I write this with some trepidation, because it is going to sound like chastising when I mean to be encouraging.
Women... Catholic women, let us love one another. If we were men, I'd be saying, “Have your brother's back” or, “Have you got his six?” I don't know what the feminine version of that terminology would be, so I use the word love, and by it I mean protect, honour, serve, carry... leave no one behind.
The military analogy is appropriate. We are engaged in battle. Religious language is full of the language of war, battle, fighting, struggle, victory, enemies, feuds, siege, plots, prison, fortress. Such is the human experience, even in less sweeping, less epic, less saga-like, modern lives. Some days feel especially like warfare, don't they? There is blessing and joy and reward and gift... but we cannot pretend that life is easy.
The war is fought on many fronts. There is the secular, where we fight for sound and healthy education for our children, for responsible and ethical government, for moral and unbiased media, and so on. There is the spiritual front where we fight alone and together against temptation and lassitude. There is the physical front where we fight to keep mind and body sound, our homes functioning, our friendships alive... and on and on it goes.
As Catholics we fend off attacks against our faith, our morals, our beliefs. Arrows are shot against chastity, life issues, the priesthood, the Saints, Our Lady, the Holy Father, the unfortunate scandals in the Church, the role of women. We are considered foolish for believing in Divine creation, for giving credence to the power of prayer, for having faith and hope in an eternal life. We are chastised for not handing out condoms, for denying abortion in all cases, for not pulling the plug, for not supporting marriage between two men who just want to love each other.
As women, we feel the heat when we work outside the home - from other Catholics – and from non-Catholics when we stay home. We are harassed by strangers when out in public with our children (especially if they number more than three), and questioned by others when we don't have children after several years of marriage. We are gently chided for not breastfeeding, for wearing trousers, for covering – or not covering – our heads at Mass.
What I'm getting at is this: life is already hard. Let's not make it harder for each other! We are sisters-in-arms. Just as men in service are trained to honour, protect, serve, carry, and leave no one behind, we should be doing the same for each other.
Our finer instincts are to love, protect, and serve. When we work with these instinct, we build each other up, make our families and communities stronger, and demonstrate more perfectly God's love. Our less than noble tendencies lead us to gossip, nag, speculate, envy. When used against each other, we sunder relationships, inflict deep wounds, and allow for division, doubt, and insecurity to grow.
I think it is appalling that one women judges another because she chooses to work while raising a family, or that a community speculates about a married couple without children. A single woman needs support, not gossip about her, and a woman unable to breastfeed needs reassurance about her motherhood, not recrimination.
I issue this challenge: let's rally around each other. Let's build each other up and help each other out. No matter what her life looks like from the outside, your sister in Christ is walking her own journey just as you are, one step at a time.
Do you have her six?