May 14, 2011
I ran into an acquaintance a while back who had come into a spot of bad luck. She had acquired a serious yet non-life-threatening illness last year that has baffled doctors, and that she has annoyingly been unable to shake. Her whole life had been centred around taking care of her body, and this illness has rendered much of what she used to enjoy impossible to even do, let alone enjoy. She has actually had to take several months of work off due to this illness.

And not surprisingly, she is devastated. Every single conversation I've had with her since has focussed solely around the illness, around the level of fitness that had been achieved before this hit, and what she has missed out on doing, and continues to miss out on doing. And I feel terrible for her and the health difficulties. It is really devestating to undergo such an uncontrollable drastic life change.

But I began to put an illness like this into a Christ-centred perspective. (Please keep in mind that I in no way mean to diminish the difficulty of any physical suffering that befalls any one of us - I mean only to draw our attention to a few points of interest).

First off, when we put our bodies on the altar of our lives and worship them, we are utterly devastated when that body fails. And fail it will (what's that old adage about the two inescapable things in life...death...taxes...?). While we as women might have a particular penchant for putting our bodies first (why else would the cosmetics industry be a billion-dollar industry?), guys aren't above this either. Just take a walk around any gym in the country - they're chock full of men practically making love to themselves in their mirrored walls. How many of these people say they want to be put "out of their misery" the second they lose their physical prowess or mental ability?

Or have you ever met someone who is obsessed with eating only organic, local, non GMO, low environmental impact food? They can speak of nothing else and spend a small fortune on things like purple potatoes and fiddleheads. I have also noticed a trend with these folks. They tend to harshly judge and treat others who do not take care of themselves as they do. They only judge outward appearances and dismiss the whole person altogether. Now, don't get me wrong, I have nothing against taking care of one's body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, with organic food or natural products. The issue is when good health, organic products and local foods becomes all there is to live for. If we're not careful, our bodies easily become idols - golden calves to worship instead of God.

What happens then is our worth as a person and value to society becomes synonymous with our physical health, so that even the smallest illness will, at least in our minds, make us a person of lesser value or even "less" of a person because we feel we can no longer contribute to society as "importantly" as we could before. (There are marriages almost entirely based on the youth, health and fitness of each spouse. Imagine the pain and utter ruin of contracting a life-threatening illness, and then having a spouse leave on top of it.) The Catechism states that "If morality requires respect for the life of the human body, it does not make it an absolute value. It rejects the neo-pagan notion that tends to promote the cult of the human body, to sacrifice everything for it's sake, to idolize physical perfection and success at sports. By it's selective preference of the strong over the weak, such a conception can lead to a perversion of human relationships". (CCC#2289)

The truth is that every single one of us has incredible value - healthy or no - simply because God has made us. He has chosen us out of the infinite number of beings He could have created, and has guided our lives into the very place we are in this moment.

"Human life is sacred because from it's very beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the creator, who is it's sole end." (CCC#2258, emphasis mine)

In the light of Christ, we are each irreplaceable, extraordinary creations regardless of our actions, thoughts, sins, foibles, physical stamina and in fact our very selves. (St. Francis lovingly referred to his body as Brother Ass) In fact, many of the saints were of very ill health and are fine examples for us of extreme saintliness, offering their very suffering back to God for others. And it was those very same "others" that looked down upon them, judging them to be frail, weak, useless drags on society. (Check out our piece on Blessed Margaret of Castello). The very essence of who we are is wildly loved by God - the Trinity is crazy about you - and we must work to order ourselves, body and soul, towards Him only. And it is tricky sometimes to know when we are merely taking care of our bodies, and when we have crossed over that line into idol worship, but I have faith that prayer and communion with Christ will keep us on the straight and narrow.

"There is, however, one big thing we can do with God's help, that is, we can trust God's plan, we can put aside any quibbling or bitterness about ourselves and what we are. We can accept and seize upon the fact that what we are at this moment, young or old, strong or weak, mild or passionate, beautiful or ugly, clever or stupid, is planned to be like that. Whatever we are gives form to the emptiness in us which can only be filled by God and which God is even now waiting to fill" ~Reed of God, Caryll Houselander

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What is a woman? What does it mean to be feminine? There is softness and hardness, compassion and ferocity. There is contentment and adventure, freedom and service. We're conundrums, especially to ourselves, but we all, in some way, possess beauty, creativity, intuition and love. We were made for love, and we are loved, cellulite and all. Here we aim to show every woman the richness and beauty of her own femininity and explore current issues relating to women in our world. We also wish to share our own experiences - exploring the joys and challenges of stay-at-home moms and single professionals and everyone in between. Welcome! So glad you're here!

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