(Part 3 in this series) The following is the text, in its entirety, of one of John Paul's "Angelus reflections": the Angelus being the prayer of the Church to honor the Incarnation, Christ becoming man by Mary's consent. These particular addresses were given on Sundays to pilgrims in Rome, delivered in 1995 in preparation for the UN's Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, which John Paul saw as a ripe opportunity to speak out on women's behalf. They are fairly short, usually between 3-6 paragraphs. I have included my own reflection, that which has struck me in particular, at the end of his text.

Culture of Equality is Urgently Needed Today (June 25, 1995)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Respect for the full equality of man and woman in every walk of life is one of civilization's great achievements. Women themselves, with their deeply felt and generous daily witness, have contributed to this, as have the organized movements which, especially in our century, have put this subject before world attention.
Unfortunately even today there are situations in which women live, de facto if not legally, in a condition of inferiority. It is urgently necessary to cultivate everywhere a culture of equality, which will be lasting and constructive to the extent that it reflects God's plan.
Equality between man and woman is a fact asserted from the first page of the Bible in the stupendous narrative of creation. The Book of Genesis says: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gn 1:27). In these brief lines we see the profound reason for man's grandeur: he bears the image of God imprinted on him! This is true to the same degree for male and female, both marked with the Creator's imprint.

2. This original biblical message is fully expressed in Jesus' words and deeds. In his time women were weighed down by an inherited mentality in which they were deeply discriminated. The Lord's attitude was a "consistent protest at whatever offends the dignity of women" (Mulieris Dignitatem, no. 15). Indeed he established a relationship with women which was distinguished by great freedom and friendship. Even if he did not assign the Apostles' role to them, he nevertheless made them the first witnesses of his Resurrection and utilized them in proclaiming and spreading God's kingdom. In his teaching, women truly find "their own subjectivity and dignity" (ibid., no. 14).
In the footprints of her divine Founder, the Church becomes the convinced bearer of this message. If down the centuries some of her children have at times not lived it with the same consistency, this is a reason for deep regret. The gospel message about women, however, has lost none of its timeliness. This is why I wanted to present it once again with all its richness in the apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem, which I published on the occasion of the Marian Year.

3. One can already perceive the immense dignity of woman by the sole fact that God's eternal Son chose, in the fullness of time, to be born of a woman, the Virgin of Nazareth, the mirror and measure of femininity. May Mary herself help men and women to perceive and to live the mystery dwelling within them, by mutually recognizing one another without discrimination as living "images" of God!

“It is urgently necessary to cultivate everywhere a culture of equality, which will be lasting and constructive to the extent that it reflects God’s plan.“
It seems that at least in the West, this culture of equality that John Paul speaks of is on its way to being realized on many levels. In other places, however, it is regrettably and in many cases, tragically, absent. In these parts of the world, how can this deeply embedded cultural bias be shifted? Surely an entire culture cannot be changed at the level of one’s convictions? I would say that it can, although much would be required. It must begin with women themselves, who after all, affect society and culture at the primordial level - through their children. This is assuming that she herself knows what she is about, and can then communicate this attitude to the boys and girls she raises and nurtures. It is certainly a long-term work, from one generation to the next, mothers touching the future, and hence their cultures, in a profound way. But we must first find the means for women to know their immense dignity, the “image” of God imprinted on them. Any ideas how this might be accomplished?

 
 
(Part 2 in this series) The following is the text, in its entirety, of one of John Paul's "Angelus reflections": the Angelus being the prayer of the Church to honor the Incarnation, Christ becoming man by Mary's consent. These particular addresses were given on Sundays to pilgrims in Rome, delivered in 1995 in preparation for the UN's Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, which John Paul saw as a ripe opportunity to speak out on women's behalf. They are fairly short, usually between 3-6 paragraphs. I have included my own reflection, that which has struck me in particular, at the end of his text.

Angelus Reflection: Culture Must Respect Femininity, June 18, 1995
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. In the course of the Fourth World Conference on Women organized by the United Nations in Beijing for next September, the international community will be called to reflect on a series of problems concerning the status of women in our time. I would like to express immediately my deep appreciation of this initiative. The theme chosen is in fact extraordinarily important, not only for women, but for the very future of the world which depends so much on the awareness women have of themselves and on the proper recognition which should be guaranteed to them. Therefore, the Church looks hopefully to all that is being done in this regard and considers it a true "sign of the times," as my venerable predecessor John XXIII pointed out in his encyclical, Pacem in Terris (no. 22). A "sign of the times" that highlights an aspect of the full truth about the human being which cannot be ignored.
    Unfortunately, awareness of the identity and value of women has been obscured in the past - and still is today, in many cases - by various forms of conditioning. Indeed, they have been and are often culpably disregarded and offended by unjust and even violent practices and behavior. All this, on the threshold of the third millennium, is really intolerable! As the Church joins in denouncing all injustices that weigh on women's condition, she intends to proclaim God's plan in a positive way, so that a culture may develop that respects and welcomes "femininity."

