August 1, 2008

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Women are a special gift in our communities

(Eighth in a series)

Were you there when the women wept their tears?”

The testimony for the Eighth Station on the Way to Calvary can be found in the Gospel according to St. Luke: “And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children’ ” (Lk 23:27-28).

Who were these women? Were they gathered because of their compassion for a suffering criminal? Did they know who Jesus was? Were they, perhaps, friends of Mary, his mother?

Anyone who has had the opportunity to visit Jerusalem and to walk the Via Dolorosa knows that one winds his or her way through crowds of people and vendors.

It is notable that among “the great multitude” along the way, despite his tortured condition, Jesus turned to the women who were weeping. He did not simply pass them by.

Once again, Jesus gives us an example for our behavior in times of suffering. No matter whether the pains of life are great or small, it is a challenge to see through them to the needs of those around us.

Pope Benedict XVI reflected on this Eighth Station on Good Friday as he led the Way of the Cross at the Coliseum in Rome.

With an international perspective, he said: “Women, especially mothers, derive from their love an immense capacity for endurance in suffering. They suffer through the actions of men, they suffer for their children. Let us think of the mothers of all those young people who are persecuted and imprisoned in the Name of Christ. How many long nights those mothers spend awake and in tears! Let us think of the mothers who risk arrest and persecution as they persevere in family prayer, nourishing in their hearts the hope of better times ahead.”

The pope prayed to Christ, asking him to make his consoling and enlightening voice heard today by so many suffering women. He prayed that we would weep for the sufferings due to sin in our own time.

There is also the admonition of Jesus that we should weep for our children. This Eighth Station of the Cross underscores the impact of motherhood in the welfare of children.

The unique role of mothers is irreplaceable in our society. This bears some emphasis because, on the one hand, we may tend to take this fundamental truth for granted.

On the other hand, there is a current cultural tendency to downplay the unique significance of motherhood because of a misplaced egalitarian view of gender. The matter bears soulful reflection.

The voice of confident Catholic women is vital in the societal debate about the choice for life, i.e., for human dignity at all stages of life from conception to natural death. The voice of women has an enormous impact in furthering the cause of Christian ethics in public life. Needless to say, this witness of good women begins in the home, but it does also extend to the larger community.

Obviously, women play a key role in sanctifying the family and home. Along with their husbands, wives and mothers testify to the dignity of Christian marriage as much by the way they live as by what they say. Working mothers have the opportunity to bring this witness to the public forum.

Single women have the blessed opportunity to help sanctify the workplace as well as the extended family. It is important in our culture to acknowledge gratefully the importance of their witness and not to take it for granted.

Our Catholic communities need to bear in mind the suffering and loneliness so heroically borne by widows. It is admirable to observe courageous widows who continue to be important faithful participants in our parish communities. It is particularly admirable to see them going out of their way to offer support to other people who are alone.

Single mothers accept their role generously and courageously, even when they do not choose to be single. Some work in multiple jobs in order to support their children. Our communities of faith cannot overlook the needs of these folks and, especially, of their children.

I have a special admiration for countless women who spend hours in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Every parish community knows those women who are faithful prayers at daily Eucharist, rain or shine. These women, young and old, are a special gift in our communities.

Jesus stopped and was anxious to speak to the women along the Way of the Cross. In this generous act, he signaled a special care for them and their children.

His same love comes down through the ages to the women and children of our day. †

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