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Alice Von Hildebrand on Feminism and Femininity

11/27/2003 - 8:00 AM PST

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married or unmarried, is called upon to be a biological, psychological or spiritual mother -- she knows intuitively that to give, to nurture, to care for others, to suffer with and for them -- for maternity implies suffering -- is infinitely more valuable in God's sight than to conquer nations and fly to the moon.

When one reads the life of St. Teresa of Avila or St. Thérèse of Lisieux, one is struck by the fact that they constantly refer to their "weakness." The lives of these heroic women -- and there are many -- teach us that an awareness and acceptance of one's weakness, coupled with a boundless confidence in God's love and power, grant these privileged souls a strength that is so great because it is supernatural.

Natural strength cannot compete with supernatural strength. This is why Mary, the blessed one, is "strong as an army ready for battle." And yet, she is called "clemens, pia, dulcis Virgo Maria."

This supernatural strength explains -- as mentioned by Dom Prosper Gueranger in "The Liturgical Year" -- that the devil fears this humble virgin more than God because her supernatural strength that crushes his head is more humiliating for him than God's strength.

This is why the Evil One is today launching the worst attack on femininity that has ever taken place in the history of the world. For coming closer to the end of time, and knowing that his final defeat is coming, he redoubles his efforts to attack his one great enemy: the woman. It says in Genesis 3:15: "I will put enmity between you and the woman." The final victory is hers, as seen in the woman crowned with the sun.

Q: Why do you think women have moral power?

Von Hildebrand: The mission of women today is of crucial importance. In some way, they have the key to sanity -- the first step toward a conversion. For supernature is based on nature, and unless we go back to a natural soundness, the sublimity of the supernatural message will be lost to most of us.

Why do they have the key? Because their influence on men is enormous when they truly understand their role and mission. Again and again I hear priests say that they owe their vocation to their grandmother or mother.

St. Monica, in collaboration with God, brought back her wayward son to God. St. Bernard's mother, St. Francis de Sales' mother -- who was only 15 years older than he -- and St. John Bosco's mother were key factors in their spiritual way to holiness.

Q: How is Mary a model of femininity?

Von Hildebrand: Women have the key because they are the guardians of purity. This is already clearly indicated by the structure of their bodies, which chastely hides their intimate organs. Because their organs are "veiled," indicating their mystery and sacredness, women have the immense privilege of sharing the sex of the blessed one: Mary, the most holy of all creatures.

Feminism began in Protestant countries, for the plain reason that they had turned their backs on Christ's mother, as if the Savior of the world would feel deprived of the honor given to his beloved Mother.

Mary -- so gloriously referred to in the Apocalypse -- is the model of women. It is by turning to her, praying to her and contemplating her virtues that women will find their way back to the beauty and dignity of their mission.

Q: How did writing this book help you grow in appreciation of being a woman?

Von Hildebrand: Writing this book has been a privilege. It gave me a unique opportunity to meditate on the greatness of the woman's mission, following in the steps of the Holy Virgin.

Mary taught us two rules leading to holiness. One is: "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to thy word." This indicates that the woman's mission is to let herself be fecundated by grace -- holy receptivity. The second is: "Do whatever he tells you."

This is the holy program that the Church offers us. No doubt, if women understood this message, marriage, the family and the Church would overcome the terrible crisis affecting us. As the liturgy says, "God has put salvation in the hands of a woman."


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Feminism, Femininity, Women

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1 - 10 of 13 Comments

  1. Bruce Linton
    1 year ago

    To my brother Christians - please, please bear this in mind: THIS WOMAN HAS BORNE HER BURDENS IN THE HEAT OF THE DAY - she is a true widow and entitled to honor, not scorn. Even if she were losing her mind, which she is absolutely NOT, we owe God the reverence of respect for our fellow creatures. For my part, would conclude my admonition with the warning of the "good thief" on the cross next to Christ. In my sister, I see the image of a suffering servant and true dependent child of the Lord's handmaid. She has done nothing amiss!

  2. Rory
    1 year ago

    Ah! I get it. The takeaway is that actually women are far better than men.