2. As I have had more than one occasion to stress, and particularly in the apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem, the affirmation of woman's dignity must be the basis of this new culture, since she, like man and with man, is a person, that is, a creature made in the image and likeness of God (cf. no. 6), a creature endowed with a subjectivity from which stems her responsible autonomy in leading her own life. This subjectivity, far from isolating people and setting them in opposition, is on the contrary a source of constructive relationships, and finds its fulfillment in love. Women, no less than men, are fulfilled "in a sincere giving of self" (Gaudium et Spes, no. 24). This subjectivity is the basis of a specific way of being for woman, a way of "being feminine," which is enriching and indeed indispensable for harmonious coexistence, both within the family and in society.

3. May the Blessed Virgin help men and women in our time clearly understand God's plan for femininity. Called to the highest vocation of divine motherhood, Our Lady is the exemplary woman who developed her authentic subjectivity to the full. May Mary obtain for women throughout the world an enlightened and active awareness of their dignity, gifts, and mission.  

"...the very future of the world depends so much on the awareness women have of themselves...the affirmation of woman's dignity must be the basis of this new culture..." Wow, what beautiful statements from the pope! The very reason for this website is to raise this awareness, so that women may be the source of this cultural renewal. The affirmation of women's dignity must begin with us women, acknowledging and acting upon it in our own lives and encouraging and supporting other women in our sphere of influence too...women helping women.
 
 
The following is the text, in its entirety, of one of John Paul's "Angelus reflections": the Angelus being the prayer of the Church to honor the Incarnation, Christ becoming man by Mary's consent. These particular addresses were given on Sundays to pilgrims in Rome, delivered in 1995 in preparation for the UN's Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, which John Paul saw as a ripe opportunity to speak out on women's behalf. They are fairly short, usually between 3-6 paragraphs. I have included my own reflection, what has struck me in particular, at the end of his text.

Angelus Reflections: The Feminine Presence in the Family, March 19, 1995
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. My pilgrimage today is taking place on the feast of St. Joseph, and naturally my thoughts turn to the world of work marked this year in particular by my meeting with craftsmen. How could we not think, then, of the home in Nazareth where Joseph and Mary helped each other in managing their family and caring for the child Jesus? As a carpenter, Joseph was a craftsman in the truest sense of the term. Mary, who looked after the household chores, could today be considered a housewife and, as such, the model for all those women who are true "homemakers."

2. After a period marked by a certain ideological confusion and pressure, many today are asking that the relationship between women, the family, and work be dealt with more calmly and objectively, so that the feminine presence in the family can be reevaluated. "Experience confirms," I wrote in the encyclical Laborem Exercens, "that there must be a social reevaluation of the mother's role, of the toil connected with it, and of the need that children have for care, love and affection" (no. 19).
In this regard, too, the Family of Nazareth provides a meaningful example: Mary worked at Joseph's side in a personal, feminine manner, which the Gospel accounts allow us to glimpse. Doubtless their harmony was greatly fostered by the husband's trade; Joseph could work close to his family and introduce the young Jesus to his skilled labor as a carpenter.
It is to Mary that we now wish to address our prayer, entrusting to her the hopes and anxieties of every family, especially those at risk from the problems connected with work.

3. O Mary, Mother of Jesus and spouse of Joseph the craftsman, in your heart are gathered the joys and labors of the Holy Family. You offered even your moments of pain to God, always trusting in his Providence. We beg you, protect all women who toil daily so that the domestic community can live in active harmony. Grant that they may be women of Christian wisdom, skilled in prayer and human kindness, strong in hope and affliction, artisans, like you, of authentic peace. Amen.

"Doubtless their harmony was greatly fostered by the husband's trade; Joseph could work close to his family..." Even though this is a reflection on the role of women in the family, I think it is important to note the complementarity at work between man and woman. I once read somewhere (and if you recognize this, please do let me know the source!) that in the home, it is the woman and child that are at the center; the woman loving and nurturing her child. But she is only able to do this fully because the man, whose presence encircles and safeguards these two, provides the space and security for her to do it properly. In other words, both are able to use their strengths to the full.
 
 
About 5 or 6 years ago, I came across John Paul’s Theology of the Body, a collection of his teachings on the human person, in a rather hefty volume. I only read bits and pieces of it then, but I remember his totally astounding idea that the human person resembled the giving and receiving of love within the Trinity through our own human relationships, especially in marriage. At that time the Trinity was a somewhat vague and remote concept for me and this idea of John Paul’s unveiled the Trinity in living color.
Of course then I began to read more about TOB and his other writings too; I became a fan. I wanted to study more and so decided to pursue an MA at the Maryvale Institute while I was serving in England as a missionary with Youth 2000.
Needless to say, I see John Paul as a huge inspiration, advocate and friend. Today is his birthday and I give this small offering in thanksgiving for his incredible life and work.
Thank you for being here and please come back again soon!