The rustic fall leaves, mingling joyfully with playful, angelic white snow, crumpled beneath my new warm hiking boots as I made my way alone through the endless forest trees.
Not a soul was to be seen on such a beautiful winter’s day, save but for a few gentle deer that scattered into the mysteries of the wild, propelling themselves on with delicate leaps of joy, little white cotton tails trailing proudly behind.
I loved the feeling of walking on long, deserted paths, all alone in nature – the trees reaching high above, as if they could touch the brilliant blue sky.
If I could, I would have stayed there forever.
My long black coat, covering my a-line skirt, had become, in my imagination, the flowing thick cape of a young medieval peasant girl, making her way home to her forgotten cottage where only the warmth of the fire and the mystery of the night kept her dreams alive.
It was a real-life setting to satisfy the most romantic of hearts – the only intruder to nature, other than myself, an exquisite medieval church, sitting tall and proud on the distant hill above.
As I walked along, I prayed and meditated silently within, my large wooden walking stick, a branch from a fallen tree, bravely carrying the mortal bearer of my timeless thoughts across the winding path.
The breezes gently kissed my face as they passed, leaving delicate traces of pink from the chilling cold that could only reach my uncovered cheeks.
All else was warm – all else was safe.
Standing for a moment, I turned to contemplate the vision before my eyes – sacred towers with holy bells within, and an infinitely holier God hidden away in a secret home He had chosen to call a tabernacle.
I turned to the path that continued up another hill, and then back to the glowing remnant of history that hovered through the barren trees.
Pensive, I drove my stick thoughtfully into the ground, leaning upon it as if it could support all of the weight of my soul – would I ever have the answer that I longed to find?
The answer to a puzzle that had haunted me for years?
Seeking Answers To Understand
A tree, given way to age and time, lay before my path.
Memories of childhood danced across my mind, and with a youthful smile I climbed upon the inviting trunk.
The snow crunching under my feet, I carefully traced a path across its welcoming bark, then back to the other end.
Back and forth…back and forth…back and forth I went, lost in thought.
Something about the tree reminded me of the masculine – the support that I had always seen within.
I knew that men are like that – like a house that is built.
The foundation, the walls, the roof – all the strong basics that are provided often caused me to think of the masculine element.
But it was never finished – it was never done, no matter how well it may have been built.
What it lacked – the feminine touch.
A hand to come along and color it alive, bringing in warmth, decor, light – furniture, paintings, decorations – all the touches that make a house a home.
I understood instinctively that the masculine came first – but without the feminine it was not complete.
Without the feminine it was strong yet barren – like the earth before nature covered it with beauty and life.
But where was my answer?
Where was my answer to all that I sought – the one final explanation that could sum all that I felt but could not explain so simply, and cause it to all come together like light illuminating the darkness of mystery.
How could I explain why the influence of a woman is so important – and in some ways, more powerful than the authority of a man?
I already had touched the tip of just some of my thoughts in a few posts, such as this one (click here) and this one (click here), but I still did not have that one final definition that could sum everything up so succinctly and bring it to a final conclusion of understanding and being understood.
I knew that it was important though, for without it the authority of the masculine, that guides and constrains, could not lure souls in with the sweetness of holy attraction.
Authority without some level of influence is dead – it becomes like the fire and brimstone preacher, shouting to his congregation in madness, but driving away converts by his sternness.
It may scare a few ragged beings into acceptance, but it will never have their loyalty from the heart.
The words of such a preacher may be true, but there is no sweet allure of the spirit, such as that found in the holy Song of Songs, where the beloved calls to the heart of the loved one – not through demands and precepts, but through the attractions of beauty and love – through that feminine influence.
But our world is so mad – it values what it can see (authority) over what it cannot see (influence).
How could I find a way to help bring them back together, to work as one, even if only in some small way?
I knew that then and only then would all that we offer as traditionalists matter to those who cannot understand our ways – then and only then could it speak boldly and to all, for it would be truth – not some lopsided dream.
The Many Roads of Feminine Influence
Finally I had to leave, for the sunset was filling the western sky with all of its spectacular hues, the colors of influence only making me mind long to crack the mystery even more.
