Gone are the days when motherhood was upheld as a noble and esteemed vocation. So says Rosa Linda G Valenzona in a 2008
lifeissues.net article, ‘Motherhood and Dignity of Women’ (as relevant today as it was then). Women generally feel less valued by the society when they choose to become mothers, even though they may derive satisfaction from the experience. Pregnant women end up almost apologising for “bringing to earth another mouth to feed; one more person who will use up the earth’s limited resources.”
This, of course, is in direct contrast to God’s command in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.”
Valenzona presents data from anthropological studies that show that behavioural differences between men and women are rooted in biology. The data was collected from studies of 250 cultures.
The mother’s role is not just physical. Valenzona explains that it is through the experience of motherly care that we discover our self-worth as valuable and precious in the eyes of our mother. As such, the unique humanising and civilising influence of motherhood on the person is motherhood’s gift to society. Thus, at the spiritual level, she says, a person perceives God’s love through the motherly love received.
At the 2006 World Meeting of Families, Pope Benedict XVI had this to say: “The joyful love with which our parents welcomed us and accompanied our first steps in this world is like a sacramental sign and prolongation of the benevolent love of God from which we have come. The experience of being welcomed and loved by God and by our parents is always the firm foundation for authentic human growth and authentic development, helping us to mature on the way towards truth and love, and to move beyond ourselves in order to enter into communion with others and with God.”
Pope St John Paul II, in Mulieris Dignitatem, points out that the biblical exemplar of the ‘woman’ finds its culmination in the motherhood of the Mother of God. In the concluding paragraphs of the apostolic letter, he puts it this way: “Was it not in and through her that the greatest event in human history—the incarnation of God himself—was accomplished?”
We share today just two other perspectives from the rich insight of Pope St John Paul II into the dignity of motherhood.
1) Every time a new human being comes into the world, he says, the woman experiences the “joy and awareness that she is sharing in the great mystery of eternal generation”. =
2) Motherhood implies … a special openness to the new person: and this is precisely the woman’s “part”. In this openness, in conceiving and giving birth to a child, the woman “discovers herself through a sincere gift of self”. This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings—not only towards her own child, but every human being—which profoundly marks the woman’s personality.
We pray that as we reflect on motherhood, we will come to appreciate the depths of the mystery of this calling, and as St Paul says in Colossians 2:4, “that no-one deceives [us] with specious arguments”.
Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother too, pray for us.
Pope St John Paul II, pray for us.
A monthly column by the Emmanuel Community: 46 Rosalino Street, Woodbrook.