A Different Path for Women
WASHINGTON, D.C. — “Men want sex.” Gloria Purvis is quite blunt speaking to a group of about 130 young women from around the United States, Canada and Mexico. This is the GIVEN Catholic Young Women’s Leadership Forum, being held at the Catholic University of America. The theme of the forum, and the GIVEN Institute that runs it, is: “Discover the gift that only you can give, because of the gift that you are.”
Purvis’ message to these young women, all under 30, is that we need a civilization of love, and it is only possible if women know their own beauty. It’s a message all women — and men — need to realize — that we must treasure one another and our gifts, and not use one another, as the culture often sets young people up to do.
The GIVEN Institute and the gathering in D.C. this month are a corrective to our jaded, cynical, overly medicated and sexualized society. The natural order is amazing, even when there are imperfections. Gloria Purvis is a woman who revels in her femininity, unique as it is in each woman.
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
A role model in this crowd is St. Edith Stein, also known by her Carmelite religious name St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She was a philosopher convert to the Catholic faith who died at Auschwitz. To get a taste of her thinking, here’s a quote: “Woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning.” And: “The soul of woman must be expansive and open to all human beings; it must be quiet so that no small weak flame will be extinguished by stormy winds; warm so as not to benumb fragile buds … empty of itself, in order that extraneous life may have room in it; finally, mistress of itself and also of its body, so that the entire person is readily at the disposal of every call.” Finally: “Do not accept anything as love which lacks truth.”
Lives of Greater Virtue and Sacrifice
GIVEN is a haven. It’s the first post-COVID gathering for many of these young women (there are masks and distancing), who are all seeking resources to live in the light of eternity. Purvis was a breath of fresh air for so many of them. She’s a wife and mother who lets her opinion be known (she’s got a new podcast with America Media), loves her Catholic faith and lives in the real world. She encourages the young women to live lives of “greater virtue and sacrifice. This is how you build a civilization of love.”
Multiple doctors here have talked about their struggles as professionals and prescribing birth control. They’ve come to learn that birth control isn’t good medical care. It’s not care for the whole person. It’s not recognizing the tremendous gift that is woman and all that that entails. Sisters here want to walk a walk of sanctity. To be a soldier for Christ, as Sister Dede Byrne just put it as I type.
Another speaker, Leah Jacobson, said: “Our bodies tell us deep spiritual truths. We lactate for a reason. Children need us for a reason. … Don’t fear your body.”
Yet another speaker, Sister Maria Theotokos Adams, said this about biological maternity and spiritual maternity: “There will be a suffering and there is sacrificial pain in bringing forth life.” This is the truth about love and life we often try to avoid talking about. Suffering and sacrifice can be beautiful when it’s for the flourishing of another.
What Women Are
The absolutely most repeated St. Edith Stein quote at a GIVEN forum every time it’s convened, is: “The world doesn’t need what women have; it needs what women are.” This week, young women are coming to peace with who they are and what a gift they are, given love by God to be love in the world. That means being maternal, in whatever vocation they find themselves. This is the reality our confused culture and lives desperately need.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living. She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commission in New York. She can be contacted at [email protected]