Carrying myself back through the dimly lit path, the sky turning a mysterious winter’s grey, I came upon a vast clearing that tantalized my footsteps towards its open expanse.
There, in the dim twilight of the evening, under the glowing windows of the church far beyond, the cold winter’s wind dancing all around, I felt as though I was nearing that romantic cottage of my unknown memories – that cottage from years past, when I had more youthful dreams.
I used to dream of him there, many years ago, when my soul was torn between the thought of marriage and the religious life – something like a glimpse from the classic film Braveheart (although much more modest, of course).
It was a childish, silly fancy – one that only a young girl in all her naive innocence could conjure up, but he would always meet me in the darkening hours of the night.
Tired, exhausted, worn out from a day of battle, I would watch as his armor shone in the glowing red of the warm fire, the only light for our tired, poor eyes within.
I would set each piece carefully aside, laying it gently in one small corner of the dusty floor, covered with rushes and dirt.
A soft cloth in my hand, dipped into warm water, I would silently but tenderly clean and bandage all of his wounds, and seek every way from within my heart that I could to restore him to life.
I would watch his every move – know his every thought without his saying a word, and find the answer before he could even ask the question.
I knew tomorrow would soon come – sooner than we could think – and he would once again be gone to that dangerous world that was his.
Without his strength, I feared the worst – and I knew that regaining it all before the dawn depended so much upon me.
It was not a harlequin romance, or a torrid love affair – it was simply the desire within to do what I knew that I could – use my feminine heart to nurture and refresh that of his.
As I grew older, and passed through the stage where some called me names that frightened me for all they implied, I also knew deep down within what they were seeking.
They may not have been honest men – they may have been wicked in many ways – but I knew that at the heart of it, at the heart of a man seeking a mistress – was that desire to turn to the feminine for comfort and restoration.
It was a perverted twisting of truth, there is no doubt about it.
In no way was I going to turn all that the feminine can offer into something purely physical.
But in their minds, they probably did not see that truth.
They were just being selfish, and seeking whatever ways that they could to lure me in – but I always felt that somewhere, at the heart of it, that was the truth that lay beneath the evil surface.
A corruption, and an inversion, of the feminine and the masculine working together.
I also knew that the influence of a woman does not depend upon her age or her looks.
I knew this because I had been on every end of the spectrum, and not just one – I had seen it all.
I had been the plain girl, in simple clothes, forgotten and unnoticed without any makeup and just a few pounds too much.
I had also been the thin girl, with long blonde hair, perfectly perfect makeup, and all the right clothes.
I knew what it was to be ignored and shunned just as much as I knew what it was to be fawned and flattered.
And I knew that when it came down to it, while those wicked men appreciated beauty, they looked most for someone with a strong level of influence (even if it was a warped form) – and would take that over looks any day.
I also knew that it was intrinsic because I knew how to handle certain men – I called them out for not being gentleman, and sternly scolded them for not treating me like a lady.
Even the harshest of men was always quick to respond – and I knew that if I had been a 90-year-old grandmother, the effect would have been the same.
They would have stopped, stood straight, and cleaned up their act without a pause.
Influence was intrinsic to my being.
Age, looks, weight, hair, makeup or no makeup, great clothes or plain clothes – nothing external could take that away.
Perhaps the world could try to pervert it, and turn it into something it was not, but it could not change the truth.
I am a woman – and I carry within the gift of God-given influence, just as a man carries within the gift of God-given authority.
Yet sometimes I rebelled at some of the ways that such a gift could manifest.
For example, I once heard a traditionalist say that he enjoyed traditionalism because he liked the idea of sitting around while his wife brought him coffee and tea.
I wanted to find a rolling-pin from my medieval kitchen and wack him over the head with it – after handing him a cold can of beans, and saying, “here is your dinner – and oh yeah, if you need to open it, you will find the can opener in the kitchen.”
Just another perversion of truth on a more banal level.
When I was a young girl, my mom used to stand in the kitchen, frazzled from so much cooking, and say, “you will have to do this too some day, so you better learn how.”
I don’t think so, was my silent reply.
Influence without love from the giver, and appreciation from the receiver, seemed dead and cold to me.
