A lingering cold forced me to my bed, but at a very appropriate time. A “Law & Order” marathon, all 587 shows, was being featured on a cable channel. During the first episodes all six main characters were men: two detectives and the desk sergeant were men; two lawyers and the district attorney were men. Gradually the role of the desk sergeant was assumed by a woman; as well as the role of district attorney. Then the detectives became a male/female team, followed quickly by a male/female team of lawyers. Toward the final productions, all the roles were interchangeable. The casting, of course, reflected society’s changing attitude toward women’s place in society. The female transformation from teacher, nurse and secretary into attorney, physician and chief executive officer was certainly one of the great social makeovers of the last century. Annie Oakley was vindicated: “Anything you can do I can do better!” or at least just as good.
The advance of women from the kitchen to the front office over the past half-century has indeed expanded a woman’s opportunity to share her insights, concerns, and talents with the larger world. But the quest for male/female equality has been sadly at the expense, or at least at the neglect, of male/female uniqueness. No matter how adept a woman might become in science, medicine, education, law, or government, a man could replace her on the morrow. This is not true of the roles of wife and mother. The unique female contribution to human society is the roles of wife and mother. Women have always chopped wood, hammered nails, fixed plumbing, shoveled snow and performed all sorts of tasks usually associated with the man of the house. And women sit on the U.S. Supreme Court judging legislation passed by other women in the halls of Congress. The female contribution to society is ever expanding. However God has uniquely entrusted the roles of wife and mother to women and, no matter how broad their other opportunities, women must not neglect these twin responsibilities lest they and society be imperiled.
No social enterprise has suffered more in the past fifty years than that of wife and mother. Legalized abortion and surrogacy strike at the very heart of motherhood. Handy contraceptives, no fault divorce, and single parenthood curtail the role of wife. Legislators heartily endorse these assaults against women. Entertainers warmly applaud these infringements on female uniqueness. Even the sciences pursue bizarre and bewildering experiments into gender roles and maternity prospects. Modern society has gone to great lengths to make women equal to men while regretfully neglecting to encourage women toward embracing their true and unique roles: wife and mother.
Statistics are often cited revealing that even in the higher realms of commerce and industry women’s salaries average out less than those of men. And the latest explanation for this inequity is that women “take time out” from the business world to become wives and mothers. These unique female callings are thus portrayed as detrimental toward women achieving their greatest potential on the world scene. But frankly there is no greater potential for a woman than to be a faithful wife and a loving mother. Someone once asked Napoleon who he thought was the greatest woman on earth. Napoleon quickly replied, “The one with the most babies.” Nowadays such an answer would be met with scorn. But Napoleon was indeed correct. A mother has the future of society, the future of the world, the future of history, in her hands. The hand that rocks the cradle does indeed rule the world: birthing, guiding, instructing, correcting, and rewarding the next generation is an awesome task – and one that society today neglects at its peril.
As Christmas approaches, the Christian world rightfully has its attention drawn to the excellence of wife and mother found in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Christian world knows Mary in no other capacity than as wife and mother. Mary was admirably privileged to be conceived without sin in the womb of her own mother, Anne. Mary herself conceived the Son of God in her own womb through a unique Divine intervention. Mary, a creature like the rest of her race, gave birth to the very Son of God through whom all creation had been made. And Mary was uniquely assumed body and soul into heaven at the complete of her earthly journey. Clearly, the privileges heaped by God upon Mary are inestimable. And yet all of these distinctions were granted to Mary to enhance her motherhood. The Divine Maternity was Mary’s greatest privilege. To birth, guide, instruct, perhaps correct, and reward Jesus was Mary’s role in salvation history, her vocation within ancient society, and her legacy to future generations. God saw authentic motherhood as indispensable for his Son Jesus; authentic motherhood still indispensable for God’s children today.