Taking back the true dignity of women

Remember back in the old days, when they used to say that a beautiful woman “could stop traffic”?

Well, it seems that modern-day feminists are reviving the idea, but with a twist. Apparently we women are supposed to actually stop traffic. And not with our beauty.

March 8th has been designated as A Day Without a Woman. On that day we women are, “in a spirit of love and liberation,” supposed to walk off our jobs (paid or unpaid — hence incorporating our duties as wives and mothers), refuse to shop, and wear red “in solidarity.”

And, apparently, stop traffic. Literally. Former Black Panther and honorary event co-chair Angela Davis co-authored an op-ed piece in which she said of the day:

“The idea is to mobilize women […] in an international day of struggle—a day of striking, marching, blocking roads, bridges, and squares, abstaining from domestic, care, and sex work […]”

Because nothing says “love and liberation” like skipping out on our duties, wreaking havoc on the streets and keeping emergency vehicles away from emergencies.

Many women I know and respect marched in the first Women’s March. I am a big fan of authentic women’s rights. And yet skipped the march, for several reasons. I wasn’t clear on the message; the parts of the message I was clear on I either disagreed with or found irrelevant; and I failed to see the what role genitalia hats and vulgarity could possibly play in enhancing women’s dignity.

It seems to me that our suffragette fore-mothers worked and sacrificed so that women would be taken seriously — demonstrating that we were capable in areas previously reserved for men. And, thankfully, that goal has largely been attained. We have opportunities women in previous ages didn’t dream of. The world is our oyster. Women are represented in virtually every area of society. In fact, several major world powers have been led by women, and a woman just narrowly missed being elected President of the United States.

So now we’re walking off the job en masse to protest — what? What message are we delivering to the last, dying vestiges of “the patriarchy”? That they should pay us more money because we wear p***y hats, or because we leave our employers and families in the lurch so that we can go out and block traffic?

They’ll be lining up to hire us now.

To the extent that these protests are about “women’s issues”, they further illustrate that modern feminism has bought into the lie of the pre-feminist era: that it is better to be a man, and that we become “equal” to the extent that we become like men. Or rather — as repeatedly demonstrated in the marches around the world — like the worst stereotypes of men: vulgar, career-driven and sex-obsessed. “Reproductive rights” insure our bodies, like men’s bodies, will not be subject to pregnancy. “Equal pay for equal work” attempts to create a workplace gender parity that doesn’t reflect the reality of our lives. Studies consistently show that, when apples are truly compared to apples, women’s wages keep pace with their male counterparts. As they should. The “wage gap” is not so much a function of discrimination against women as it is the discrimination of women themselves, who often opt for shorter hours and less demanding positions because they are less motivated by career, and instead want to spend more time at home with the children they birthed.

Call me crazy, but I’ve been a woman my entire life, and I have found very little to complain about. I have neither needed nor desired “reproductive rights,” and I remain appalled that those “rights” come at the cost of the lives of unborn children. Nor have I ever found my gender to present a barrier in the workplace. I have found that the workplace sometimes doesn’t know how to best utilize women’s unique gifts. I may write about that in more detail some day. But in the mean time, I hardly see how anarchy in the streets is going to open anyone’s eyes to our interpersonal sensitivity.

We live in a world with two very different visions of women. There’s the “let’s hit the streets and show them that we can be as aggressive and vulgar as men” school of thought. And then there is the Christian vision, championed by our own St. John Paul II, who extolled our “feminine genius” — the uniqueness of women’s giftedness as we are. He also spoke out against all violence and unjust discrimination against us, called for our presence and influence in every aspect of society, and said that women’s dignity is closely connected to the love we receive and give in return. (That’s the Christian kind of love, not the “love and liberation” variety that stops traffic.)

Which vision do you suppose will actually lead to true respect for women?

I know which one I want to reflect. And so, on March 8th you will find me in the office, hard at work.

And I think I will wear . . . blue.

COMING UP: How deacons give life to the Church

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The calling and ministries of the diaconate are as varied as the men who serve in it. For Deacon Don Tracy, the call to the diaconate was a long one, and his first years as a deacon didn’t match his expectations.

“Feeling unsettled with a restless heart for many years, I did not understand at the time that I was experiencing the first stirrings of my call to the diaconate by the Holy Spirit. As I searched to find the peace that was missing in my life, I went down several false paths, believing that a career change to one of the service-oriented professions would give me the tranquility I desired,” Deacon Tracy said.

