By Andrea F. Phillips
A voice was heard in Rama, lamentation and great mourning;
Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted… Matt 2:18
Watching a pro-life documentary the other day, I was deeply moved as girl after girl, woman after woman, and professional after professional gave heart-wrenching testimonies of the emotional, spiritual and psychological devastation our women, our modern “Rachels,” undergo in this culture of abortion.
How did we get here? Why in the name of freedom, liberation, rights and choice are girls and women so battered?
“It Wasn’t My Choice”
One professional said, “Women are offered abortion in the name of ‘choice,’ yet the overwhelming answer to the question, “Why did you do it?” is, “It wasn’t my choice.”
And another young woman, her face a torrent of tears said, “Everyone pushed me. And, in the end, I killed my child so everyone else could feel free.”
What We Have Lost
As a young girl, Dad took me out to the garden bench one morning. It wasn’t every day that I got to have a private interview with my father, so I fixed my brown eyes on his face, and missed nothing of what he said. He spoke of young womanhood, and of beauty as something proceeding from the soul, rather than from a lot of make-up, clothes and trinkets. He spoke of the Blessed Mother as a model for girls, a woman true to her inner star, contrary to what the world promoted.
Child that I was, I only captured fragments of his meaning, except that I knew that some things in my life were about to go the way of the TV – out the window. But I wasn’t worried. Dad knew best.
As it turned out, my sisters and I were homeschooled. We painted paper dolls, studied art and music, learned cooking and baking, raised a garden, loved the library, read lots of books, put on marionette shows, watched select movies, played with friends, learned our Catholic Faith inside out, and frequented the Sacraments – a life-style the world called “restrictive.”
Meeting the World
And then the time came to start driving and working.
At my first job, I worked with women who wore little, swore plenty, and headed for bars after work. There were the stories of boyfriends, and sex, and cheating, and divorce, and drugs and alcohol, and hangovers.
Then little sister came home one day wide-eyed from nursing school.
“We studied STDs today, and you will not believe the amount of such diseases every single one of those girls have had. I felt like an angel.”
And then there was another sister taking English in college. One day the professor showed the class pictures of obscene sculptures claiming that these were the artist’s way of dealing with the “Catholic Church’s obsession with sex.” Up shot her hand, “Sorry, Sir, but it seems to me that you are, rather, talking of the artist’s obsession with the subject?”
Thanks, Mother Church!
In our “sheltered” Catholic home, while we were taught about the “birds and the bees,” the subject was only one among many. Though in our “restrictive” lifestyle we learned the moral code that regulated sexual behaviour, we handled rising hormones by steering our thoughts and desires to positive, engaging activities, prayer and the Sacraments.
Interaction with boys was always in familial, communal settings, and while marriage was a great, exciting ideal, we were taught that it was the most serious commitment we’d ever make–and thus we must prepare.
We dressed modestly not out of prudishness but because there was nothing more precious than a girl’s body, latent seat of life – and what was sacred was veiled. Yet mother, in her common sense and good taste, taught us style, and to use make-up to enhance, rather than to cover; jewelry to add, rather than to glare.
Far from “sheltered” or “restricted,” I remember at fifteen feeling cherished, respected – free. To arrive at my wedding aisle anything but a virgin was unthinkable. I had a mind full of ideals, a heart full of God’s life-giving principles, and a soul on fire with idealism. I wanted to be an asset to the world, to use my talents to help build something beautiful.
An Anti-Woman Culture
Unfortunately, “beautiful” is not what awaited the majority of my gender, for the culture of “emancipation” is, ultimately, battering to women.
As my life went on, with everything “free,” from free love to women’s lib, I witnessed the breakdown of the last vestiges of modesty and dignity in fashions; the destruction of the last ethical barricades. With these trends came teen pregnancy, failed contraception, abortion, STDs, anorexia, bulimia, substance abuse, and suicide.
As a result of all this “liberation,” countless girls became the sad victims of the “culture of emancipation” turned “culture of death” – many as young as eleven or twelve – about the age I was when Dad talked to me on that garden bench.
Generous souls started organisations such as Rachel’s Vineyard and countless other institutions. Their goal: to either convince single moms to have their babies, or to provide support for them, after family, friends or boyfriends dropped them off at abortion clinics, and the psychological, emotional trauma of the aftermath threatened to engulf them.
Gently, with heart-warming charity, these organisations seek to pick up the crushed, crumpled, tear-stained forms and, speaking to them of love and forgiveness, endeavour to return them to their beautiful, confident, glowing selves.
Woman’s Nature v. Lies of the Culture
A woman is made amazing. Hers is a nature so lofty that she instinctively understands that love is nurturing, and is, therefore, sacrificial. All she asks is to love and be loved so she can love forever. And what is greater, more selfless, stronger, more inspiring and propulsive than sacrificial love?
Hers is a mind so quick and intuitive, that she perceives things way before they’ve been spelled out. A true woman has the natural combination that is the spark of genius: heart and intuition.
But the culture lies to today’s growing girl. The culture tells her she must be ashamed of her femininity, and of her maternal instinct. She is told that compared to men, her femininity is weakness, and in light of the culture, her maternal instincts misguided. Unless she succeeds in the corporate world, she is a failure, and homes and children are only for the under-achieved woman.
Logically thus, since her body is not necessarily or primarily made to give life, but for pleasure and sexual satisfaction, she is told to show it off, to use it to her maximum “advantage” – out with the blushing bride, in with the voyeur.
But what the culture never tells the growing girl today is that the blushing bride calls man to his noblest; the “voyeur” to his basest. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “So goes the dignity of women, so goes the dignity of a nation.”
My mother’s version was, “Girls, sit on your mountain top and if he is worth his salt, he will climb it.”
What has more power – the ability to command or the ability to influence? Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, eminent Catholic philosopher and lady, answers genially: “Command changes actions. Influence changes beings.”
And what is a woman’s greatest genius but that of influence? And what is the greatest secret of that genius but true, disinterested, sacrificial love that doesn’t care for recognition but for results: the good of those she loves.
To Dry Rachel’s Tears
It is time fathers again become teachers, guides and protectors of their daughters and give them the religious/philosophical principles that will aid them to choose husbands wisely. It is time fathers take their daughters to the garden bench; better still, on occasional dates to show how a gentleman treats a lady. It is time fathers take the initiative of countering the culture of death with the life-giving culture of Christ.
This Christ-centred enculturation must be done intelligently, insightfully, with common sense, but also with strength. Above all, it is time fathers give their daughters the supreme example of faith and virtue, first by example and then by doctrine. To a girl, a godly father is indeed, next to God. Brown, blue or green eyes will be raised to his face unflinchingly seeking to be convinced by his conviction.
It’s time mothers teach their girls modesty, purity, culture, manners, the arts of the home, and their priceless worth as the pearls of great price of society. It’s time the “lady” (layman’s term for “princess”) returns. It’s time that again a nation follows the dignity of its women. It’s time that knights again climb mountain tops to meet their ladies.
It’s time that we teach our daughters and sons how to prepare for founding Christian homes, homes where every baby is welcomed, cherished and raised, and yes, then yes, no child will be left behind.
It’s time that we stand in the gap for the preciousness of our young women, and teach our girls to see through the great LIE, and then, only then will our Rachels no longer cry.