The 2023 theme for Women’s History Month is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” Women play a unique role in preserving and carrying on the heritage of a society. Not only do women physically grow and bear the next generation, mothers and grandmothers are often the ones telling stories and teaching younger generations the most important facets of the past.
As we reflect on Women’s History Month, it is easy to focus on the great women who have made headlines and secured permanent places in school textbooks. Think of Joan of Arc who shattered the military’s glass ceiling way back in the 1400s while leading the French army and calling out the king of France before ultimately being martyred for the faith. Harriet Tubman’s courage, cleverness, and resourcefulness earned her the well-deserved nickname Moses for the countless souls rescued from the evil of slavery through her underground railroad. The original suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton changed our nation’s very Constitution, fighting for equal treatment under the law for women while rejecting the lie that abortion is necessary for achieving that equality. Amy Coney Barrett’s legal accomplishments have taken her to the pinnacle of the United States’ judicial system, all while raising seven biological and adopted children with her husband.
I am especially inspired by Lila Rose, who is roughly my age, but long ago founded Live Action to change the national conversation around abortion. Also, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, who left her Ivy League professorship in economics to found The Ruth Institute because she recognized that too many of us economists neglect to acknowledge the human reality and differentiation often embedded in our economic assumptions and equations.
Of all the inspiring women of the past and present, two historic giants particularly stand out for me because of their meekness – Abigail Adams and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Abigail Adams is best known as the wife of one president and the mother of another. She did not hold any official positions of worldly importance or power, but she was well-known to be her husband’s most trusted confidante and closest advisor. How many of us are willing to stand in the shadows behind a spouse or friend and offer a quiet, steady presence and honest, thoughtful discussion and advice in the privacy of home, not the great debate halls of government or noisy public squares?
Rather than attempt to shed any new light on the important and already well-known life of our Lord’s mother, I instead want to encourage us to look for the Marys in our own lives. We all have them: women whose lives are oriented toward Christ and eternity; women whose decisions and actions seek to move them and everyone they encounter closer to God; women whose beauty, joy, and faith point directly to the One who created us, unconditionally loves us, and desires that we spend eternity with Him.
For me, most of those women are maternal figures in my life – my Grandma Jo, my mom, mentors at the Catholic bookstore where I worked through high school and college and at NC Family, and dear friends whose children have become best friends to my own children.
St. Therese of Lisieux wrote about her spiritual pathway as “The Little Way,” which was described as a “simple approach to the spiritual life that seeks to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.”
This little way is the common thread among the numerous women who have had the most profound impact on my own life: the military wives who patiently wait for their husbands to return, lovingly caring for their homes and children for long weeks and months alone; the homeschool moms who spend nearly every waking hour with their children, taking on the monumental task of providing for their academic, social, and spiritual education and growth; teachers who sacrifice better paying jobs without evening hours to introduce new generations to truth, beauty, and goodness in school or church classrooms; the nurses who work long weekends or night hours, so that they can alternate schedules with dad to be home with their children; faith-filled leaders who leave the comforts of secure jobs to start brand new endeavors with little more than hope and a prayer; the women who put such meticulous thoughtfulness and care into beautifying their homes, meal planning, ensuring responsible and generous stewardship of the family finances, and creating a welcoming aura of peace and hospitality to anyone who crosses their home’s threshold; the mothers who stay awake long nights to feed newborn babies, rock sick toddlers, and wait for the return of social teenagers; the grandmothers who travel so many miles to visit grandchildren and pray ceaselessly for the protection and fortification of their children and grandchildren. We all know these women. I think most of us want to be one of these women – women who live our own “little way” for Jesus every moment of every day in the common, in the mundane, in the routine.
Teresa of Calcutta famously said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” It can be tempting to want to climb to the peaks of accomplishment, to receive the public recognition of a big job done well, but truly the way to make a lasting impression on the world, to leave this world a better place than we found it, is to do the small things well, to love and serve our families fiercely, to see every moment as an opportunity to move closer to God.
Take time in these final days of Women’s History Month to reflect on the women who have inspired and perhaps even walked with you as you have carved your own little way through life. Send her a note. Tell her thank you. But most of all, say a prayer for her. Thank God for the gift of her life and the positive impact she has had on you. And then, reflect on how you can make little choices every day that will steadily bring you and all those who cross your path closer to Christ. For there is no greater history for each of us than salvation history.