Holy Heroines: Looking to Mother Mary and Women Saints as Role Models

Mary and these lovely holy women remind us to embrace our feminine genius because that is who we are ...

Artwork of Mary and Baby Jesus hangs above a side altar inside of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Rome.
Artwork of Mary and Baby Jesus hangs above a side altar inside of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Rome. (photo: Alexey Gotovskiy / 2016 photo, CNA)

How much our world is in need of exemplars of living for God and others.

And during Women’s History Month, as the world highlights its role models, I turn to the Blessed Mother and women saints to champion their feminine genius.

“Letter to Women” by St. John Paul II is full of inspiration, of course. 

“The Church sees in Mary the highest expression of the ‘feminine genius,’ and she finds in her a source of constant inspiration. … Putting herself at God’s service, she also put herself at the service of others: a service of love.”

“ … She who was, in all her being, a gift for her Son, has also become a gift for the sons and daughters of the whole human race, awakening profound trust in those who seek her guidance along the difficult paths of life on the way to their definitive and transcendent destiny. Each one reaches this final goal by fidelity to his or her own vocation; this goal provides meaning and direction for the earthly labors of men and women alike,” he adds.

John Paul goes on to write, “[T]here is great significance to that ‘womanhood’ which was lived in such a sublime way by Mary … which finds its full realization in Mary.”

Beloved women saints look to Mother Mary, too, of course — reminding us to do likewise.

“Every woman who wants to fulfill her destiny must look to Mary as ideal ...” wrote Edith Stein/St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross in Spirituality of the Christian Woman (1932).

In “The Church, Woman, and Youth” (1932), she referenced “a collaboration of Mary with every woman wherever that woman is fulfilling her vocation as woman.”

“Only the one who believes in the unlimited power of the Help of Christians will surrender to her protection, not only in communal repetitive prayer but in an act of surrender; and Mary will protect whoever stays in her care,” she said in a talk at Augsburg in 1932, where she also encouraged: “Those women who want to fulfill their feminine vocations in one of several ways will most surely succeed in their goals if they not only keep the ideal of the Virgo-Mater before their eyes and strive to form themselves according to her image, but if they also entrust themselves to her guidance and place themselves completely under her care. She can form in her own image those who belong to her.”

St. Gianna Molla, inspiring working mom and pro-life witness, who reminds us to “Live holy the present moment,” also had a devotion to Mary.

She invoked Mary in this beautiful prayer of consecration: “O Mary, into your maternal hands I place myself, and I abandon myself completely, sure of obtaining whatever I ask of you. I trust in you because you are the sweet Mother; I confide in you because you are the Mother of Jesus. In this trust, I place myself, sure of being heard in everything; with this trust in my heart I greet you ‘my Mother, my trust’; I devote myself entirely to you, begging you to remember that I am yours, that I belong to you; keep me and defend me, O sweet Mary, and in every instant of my life, present me to your Son, Jesus.”

Mary and these lovely holy women remind us to embrace our feminine genius because that is who we are.

As John Paul II put it, “women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them. In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty — not merely physical, but above all spiritual — which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women.”

St. Zélie Martin calls on us to “carry on bravely,” wherever we find ourselves. And her blessed daughter, St. Thérèse, reminds us, “Let us love, since that is what our hearts were made for.” 

Indeed, our womanly hearts are made to love. Armed with love, we can approach the world, striving to meet the needs we see, one heart at a time, in “a service of love.”

Mother Mary and Sts. Thérèse and Gianna
Mother Mary and Sts. Thérèse and Gianna(Photo: Amy Smith)