Mercy Mondays

Voices of Faith, Voices of Mercy

By Elizabeth Young | Monday, March 07, 2016

March 8 is International Women’s Day, a time to celebrate the social, cultural, and political accomplishments of women while reflecting upon the work that still needs to happen in order to increase equality, participation, and empowerment of women across the globe. On this day last year, Pope Francis shared a special greeting for all women who seek to build a more humane and welcoming society: “A world where women are marginalized is a barren world because women not only bear life; they also give us the ability to see beyond. They see beyond themselves, they give us the ability to understand the world with different eyes, to sense and feel things with a more creative, patient and tender heart.”

Despite our understanding of the profound role women play, women are marginalized every day by voices that tell them they are sidekicks rather than heroines. They are silenced by forces of insecurity and inferiority that keep them from feeling like whole people, “seeing beyond themselves,” and setting in motion their own prophetic and life-giving visions for the world.

For many years I allowed society to tell me that I was not skinny enough, pretty enough, or emotional enough, but definitely too smart, too loud, and too honest. I played along with jokes about the rightful place of women in the kitchen, and generally agreed with comments that women should not be president because they just don’t command authority like men.

My instinct in social situations was to play into “dumb blonde” stereotypes because I was bullied for being studious as a child and told as an adult that intelligent women are intimidating. I allowed unrealistic expectations of beauty and phony media portrayals of women to destroy my own body image and once vibrant self-confidence - all contrary to what I know now about who God created me to be.

I can now prayerfully reflect on those experiences and identify where God is completely absent from society’s distorted portrayal of women. I now understand the devastating gravity that gender oppression has on women of faith - we become out of touch with the brilliant women God created us to be. God intended us to be heroines - with all our gifts, courage, and unique insight - just like Mary, our Mother.

This is precisely how we are called by the fearless female leaders of our Church to celebrate International Women’s Day. For the third year in a row, the Church will be entering into the special spirit of this day by creating a space in the heart of the Vatican for women to share how their ministry, mission, and leadership are building up the global Church. This year, the “Voices of Faith” event seeks to remind the world through the example of women that “mercy requires courage.”

I have a voice of faith worthy of being developed and shared.

Lifted up by the spirit of this day, I envision and will work toward a Church that replicates the Voices of Faith model and sponsors honest and productive dialogues in our faith communities across the world.

A Church that stands for equal pay in the workplace and speaks out against all forms of violence, abuse, and exploitation targeted at women.

A Church that acknowledges and undermines stereotypical language of gender, raises its daughters to understand that mercy requires courage, and raises its sons to take pride in being patient and gentle.

A Church that counters mainstream society with an alternative rubric of self-worth based not on size or beauty or popularity, but on courage, self-understanding, and confidence in our identities as powerful and beloved daughters of God.

Mary, Patron Saint of all Women, pray for us.

Mercy Challenge

Take a few minutes today to prayerfully recite a Hail Mary. What surfaces in your mind and heart as you pray it? What does this prayer tell you about Mary and yourself? Engage with Mary in this prayer.

Elizabeth Young is an Intern for the Office of Peace & Justice.