  3. Derek
    1 year ago

    Alice von Hildebrand is yet another female chauvinist in disguise. Whatever she says about virtue and holiness, her true preoccupation is power (first of all power over her own husband). In addition, like so many modern women, she cannot help but drone on about how underserved women are as well as dictate to men from on high how they are to better cater to women. In her book, The Privilege of Being a Woman, she gloats over the power wives exercise over their husbands and, taking a truly sickening turn, goes so far as to say that a husband should actually venerate his wife's vulva and "tremble" before it as before a sacred object. She is like any other woman but dresses up with glittering theology that which is simply her own greedy id: her only interest in men is the extent to which they make her feel safe ("courage and strength"); fundamentally it is still all about her. Dietrich was no doubt very much under control and I doubt her "love" for him lasted as long as he did what he was told. She's the same old story dressed up so beautifully that naturally any woman will find her a very attractive ally. In fact, however, a wolf in sheep's clothing.

  4. Angela
    2 years ago

    Alice von Hildebrand has wonderful insight for women and men.
    Terry, Mary was NOT abused, she was so humbled as to give reverence to Christ every chance. She submitted to God's will, not her own. She decreased so that Christ could increase... Every mention of her in the bible points to Christ, as Mary can best lead us to Christ (not to herself). Mary, in her humility, should be our guide.
    I would love to see more articles like this, that uphold true femininity.

  5. Smithy
    3 years ago

    My heart is melting. What a relief to read such a level-headed article -- as opposed to what my life is drowned in day after day after day... oh the miseries of this age.

  6. Erika Franco
    4 years ago

    These articles are so true and somehow reaches so deeply in your heart. It helps you understand the qualities God gave women, those great sacred privileges, learn how to apply them and deal trough human problems.

  7. Kell Brigan
    5 years ago

    And, NOT ALL WOMEN ARE MARRIED OR NUNS. Even if I had wanted to be an at-home 24/7 mom and nothing else, I'VE NEVER HAD THE CHANCE. I'm supposed to go through my life feeling like a total failure bacause I'm single? Dr. Hildebrand (who, by the way, did leave the house to go get one of those evil educations) is frequently brilliant, but the continual "forgetting" that not all women CAN marry, that not all women have children, that there are many, many lives that women are FORCED to live, let alone can ethically, piously CHOOSE to live, above and beyond and/or in addition to "wives" and "mothers" makes it impossible to take the rest of her arguments seriously. She simply isn't talking about real women when she pretends "wife" and "mother" and "nun" are the only legitimate choices. The Church doesn't teach this; the Church openly acknowledges the value of women's work in all arenas of life, and has specifically endorsed being single as one of women's possible vocations (in addition to Religious or in marriage). Why why why are so many people determined to keep single women invisible and condemned to lead apes in hell?

  8. JMJ
    5 years ago

    Because of original sin our intellect has been darkened and therefore we fail to see the supreme good which will truly satisfy. Hence, our human will is weakened because we choose the lesser goods that we see through our dimmed intellects. We experience many false hopes, feminism, is one icing covered cupcakes. We try to live as if this world is our final end and therefore end up compromising our true calling, which is loving service. Women are created to serve just as men are created to serve. We could have all the degrees, write all the books, have all the prestige in the world. We would still be unhappy. Happiness is not in attaining greatness in this world. Happiness is accepting the cross, which will welcome us each time we chose to serve others. "Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." [Mat 20:28]. We will find no happiness in seeking to be served the praises of this world. This is what false feminism has done. Rather than being the light of crucified lover many women have chosen to stop serving.

  9. Tatiana L.
    6 years ago

    Um, there are some good points here. However, speaking of the great theological works being made by men, why shouldn't women have some opportunities to make great works such as Aquinas' Summa Theologica? Indeed, it seems to me that AVH doesn't want me to make a theological masterpiece (and I have the intellectual capacity to make one if I wanted to). It also seems as if all women should sit home and be homemakers. I do get her secular mentality thing, but in a modified form, feminism is acceptable -- in a lot of things, we can do what men do. It's just that how we do it is unacceptable, especially coarse language. That I do agree with her.

    6 years ago

    Go all the way Dr. AVH. Count on my prayers.

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