Women are upfront and visible

After five years, Pope Francis continues to surprise. Amongst other notable aspects of his latest Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete Et Exsultate: On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World, women – saints, writers, witnesses, theologians, known and unknown ‒ are referenced frequently. It could be said that different readers look for different features – but when one belongs to a group that has frequently been marginalised, that’s entirely understandable.

The prominence of women in this document is highlighted by Rita Ferrone in “There are also women there”, La Croix International 11 April 2018.

Ferrone points out, “It’s traditional that papal statements end with an appeal to Mary, but here she also appears within the document, as an exemplar of joy.”

Pope Francis writes, “Mary, recognising the newness that Jesus brought, sang, ‘My spirit rejoices’ (Lk 1:47), and Jesus himself ‘rejoiced in the Holy Spirit’ (Lk 10:21).” He goes on to say, invoking the joy (gaudete) of the exhortation’s title, “As he passed by, ‘all the people rejoiced’ (Lk 13:17). After his resurrection, wherever the disciples went, there was ‘much joy’ (Acts 8:8). Jesus assures us, ‘You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy... I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you’ (Jn 16:20.22). ‘These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full’” (Jn 15:11). [#124; see also #126]

There is evident a mix of women whose names and stories are well known and loved – Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila and Thérèse of Lisieux ‒ and “unknown or forgotten women who, each in her own way, sustained and transformed families and communities by the power of their witness” [#12].

Cerrone particularly highlights Pope Francis’ recognition of ‘working women’ – isn’t that all women, some might say? He writes, “I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant.” [#7].

Cerrone says, “This papal acknowledgement of women as economic actors is striking.”

Read Gaudete Et Exsultate for many reasons, but don’t overlook the women – they are upfront and visible!

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Tracey Edstein Image
Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is the former editor of Aurora Magazine, the official magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.