Sunday, July 20, 2008

Gentle Woman

A friend of mine sent me this quote today ...
"Women are more geared to piety because they have a keener awareness of their weakness. This is their true strength."

Alice von Hildebrand
The Privilege of Being a Woman

I have a confession to make: I'm not a gentle person. Not by nature, anyway. Not with myself, not with my kids ... and not with the foibles and failings of others, even those closest to me.

This is something I try to change, with varying levels of success. When my kids drive me around the bend, and I can hear myself shrieking like a fishwife, I sometimes wonder if the car accident that scrambled my internal organs was God's way of saying He never intended me to be a mom.

It's a lie, of course. God created all women to nurture life, to embrace their feminine gifts as spiritual mothers even if it turns out the physical variety is not in the cards. He does this so that we can root out vice, practice virtue, and grow in the kind of perfection He always intended for us.

In my case, I look toward friends and loved ones who seem to have mastered this holy habit of gentleness, and I try not to covet (since that would only compound the problem). Instead I watch to see how they cope in the kinds of situations I tend to lose it. See how they regulate their breathing. How they open their arms for a cuddle when my every instinct sends me running from the room. How they step back to gain perspective, trying to find something worth laughing about in the situation. And I try to hear the flutter of the angel's wings as they bring whispered prayers from mothers' mouths to God's ears.

Over time, I've discovered that my capacity to be gentle with others is directly proportional to the amount of stress I'm foisting upon myself. When my "production mode" gets too high, I become exacting, easily irritated, and -- well, let's just say it -- not a model of gentility. But when I allow myself the time I need to attend to a few personal details, it's easy to cut others a bit of slack as well.

Dear Mary, Gentle Woman,
You were courageous in your compassion,
quick to accommodate, so slow to chide.
Pray for me as I live out the Passion,
that I will draw close to that merciful side.