“I eventually discerned that I should not change careers…but those feelings came to a head when I joined a men’s group called ‘That Man Is You.’ I felt as if I were being turned inside out and sought the help of deacons for guidance. With their assistance, I began to discern that my restless heart came from God calling me to the diaconate,” he added.

But shortly after becoming a deacon, his first ministry became caring for his wife, who was diagnosed with cancer shortly after his ordination.

“For the next two years, my life was far different than the deacon brothers I was ordained with who were beginning ministries in their parishes and for the people of the archdiocese,” Deacon Tracy said. “Instead, my ministry as a husband and deacon was to care for my wife through what seemed like countless medical appointments and hospital stays. And when my dear wife entered her final weeks on earth last year, I did everything I could think of to help her get to heaven.”

His ministry to his wife as she passed from this world to the next profoundly changed his life — now, he hopes to begin a ministry to those who are struggling through illness or are grieving the loss of loved ones.

Deacon Tracy’s ministry to his wife in the first two years of his diaconate was just one way he was personally called to serve; many deacons, in addition to assisting the pastors in their parish, do much more than we realize.

On average, the 207 deacons spend 60 hours a week serving, between their normal jobs, family obligations, and ministries, according to Deacon Joseph Donohoe, director of deacon personnel at the Archdiocese of Denver.

Deacons assist the priest by ministering baptisms, witnessing marriages, performing funerals and burial services, distributing Holy Communion and preaching homilies.

Outside of this, they also assist in teaching RCIA, baptism preparation, marriage preparation, Bible studies, funerals, retreats, parish missions, visiting prisons and juvenile detention centers, bringing communion to sick patients in hospitals or hospice, visiting the elderly, working with immigrants and working in homeless shelters.

“We’re active in [sacraments], but we also have an obligation as deacons to respond to the archbishop in areas of ministries outside of the parish,” Deacon Donohoe said. “And this is in addition to their secular work and family obligations. So they’re very dedicated, and they do this for love of God. They’re not paid, their obligation is to the archbishop and the Church.”

Deacon Kevin Heckman of Blessed Sacrament Parish spends much of his ministry in Children’s Hospital. After getting a job there in 2009, he introduced himself to the hospital chaplain and asked if there was anyone doing Catholic ministry or communion service, and the chaplain “jumped at it.”

“I developed a relationship with the chaplains and got called to visit patients and bring communion to people. I’ve done about 50 emergency baptisms and praying with families. It’s been really rewarding, and I know that I have a special call to hospital ministry,” Deacon Heckman said.

Deacon Heckman has had the privilege of praying with a mother and her stillborn baby — just one of many experiences that he “won’t ever forget” in his service as a deacon.

Quite frankly, I am in awe of the deacons in the diocese, they are so dedicated to their ministry, and each time I talk to one of them, I get inspired and filled with awe over some of the things they do.”

So what does the call to the vocation of the diaconate look like?

It’s different for everyone, Deacon Donohoe said.

“Some guys get beat over the head. Others are less clear, it’s really just a continuous conversation with God, wanting to do his will. And if his will calls them to the laying on of hands by the archbishop, then he allows God to lead him in that direction,” Deacon Donohoe said.

If a man feels what he suspects may be a call to the diaconate, the process of discernment is years-long, similar to that of a priestly or religious vocation.

“They need to be called by God, and they need to be called by the Church. So it’s a four year process, from the time of the applications to the time they’re ordained, and it’s a discernment process,” Deacon Donohoe said. “There’s an intense amount of prayer involved, as well as a looking into their soul and spirit to discover what God is calling them to. Sometimes God is just calling them to the formation, and not ordination, and many times, they are called to ordination. It’s really a powerful experience.”

The stories of Deacon Tracy and Deacon Heckman are just a few of many men who are offering their lives to Christ through their vocation as a deacon.

“Quite frankly, I am in awe of the deacons in the diocese, they are so dedicated to their ministry, and each time I talk to one of them, I get inspired and filled with awe over some of the things they do,” Deacon Donohoe said. “They all have these stories that are just tremendous, because they’re all in prayer. They all want to listen, and they want to love God and the people of God.”

Not only are these men faithful to God’s will and serving his people, their families are tremendous witnesses to the world as well.

“Deacons in this diocese are tremendously dedicated to their ministry and to their family and they set a very positive example to the secular world in witnessing the true presence of Jesus Christ and the Church to a world in need of [him], including their marriages,” said Deacon Donohoe. “It’s not just the deacons, it’s their families. Their families give up much for their husbands and dads to be deacons, but they also do that for love of God.”

For more information about the deacons of the Archdiocese of Denver, visit archden.org/office-diaconate.