). In the history of the Church we have many saints, martyrs and mystics who defended and spread the Gospel message of love. Among them, is one my favorite saints: Saint Benedicta of the Cross, whose life, writing and martyrdom we celebrate on August 9.
As well, in our own lives, we have all encountered, at one time or another, women who acted as our spiritual mothers, mentors, and guides. In 1995, Saint John Paul II recognized the special gifts that women bring into our lives, the Church and society as a whole. In a Letter to Women, he wrote:
"Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world's understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic."
So where does the super part come in?
It is in our Catholic faith. Supernatural womanhood (authentic or true womanhood, as its more commonly known today) simply means living in the truth of Jesus Christ. It means accepting the truth of the Gospel, speaking the truth even when it's unpopular, living heroically and prayerfully. It is loving God with all our soul, heart, and mind and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22: 37-39). It is definitely the hard way — the way of heroic virtue.
So, once we have attained supernatural womanhood, how do we sustain it, especially amid the many difficulties of this present age of total relativism and open hostility toward Christ and His followers?
Here are five aids you may find helpful:
- Seek spiritual direction in the lives and writing of the saints.
- Pray the Rosary daily.
- Receive the Eucharist (the food for our souls) frequently.
- Have a place in your home where you can hold a quiet conversation with the Lord whenever you feel overwhelmed — or just want to sit in His presence.
- Read the Bible daily, if only for a few minutes. Choose a verse meaningful to you and share it with someone.
Takeaway: As Catholic Mothers, we are blessed to have a special love for our Holy Mother. Pinpoint a virtue that you feel needs some work and ask Mary to help you grow in that particular characteristic and practice it daily — especially when you least feel like it!
Copyright 2020 Julie Vickery
Images (top to bottom): Unsplash (2017); copyright 2020 Julie Vickery
About the Author
Julie Vickery is a wife and mother of two grown children. She has a Master of Arts degree in Sacred Theology and enjoys continuing her studies online. Other favorite pastimes include reading and writing nonfiction, gardening, walking and taking part in local and online inter-faith discussion groups.