Today is the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God.
Many non-Catholic brothers and sisters object to the title and don’t understand whence it comes. An excellent, brief essay here tells the story.
In light of our focus here these past few days, today’s Solemnity throws two very different women into stark relief: Mary, Mother of God and Margaret Sanger. A study in contrast if ever there were one.
Both women looked out upon a broken and wounded humanity. Both heard the call to action. One embraced life as the answer to healing humanity. The other embraced death as the solution.
Through her acceptance of the Archangel Gabriel’s message, Mary invited God Himself in the person of Jesus to take on human nature through her womb. Thus, the dignity of women was forever elevated in God choosing to cloak Himself with our humanity through woman. Mary chose a lifetime of scorn by others. Having her son referred to as a bastard child was an implicit condemnation of Mary as a less than virtuous woman, to put it politely. The indignity of a feeding trough as a cradle, a barn as lodging. They were chased out of their homeland. Jews going back to Egypt, setting up the second Exodus, this one for all humanity. The gifts of the Magi, God’s providence manifest through the faith of strangers, no doubt secured safe passage and sustenance in the land of their former slavery.
Mary’s acceptance of being Mother of the Messiah didn’t make her the Jewish Doris Day of the first century. Life for Mary was hard. And then she saw her son die the most excruciating death.
The lesson for us, suffering is redemptive. Jesus’ suffering redeemed us all. Mary’s suffering is a model for us. She could have had a much easier life-a home, social acceptance, economic security-all of the things Sanger would later cite as the justification for her war on life.
Mary’s reward for being the Mother of God, not merely His incubator, but fully His Mother, was not to be here on earth. She enjoys pride of place in paradise with her son.
Margaret Sanger’s approach was the converse of Mary’s. To be fair, the widespread grinding poverty that Sanger lived with and witnessed exists in small pockets in America today. Most Americans cannot imagine the poverty of which she spoke. None should begrudge her the genuine revulsion she felt staring into the face of that poverty. Such revulsion is very healthy indeed.
Then came her response. Death and nonexistence. Sex divorced from responsibility and consequence. The lie that pleasurable sex could only be had by deliberate and artificial means of thwarting the transmission of new life. The lie that suffering is meaningless, that pleasure and ease are to be sought after to the exclusion of any suffering along the way.
Suffering is not easy, but it helps us to grow. We learn from suffering, if we are open to her lessons.
Sanger’s was a life of narcissistic self-indulgence that poisoned everything it touched, the very operational definition of neurosis, which is the attempt to avoid suffering. Unrestricted pleasure slowly twists and distorts us. It removes us from human suffering by inducing us to disengage from those who suffer, ultimately causing us to objectify them. Sanger chose to scorn charity as a means of relieving the suffering of others, of healing them, of lifting them up and ameliorating poverty. She objectified not poverty, but the poor themselves. She loathed them. The result of such objectification when we do so, is that they lose their humanity in our eyes, as they did for Sanger.
Then we are free to contraceive and abort them into oblivion, all in the name of relieving their suffering, which is really to say, our own.