Yet my nature carried it in abundance, as all women do, and from my earlier years I was always dreaming of different ways that I could enter into that dynamic realm of give and take that exists between the masculine and the feminine.
If I saw a man cry, I wanted to rush to him, throw my arms around him, sit with him, hold his hand…listen to all of his sad stories.
Heavens, all my ex-fiance had to do was play “In The Arms of the Angels” and start bawling one night about all of his problems for me to want to cover him with a blanket of security and comfort him the best I could.
I even drew a large poster of an angel carrying a wounded solider for him, which he used to proudly display to his friends.
Lacking Appreciation and Understanding
Yet somehow, deep within, I struggled with the sense that women just are not appreciated for their influence.
I see it constantly – to this day – in so many different ways.
Because influence is subtler, on a level that is more abstract and invisible, it is often relegated to a place of unimportance.
But when I look at Adam and Eve, I know that is not true.
Adam was given Eve as a help mate – but what did he need help for?
He was already in the Garden of Eden – he could take from the plenty before him anything that he wanted.
He did not need a maid to bring him coffee and tea.
He had everything that he could desire – including God – what could he have needed help for?
Yet I could see in Adam that God wanted to show him that something was missing – he was not complete without the feminine.
When I looked at the earth, I saw this too, as I explained in another post here.
The earth without nature, masculine in its primal form, was only elevated and crowned with glory when given the feminine – nature itself.
And then, when I turned to the marital relations between a man and a woman, I understood that what the man offered was not completed until it was in the hands of a woman.
Man provided the basics, but for nine months woman took those basics, grew them, and brought them to fruition in the form of a new human life.
And even when I looked at Mary, and saw her presence in the life of Christ, I could find it there.
There was God made man, choosing to be born through a woman.
The basics that God provided, her feminine nature grew and elevated, until she gave birth to a fully human, yet fully God, man.
And throughout his life she was there, raising him, teaching him – Him, who already knew everything!
Yet I often wondered, did he do this to show to us the importance of the feminine?
Even at His crucifixion, there she was, when all others had fled – her heart pierced with what must have seemed an infinite multiplication of the prophesied seven swords.
She followed his every step, either physically or mentally, praying for him until the very end.
He could have completed what He did without her, this is true, yet He chose to allow her prayers, tears, and presence to be there as an aid, as if to show how much and how great the feminine influence is.
That God chooses it to be this way – and wants it to exist in such a way.
And even in the earliest Christian community, Mary was there – as a beacon of light, her prayers and life, help and perhaps even advice, like a warming hearth to the souls of the men who were laboring so ardently in the dangerous fields of Christianity versus the world.
To this day she provides such help, and we often feel reassured by her maternal tenderness in a unique way that only a woman can offer.
I saw this influence everywhere, just as I saw the authority of man.
Why was Christ born a man, and not a woman?
Some may be proud, and say it is because a man is better, but I would say it is because the role of savior is inherent to that of the masculine.
God would never ask a woman to take on that role, for it is foundational – like the tree that had died and lay before me, now offering its strength for me to walk upon and thrive.
The masculine is the strong foundation – and saving others is a foundational act, for it offers to them its life in exchange for their joy.
A good married man knows this without a doubt – what does he not sacrifice and offer for his family?
In some times past, centuries ago, he even knew that his life could be called upon at any moment, and if he was brave, he would have to put it in harm’s way to protect his wife and children.
Yet as a result, some often see women as somehow less than a man.
“Well, women are smaller, and weaker, and men have to protect them – they cry a lot, and get emotional – they lack authority, so doesn’t that prove men are superior?”
But something about that always seemed off to me.
When you build something, you always lay the largest and strongest at the base – just as how Christ was the cornerstone of the Church – and as you grow your creation before you, the smaller rests upon the larger – yet it is still higher in some way, while the other is larger and grander.
But both are needed – you cannot really have one without the other, if you want to have a full and complete creation.
Like a house with four strong walls but no paint to decorate it, no carpets to warm the floor, no decorations, and no life.
How cold! How chilling!
Yet how needed all the same, once all is brought together and can flourish as a home.
But the answer of women being “behind men” did not satisfy me.
