When I read posts and articles about post-modern feminism, I can sense a lot of anger and resentment with what had not been given fairly to women in the past. Perhaps writing this reflection will incur a lot of backlashes from many feminists. However, my real purpose today is not to intellectually, psychologically, or sociologically trying to analyze feminism and its different (development) waves. My desire is to simply introduce and invite many to see the genuine Marian spirituality that helps us understand a more holistic approach to feminism.
According to the first principle of moderation, all should approach change with our desire to avoid the extremes. I have seen too many young people who are too angry with the world that there cannot be any viable and personal dialogue. We all have to recognize that when there cannot be dialogue, we are allowing negative and defensive sentiments to dictate, orient, and motivate our lives. This applies to all people and situations! Therefore, it is important that we come to the conversation wanting to dialogue instead of trying to prove something right. Dialogue requires an open heart just as a conversation is only possible with listening ears! Therefore, even though we might be very frustrated with how much injustices and hurts women had to endure in the past, we must not forget that many poor people are (still) treated the same way (or worst). If we need to have righteous anger, let it be, yet anger cannot be the driving motivation because it is reactionary instead of a real, discerned, prayerful, and holistic response. If we are to be vocal, we have to be a loving, compassionate, and caring voice for all — not just a particular group.
Second, we have to avoid the temptations to feel like we are entitled to everything. Entitlement is not a right nor a privilege to be expected or demanded. We cannot think that we are entitled to certain things because of this or that reason! When we think that we are entitled to something, we have already put ourselves on a pedestal and judge other people with what we have preconceived instead of truly meeting, knowing, and loving each and every person as he or she is. True respect comes from true understanding and personal encounter. It requires us to stand underneath our pompous, self-based, or preconceived notions to know the person from within, beneath all the things that we might think we know or want. I believe it is important that we need to be humans to one another first before any changes or revolutionary ideas could begin. Respect and tolerance are much talked about, yet if we do not put it into practice with true dialogue and understanding, we only worry about what we have to say, what agenda we want to push, or what we would like to get done. There is truly a difference between talking at each other and talking to each other. There is a difference of between trying to truly listen and care instead of only listening to answer or response. This is where respectful dialogue and prayerful discernment, grounded not only on our own human needs or goals but on the Lord’s unfailing love, is crucial as we work for a more equitable and loving community and society reflected after His love for humanity.
All of these then lead me toward the importance of the Blessed Mother in our conversation, dialogue, and interaction as we come together to work for a more just and equitable world, especially respecting and honoring the gift of womanhood in both the ecclesiastical and social realms. I believe that justice has to be grounded in prayer, else it becomes reactionary, short-lived, prone to manipulations, and ego-centered. Prayer makes all revolutionary changes possible and real because it is not simply based on policies or demands, it begins, nourishes, and ends with the personal, intimate, and consistent conversion of hearts.
I love my mother and I would like to treat every woman like I treat my mother. As an Asian person, I have been taught to respect the elders and care for the young. I was told and taught to live not just for myself but for those who are around me, not only trying to be exemplary but setting the examples and living the natural and theological virtues in my own life. Furthermore, as a Catholic and a priest, I was taught to follow and imitate the example of my spiritual mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, because she is the example par excellence of Christian discipleship. Her fiat is the example of loving trust and intimate hope in divine will, even at times she did not know or have the answer to why things happened! She is the example of holiness (CCC 2030), of hope (64), of complete obedience to the will of the Almighty (144, 148-149, 494), of prayer (2617, 2619), and of complete union with her Son in His ministry and in His Paschal Mystery (964).
I believe we can see and learn from Mother Mary what it means to be real witnesses of faith (165, 273) through our own personal fidelity, humble obedience, and constant trust in the Lord. She might not speak much (per the Gospel accounts); but when she did, those around her listened — including the Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, I believe her life of service and faith spoke more than what she actually said. Like our Blessed Mother, when the saints spoke, people listened and respected them since they had come to know them by the ways that they lived their lives. Therefore, I believe this is an important lesson for us to remind ourselves that we really need to begin with faith, personal commitment and service, and prayerful discernment before we speak. Else, even though we might speak eloquently and with beautiful ideas, we end up sounding like vocalized gong and cymbal. (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1) We have seen too many revolutions, too many changes, too many short-lived and enticing ideas, yet how many of them were actually substantial? Words like change, respect, tolerance, and love become trendy and nice-sounding without real impact because we have made them into triggered words for political and agenda-driven matters.
I humbly and personally believe that the Blessed Mother is a strong yet gentle, faithful and meek, pure-hearted, loving, and caring example of a woman (and a saintly Christian disciple). She is a woman that radiates the Lord in and through her words and actions. When she spoke and acted, those words or actions were not just for themselves. Her whole life pointed toward something higher, the everlasting and transcendental values of faith and the constant, loving care of the Almighty. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches:
“Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God’s almighty power. This faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ’s power. The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that ‘nothing will be impossible with God,’ and was able to magnify the Lord: ‘For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.'” (273)
If God is not with us in prayer, our words and actions become self-serving and are prone to humanistic manipulations. If faith is not enlivened in and through us, it becomes very easy to build a society or agenda that simply serves our needs instead of the higher calling. If the divine life is not in us, we cannot truly become life-giving and substantially nourishing in words and actions. We have to ask ourselves, then, who are we sharing when we encounter another person? Which life are we radiating and imitating — ours or the Lord and His saints? Are our lives pointing people to a higher reality or do we remain mundane (worried, anxious, envious, frustrated, and manipulative)?
Therefore, I would like to invite everyone to live and embrace the Marian spirituality in understanding a more holistic approach to feminism and our call of Christian discipleship. May we imitate her fiat with personal faith, firm hope, and loving charity to all so those who come to encounter us can see that God is living in and through our lives. Let us dare to love, to live, and to believe like our Blessed Mother.