Alice von Hildebrand featured

Women’s Role in Society and in the Church, Part 1: Mother of the Living

10:07:00 AMAnne Foster

“What is woman’s role in society and in the church?”

This is a well worn question that has been stirring the pot quite vigorously for the last century.
Whether you’re a zealous or moderate feminist, a devoted fan of St. John Paul II’s works, or simply sick and tired of the topic of women hogging the spotlight in every editorial piece, social media account, and political venue, this post is for you.

Alice von Hildebrand, a philosopher and theologian who has studied the subject of the sexes for decades, provides a refreshing answer to the questions surrounding the nature, dignity and vocation of women. Her thoughts are not some new genius revelation, but rather they are rooted in 2,000 year old Tradition, the Scriptures, philosophy, biology, and her own personal experience.   

Thus, let us dive into the story of woman, the troublesome gender which has challenged the minds of philosophers, politicians, suffragettes, husbands and wives for far too long.  

Naturally, Alice starts at the very beginning ...

“God created mankind in his image;
in the image of God he created them;
male and female* he created them.”

The first man's response to the first woman was one of admiration. He was enchanted not only by her beauty but by her exclusive role in creation.  In a supernatural sense, Adam knew Eve, he was given knowledge of her unique vocation.  He expresses this knowledge by addressing his bride as, "the Mother of the Living". Never has there been a greater compliment given by man to a woman.  This title ought to be revered, for it encompasses the woman’s greatest and most sacred privilege: the ability to give life.  

And as the story goes, the serpent turned to Eve, she ate the forbidden fruit and then convinced Adam to do likewise.

Why did the serpent turn to Eve?

Dr. von Hildebrand renounces the previously held conclusion, that it was due to Eve, as a woman, being the weaker sex.  Rather Alice claims, it seems more likely that the serpent turned to Eve due to the enormous amount of influence she had over her husband.

I think she is on to something here and coincidentally so does my older brother who used to explain the classic story to me as such: “Eve offers Adam an apple to eat, she’s beautiful, the only woman in paradise, … if I were Adam I’d eat the whole tree!” The main difference being, my brother was being facetious, and Alice was not.

All jokes a side, I believe we can all grant much of the credit for our spiritual foundation, to a woman in our life. Consider our mothers who as we grew were a constant presence, present at every moment, especially when we began to ask those important questions whose answers would form our worldview.

It should not then surprise you to hear how many priests attribute their vocations to their mother, grandmother, and the Blessed Mother, herself.  Many of our great male saints no doubt benefited from their fellowship with their female colleagues and friends; for example: St Francis and St. Clare, St. Catherine of Siena and Pope Gregory XI, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, St. John Paul II and the newly canonized Mother Teresa.

But back to the story!

Alice and Dietrich von Hildebrand both claim that due to the woman’s undeniable influence over man, the devil saw Eve as a dangerous opponent.  For he was a murderer from the beginning and she was the Mother of the Living. Thus, it seems only appropriate that from the dawn of time the devil has sought to deceive the woman particularly by attacking her greatest privilege, to bear life.

Let us now turn our attention to the ways in which the devil throughout history and in our modern era, has since attacked woman’s most sacred privilege and vocation: motherhood. You don’t have to think too hard. There is a constant battle waging against the lying serpent and the Mother of the Living.

If the devil can convince the woman that her body, her femininity, and her motherhood are not sacred he has won a much larger battle than meets the eye. With one devastating blow he has attacked not only motherhood, but also our marriages and families.

My next post will continue to unfold the vocation of women in society and in the church, as told by Alice von Hildebrand, and will draw to light the dangers women face today.  Alice warns us of one of the greatest enemies to woman, and you may be surprised to discover what she has to say …

The source of this post was an interview between Dr. Alice von Hildebrand and Eric Metaxas on her book Man and Woman: A Divine Invention

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