As the old saying goes, “behind every great man is a great woman,” was fine with me as long as that great man appreciated what his great woman did for him.
Yet how few did.
Is A Woman Really Behind A Man?
There is a tendency in human nature to easily forget what is behind, unless it is needed (like a foundation).
Yet a woman is not a foundation, and so she is not needed for the man to rest upon the way the man is needed for the woman to rest upon – so by putting her in the wrong place, it negates her dignity and worth, and makes all that she does seem of no consequence.
By placing the feminine there, the feminine seems entirely replaceable, and perhaps not even needed when things on the level of action and masculine authority are going all to well.
In all of my searching, while I understood so much, I still had not cracked my code – I still did not have an answer, and it was troubling me terribly.
How could the feminine provide all of the beauty and tenderness and comfort and consolation that souls need to thrive, or even to be drawn into the realm of spirituality as in the Song of Songs – how could a woman sing a higher note and yet be placed beneath the base?
She would be crushed there!
Only the diabolical seeks to place her beneath a man – for to harm her is its aim!
Something seemed not right about so many of the answers that society and culture had provided to me.
And then, one day, my answer came.
As I crawled into bed late one night, and rested my head upon my pillow, in the darkened room overlooking the city lights the words rushed into my mind, and I knew then and there that I had found it.
I knew what a woman was truly worth, and most of all, I knew why she was worth it.
Although I had been suffering terribly that day, a smile came across my face like a thing I had almost forgotten, and I woke up the next morning beaming like the morning sun.
All the way to church, in my car, I was grinning like the tackiest yellow smiley that plastered any silly child’s wall – and yet I could not help it.
Everything seemed brighter – the sun seemed stronger.
And as the bell for Mass rang, I longed to weep and laugh for joy, all at the same time – because I knew the truth.
I love those words that entered into my mind, and for hours I could have contemplated them and only them without taking a moment to think of anything else.
They tantalized me, for they were so obvious and so clear that I wondered how they could have been neglected for so long – and by so many.
I love those words so much that here and now I am going to copyright them.
I do not know if anyone else has ever used them, but I have never heard anyone do so, and so I copyright them as mine.
If you like them as much as I do, you are welcome to use them too – only please clearly provide a reference to where you got them, and a link back to this post.
So what was the simple answer, the short phrase that sums up the dignity and worth of both a man and a woman?
What reveals their intrinsic harmony, that when working together they can conquer the world?
I thought of Mary, bringing all that God had given her to fruition in Christ – I thought of feminine nature lifting all that the solid masculine earth provided until earth had a crown of glory all its own.
I even thought of St. Paul, calling woman the man’s “glory.”
Man was God’s glory, but woman was man’s in a special way (and thus, I would argue, had a double glory – for ultimately she is a creation of God and he takes some glory in his creation) – but why?
- The feminine takes all that the masculine provides and perfects it.
A woman takes all that a man gives, and raises it, brings it to fruition, ultimately perfecting it, and drawing down glory upon both.
She is the crown.
She is the high note – she raises all that he does.
It is not that she is behind him, some little woman scurrying around to get him his coffee and tea, but rather that on the most fundamental level, throughout all of creation, every feminine aspect exists to act as the Omega to the Alpha – finalizing and completing, perfecting and beautifying, what was begun.
Such a glorious wonder!
My mind spun at the sheer beauty of it all.
If men saw that, really saw that, how could they ever not appreciate a woman – even if all she visibly seems to do is bring him his coffee and tea?
Men, true men, who understand the meaning of what it is to be a man, would be completely blown over by such a proposition.
That in all of their greatness, their strength, their massive space and form that is clearly larger, grander, and stronger than a woman – she, in her weakness and littleness, perfects all that he provides!
That greatness should be perfected by littleness, strength by weakness, action by inaction, the obvious by the mysterious!
I wanted to leap for joy, smile until my cheeks fell off – it did not matter – tears threatened to stream from my eyes, but I was utterly amazed.
I listened as the priest spoke at Mass that day – it was a Marian feast day, and for some reason he seemed so overwhelmed by this thought that he could not remember what he was supposed to do, and begged us for our forgiveness.
