This week, we are looking at the Catholic contribution to civilisation, with the help of Lumen, the pocket sized guide published by CTS. We meant to start by looking at time and history but because today is Valentine’s Day, we are going to look at the importance of women in Catholic faith, thought and history.
All discussions about the role of Women and their position throughout Christian history, must begin with Mary, given her importance in Scripture and in the life of the Church from its outset.
One look at her life, as represented in the Gospels, should prove anyone who thinks she did not have troubles enough to compare with the modern woman wrong.
It is generally held, that the Church has oppressed women and relegated them to second-class citizens.
As the book states:
“Catholic civilisation has scarcely always been enlightened towards women and misogynistic statements can be found even by great teachers of the faith. Nevertheless, Catholicism is arguably unique among monotheistic religions in combining strong feminine as well as strong masculine aspects.
“The root of this emphasis may be the recognition of Mary as the ‘second Eve’ in the early Church.”
As Italian actor and literary critic Roberto Benigni put it, in his commentary on Dante’s Inferno:
“Before Our Lady, women were either dangerous, or seen as a reward for the warrior. She changed everything, art, poetry, women’s rights, everything.”
Some key areas and figures
The little booklet contains a list of names of women, along with what they are noted for and when they lived and worked.
“St Fabiola (d. 399) built a hospice for the sick, arguably the first hospital in Rome.
“The Manual for My Son, written by a noblewoman called Dhuoda (c. 843) is arguably the oldest known treatise on education.
“In caring for the sick, the work of Bl Mother Teresa (d. 1997) follows a tradition going back to the early Church. Florence Nightingale (d. 1910), for example, learnt about the care of wounded soldiers during a year spent with the Sisters of St Vincent de Paul in Egypt.
“Although her memory has been darkened by history, the first Queen of England, Mary (d. 1558), was devoutly Catholic.
Achievements in science and religion
“In spiritual life, the Church recognises three women saints as Doctors of the Church: Catherine of Siena (d. 1380), Teresa of Ávila (d. 1582) and Thérèse of Lisieux (d. 1897).
“Perhaps most surprising, Catholic civilisation produced many of the first women scientists. The Passionibus Mulierum Curandorum (The Diseases of Women), attributed to Trotula of Salerno (11C) became one of the key medical works of the Middle Ages. Other notable pioneers include Maria Agnesi (d. 1799), the first woman to become Professor of Mathematics at any university, and who was appointed to that position by a Pope, Benedict XIV, in 1750.”
Extracts taken from LUMEN -The Catholic Gift to Civilisation by Fr Andrew Pinsent, Fr Marcus Holden
You may also find helpful