Authenticity comes alive in the body of Christ

  • March 28, 2024

Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Calgary recently hosted a Theology of the Body Conference at which I spoke. My assigned topic? “Authentic Femininity.” Collectively, we were going to talk more about gender ideology, but Antifa, yes Antifa, was threatening for weeks to shut the whole conference down. Inside a Catholic church. These are the times we’re living in. However, this opposition got us thinking: Why not turn away from addressing the woes of gender confusion and toward positively outlining what authentic masculinity and femininity are? To boot, we got a free police detail who put the protesters on notice that if they went into a house of worship and disrupted the goings on, they would be arrested for hate crimes.

I always like to begin by defining terms. Let’s start with the word “authentic,” because I think there’s much misunderstanding about this word. Millennials and Gen Z in particular talk a lot about wanting to “be our authentic selves.” What  does it really mean? John Paul II defined “authentic” love as: loving as God loves. Loving as God created us, commands us and enables us to love. I think we can apply that understanding to all types of authenticity: How did God create something, how does God define it, what guidelines has God given us concerning it?

The word “femininity” applies to whatever is natural to a woman, body and soul. And…what is a woman?” Well, I think online influencer Matt Walsh answered that very well in his excellent documentary of that title. (Spoiler: a woman is “an adult human female.”)

Men and women define each other, in relationship to and with one another. We are a dimorphic species. But women are trying to define themselves in a vacuum, in isolation, and that will never work.

I also want to define “feminism” because it’s almost impossible to start talking about women today without the conversation immediately shifting to feminism, which, in a sense, has co-opted womanhood. My definition of “feminism” is “the protection and promotion of women.” “Radical feminism” is a mistaken idea that there are no significant differences between men and women, body and soul, beyond “reproduction,” which is incredibly unscientific and anti-theological. Radical feminism is an ideology of bland sameness which believes that if something is different from something else, one must be superior and one inferior. This is pure Marxism, and radical feminism came straight out of the Marxist strategy to destroy the family.

In Theology of the Body, we don’t espouse or promote stereotypes: the “ideal” feminine (beyond Our Lady), because God created every woman to be a unique, unrepeatable individual — therefore femininity will look different on different women.

But instead of floundering about, looking for answers and identities, let’s step back and look at the big picture. There must be an order, a design, a plan. What is woman’s place in the divine order? (Everyone and everything has their place.) Surely, God must have revealed the blueprint with the first woman, Eve. Indeed, He did, and it was in relationship to/with Adam. First was God the Creator, the Source, and then Adam’s was the headship. But when Adam rejected God the Father, he rejected his own fatherhood. Eve then rejected Adam’s fatherhood/headship and changed places with Adam. She began leading him astray. He followed. Companion of the Cross, Fr. Carlos Martins, whose podcast The Exorcist Files tops the charts, says nothing happened when Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Only when Adam, through whom God made the covenant, disobeyed did all Hell broke loose. What am I getting at? I’m getting at male headship and “wives be submissive to your husbands” (Ephesians 5:22). What is the mission of the husband? To love his wife as Christ loves the Church.

I have come to realize that if we aren’t living the Bible and Church teaching in their totality, we are doing “Theology of the Body Lite,” which isn’t fully authentic and won’t help anyone. If we don’t incorporate instruction on Humanae Vitae, pornography, IVF, euthanasia, masturbation, gender roles, co-habitation, etc., into our catechesis, there is a dishonesty.

What is woman’s role in the Church today? To become holy. That is all. And we can’t become holy if we’re not living authentic femininity in obedience to God.

(Sr. Helena Raphael Burns, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA. HellBurns.com  Twitter: @srhelenaburns  #medianuns.)

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