But oh, my dear priest! How could you need forgiveness for seeing the mystery of the feminine, even if you did not understand it in the same way as I did? You still somehow saw it, in Mary – even if you did not entirely understand it.
And in such a phenomenal truth, how could men not be appreciated?
How could a woman not look upon a man, how could the feminine not regard the masculine, and realize that all that she perfects comes from him!
Through his hands it is given to her to perfect!
I think that neither could ever not appreciate the other – the woman seeing in the man the support, the Alpha, the basic provider of all the most raw materials and gifts – and the man in turn, seeing in the woman, the one who, contrary to all appearances, in her littleness betrays a greatness that will lift all the he gives and turn it to glory!
And then my thoughts turned to the last post that I wrote, regarding traditional vocations of women.
Some may have thought I sounded impatient for feminine vocations to flourish – but it was not impatience that I felt.
Rather, it was the desire for our dear priests and men who run the Church from their positions of authority to realize that the feminine is needed to increase at the same rate as the masculine, if all that they do is to truly flourish.
I regretted that feminine vocations had not advanced equally, from the beginning, decades ago in some cases, alongside those of their men.
And then I thought of my beloved St. Dominic, saint of the Middle Ages – so loving, so good!
Ah! How I love him! So often misunderstood as his future followers developed a reputation for a demanding authority – but Dominic himself seemed so balanced to me.
He understood authority – but he understood influence too, even if he did not name it that.
In fact, St. Dominic valued it so much, that from almost the very beginning of his call to fight for the truth and save the church from heretical ideas, he turned instinctively to women as strong intercessors in the battle that would engage all that he could offer.
My dear Dominic! You understood – you understood so well, that on February 3, 2010, former Pope Benedict XVI said of you, during a general audience:
“Dominic…believed unquestioningly in the value of prayers of intercession for the success of the apostle work. Only in Heaven will we understand how much the prayer of cloistered religious effectively accompanies apostolic action!”
Perhaps it is true that only in Heaven will we understand, but on earth we can begin to, by understanding the deep secret of how the feminine raises and perfects all that the masculine provides.
And therefore, it may be bold, and if I am wrong I humbly submit my opinion to the correct authorities of the Church who are charged to speak and interpret such declarations, but I believe that women religious perfect all that the priest offers in his daily service to the Church.
The priest, as he stands at the altar, and offers the greatest sacrifice to God – as he sits in the confessional, absolving sins – as he aids the sick at their bed, or the newborns at their baptisms – wherever he may be, the work that he does is offered as a foundation which, when entrusted to the prayers of cloistered women religious, is elevated, raised, and perfected by the feminine.
Through their prayers he is not only helped, but his work is brought to glory – for the feminine brings all that the masculine does to the highest state.
Even women religious who work at his side help in perfecting it – by providing the maternal heart that subtly guides her “children” to the truth with her inherent influence, once they are founded in the sacraments and the authority of the Church.
I am not saying that he could not work on his own – yes, he could.
He could exist as a priest all the days of his life, without one female religious to either pray for him from the cloister, or assist in some other way at his side.
God can provide, for he is the ultimate Alpha and Omega – the ultimate beginning and end – the true masculine and feminine.
God contains all – and can provide all.
But like Mary at the foot of the cross, praying for her Divine Son – what did He need that she could offer?
Yet God allowed it, permitted it, perhaps even commanded it – maybe to show the world that he wants the feminine to work in such a way, and he longs for men, so easily proud of their obvious greatness next to her littleness, to deeply appreciate all that women offer and turn to it as often as they can.
St. Dominic knew this.
So did St. Francis.
So did many, many, many saints.
Perhaps they did not put it into the words that I did, but at some level they comprehended a truth that cannot be erased for it belongs to us all.
And now I must draw this post to a close, for I am afraid I could go on forever.
I have not even touched how the non-religious women amongst us can affect the world, from their husbands to strangers that they never even say a word to.
But I hope that in some way I have managed to convey that one simple truth:
The woman takes all that the man provides, brings it to fruition, and perfects it.
If we want to bring traditionalism to fruition, and thus perfection, we need both to work together.
If we come to understand this, truly understand it, how we could change the world – one influential heart, beautifying and illuminating authority, at a time.
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