“The Role of Women in Transmitting the Faith to New Generations Is Primary and Indispensable”
The Role of Women
These are the words of Pope Francis delivered in a homily during the Mass celebrating the lives of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops and disciples of St. Paul the Apostle.
The Pope focused particularly on the second letter of Paul to Timothy. Paul reminds Timothy of where his “sincere faith” comes from: his faith comes from the Holy Spirit, “through his mother and grandmother.” Pope Francis went on to say, “Mothers and grandmothers are the ones who transmit the faith.” The Pope continued:
"It is one thing to pass on the faith, and another to teach the matters of faith. Faith is a gift: it is not possible to study Faith. We study the things of faith, yes, to understand it better, but with study [alone] one never comes to Faith. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, which surpasses all [“academic”] formation."
Faith, moreover, is a gift that passes from generation to generation, through the “beautiful work of mothers and grandmothers, the fine work of the women who play those roles,” in a family, “whether they be maids or aunts,” who transmit the faith:
"It occurs to me: why is it mainly women, who pass on the faith? Simply because the one who brought us Jesus is a woman. It is the path chosen by Jesus. He wanted to have a mother: so that the gift of faith comes to us through women, as Jesus came to us through Mary."
“We need,” said Pope Francis, “in our own day to consider whether women really are aware of the duty they have to transmit the faith.” Paul invites Timothy to guard the Faith, the deposit of Faith, avoiding “empty pagan chatter, empty chatter of the world.” He went on to say, “We have – all of us – received the gift of faith: we have to keep it, at least in order that it not become watered down, so that it remains strong, with the power of the Holy Spirit who gave it to us.” We keep the faith by cherishing and nurturing it every day: "If we do not have this care, every day, to revive this gift of God which is Faith, but rather let faith weaken, it becomes diluted, Faith ends up being a culture: ‘Yes, but, yes, yes, I am a Christian, yes yes,’ – a mere culture – or a gnosis, (specialized kind of knowledge): ‘Yes, I know well all the matters of Faith, I know the catechism’. But how do you live your faith? This, then, is the importance of reviving every day this gift: to bring it to life."
Saint Paul says that there are two things in particular, which contrast with a living Faith: “the spirits of timidity and of shame”:
"God has not given us a spirit of timidity. The spirit of timidity goes against the gift of faith: it does not let faith grow, advance, be great. Shame, in turn, is the following sin, [which says]: ‘Yes, I have Faith, but I cover it up, that it not be seen too much’. It’s a little bit here, a little bit there – it is, as our forebears called it, a “rosewater” Faith – because I am ashamed to live it powerfully. No: this is not the Faith: [Faith knows] neither timidity nor shame. What is it, then? It is a spirit of power and of love and of prudence: that is what Faith is. This is the faith. "
Pope Francis explained that the spirit of prudence is knowing that we cannot do everything we want: "it means looking for the ways, the path, the manners by which to carry the Faith forward, cautiously." “We ask the Lord’s grace,” he concluded, “that we might have a sincere Faith, a Faith that is not negotiable depending on the opportunities that come, a Faith that every day I try to revive or at least ask the Holy Spirit to revive it, and make it bear much fruit.”
(For those who view the Popes homily as keeping women in the bottom rungs of Church governance, I would like to point out that Pope Francis, in 2014, added an unprecedented increase in the contribution of female theologians to "The Vatican International Theological Commission". The women members are: Sister Sara Butler, M.S.B.T., (U.S.A.), Professor Barbara Hallensleben (Switzerland, of German nationality), Sister Prudence Allen, R.S.M., (U.S.A.), Sister Alenka Arko, Com. Loyola (Slovenia-Russia), Moira Mary McQuenn (G.B. – Canada), Tracey Rowland (Australia), Marianne Schlosser (Germany – Austria). Women now constitute 16% of the Commission’s members, a sign of growing female involvement in theological research.)