The Witness of Women

Yes, yes, I know: I’ve been a very lazy blogger as of late. But I promise, that’s only because I haven’t been a lazy anything else. Life and work have kept me seriously hopping these past couple months, and what I thought was going to be a restful summer turned out to be anything but.

As of this past Saturday, however, the first draft of the new book is complete (mind-numbingly bad, but complete), and if I can manage to get through the week without any natural disasters or life crises occurring, normal blogging may actually resume next week. That’s a big “if” mind you, as natural disasters and life crises have been occurring on nearly a weekly basis around here all summer. Trust me, it’s been a total blast.

In the meantime, while I play catch up from the latest life crisis, here’s a fun little piece I just did for Our Sunday Visitor. It takes a quick tour back through Church history and looks at some of the wise, witty, and holy women who helped shape the thinking of the Church on everything from martyrdom to motherhood.

Despite what certain feminist revisionists/liberal activists like to claim, women have had a profound effect on the life and thought of the Church since Day One. The Church knows that, she acknowledges it, and she gives thanks for it. She honors these women, and so should we all. They are our mothers in the Faith, and without them, we wouldn’t be the people we are today. I certainly wouldn’t be the woman I am today. They have mothered me well, and for that I am eternally grateful.

So, without any further ado, here’s a bit from the story.

Saints and Scholars

To hear some people tell it, for the past 2,000 years the Church has been nothing more than an old boys club — an institution founded by men, shaped by men and ruled by men, where women of wit and intelligence have had no influence.

In truth, however, the history of the Catholic Church is a history shot through with tales of brilliant, bold and holy women. This week, Our Sunday Visitor would like to introduce you to just a few of those remarkable women — women who left a profound mark on Christian belief and practice, shaping both Church and culture with their theological insights and spiritual wisdom over the past 2,000 years.

The Martyr: St. Perpetua

In the first centuries of Christianity, few events were as responsible for mass conversions to the fold as were the deaths of holy women such as St. Agnes, St. Cecilia and St. Blandina. Their martyrdom and the acts of barbarism they endured undermined the authority of the Roman Empire and brought countless souls to Christ.

Among these holy women, however, one martyr’s story, most of which was written in her own words during her time in prison, stood out: St. Perpetua.

St. Perpetua and her pal, St. Felicity

Born to a noble family in Carthage in the late second century, Perpetua was a recent convert to Christianity, as well as a new mother, when she and her pregnant slave Felicity were arrested with a group of other new converts.

As the story she penned recalls, Perpetua’s pagan father used every argument he could muster to persuade her to renounce her faith, including taking her nursing son away from her. But Perpetua refused to apostatize.

That refusal was bolstered by a series of dreams or visions she experienced while in prison. In those dreams, Perpetua saw herself rescuing her dead brother from “a place of darkness and distress” through the power of her prayers. She also saw herself defeating both an evil serpent and a savage Egyptian, as well as ascending a ladder into heaven where she was welcomed by a white-haired Christ and a host of the blessed.

To Perpetua and the women who read her story later, those dreams were a sign of the power Christianity gave them — not power as the world understood it, but rather power to help save souls and vanquish evil through their relationship with Christ.

In 203, Perpetua was killed in the arena. But her witness to what it meant to be a spiritual mother and beloved daughter of Christ lived on, helping countless women (and men) understand their vocation as Christians.

Read other stories about the likes of Sts, Marcella, Macrina, Paula, Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, Edith Stein and more over at OSV.

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