By Lisa Mladinich
It is my happy task to briefly respond to Chapter Two of Who Does He Say You Are. May I say up front that I’ve met Colleen Mitchell and that she possesses an exuberance and contagious delight in the Lord that I aspire to imitate? She embodies the paradox of a faith grown mature enough to be childlike, to be deep and penetrating but full of trust in the Lord.
Chapter two is titled You Have a Voice: Elizabeth, Mother of John the Baptist and is rich in historical, psychological, and cultural contexts that illuminate the agonizing social isolation reserved for barren women of St. Elizabeth’s time.
Who Was Elizabeth
Elizabeth was a refined daughter of a priestly line, well-educated, dedicated to Our Lord, and undoubtedly a rich resource waiting to be tapped in her own community. Yet, her voice, by virtue of the wrong-headed assumptions of others, was silenced for many years. Who would listen to a woman condemned by God to be childless? Was there any worse sign of disfavor? Surely she had done something to deserve so great a sadness. Others undoubtedly whispered as she passed, shaking their heads.
I can imagine her feelings and wonder if she ever felt abandoned by God. For the first fourteen years of my marriage I was infertile, too. Every monthly cycle brought fresh grief, while my bitterness grew, and my pleas to heaven seemed to fall into an abyss of silence. Was I unworthy? Would I have been a bad mother? Why did other women in our urban New York community proudly contracept and have abortions, while I longed for nothing more than to be a mother?
Not Like Elizabeth
I wasn’t like Elizabeth, though; I was immature and ignorant of Catholic moral teaching and sacramental life. My life was weighed down by the spiritual cacophony of years of unconfessed sin, which drowned out the gentle voice of God calling to my heart. I found myself down-spiraling into isolation and rage, finally hitting rock bottom in 1992. I was on my way out of the Church forever, and Jesus was no longer my God. It was then that I turned—for no reason I understood, then—to the Blessed Mother for help. I asked my mom to teach me to pray the Rosary, and from that point on, everything changed.
Mary led me, as she always does, directly back to Jesus, where I found sacramental healing, a new relationship with the Holy Spirit, and an indescribable and abiding joy. I’d been an actress and writer for years, but my creative life surged and began to have more impact. My relationships grew in love and grace, and because of an experimental ovarian surgery seven years after my conversion, I was able to become pregnant—just once—and gave birth to a precious little girl. I was almost forty, but I felt like a child again myself. I could not contain my joy. Through the Visitation of the Blessed Mother in my life, my voice was reborn, just as the arrival of Our Lady prompted an outpouring of joyful expression from St. Elizabeth.
You Have a Voice
Women’s voices can be suppressed for so many reasons, but shame is the worst and most prevalent. Those of us with only one or two children can feel the need to justify ourselves by explaining our circumstances to other Catholics, worrying that they might assume it is selfishness, not suffering, that has kept our families small. We can be wounded into silence through body shaming and age shaming—the world holding up its obsession with youth, through artificial, retouched images of women and girls and through the dehumanizing effects of pornography on our culture.
It’s essential for us to invite Mary in, to let her tend to us as she did Elizabeth, while we prepare ourselves and gather strength, to give voice to all that we are called to share, for the sake of the Kingdom.
To Ponder, Reflect and Discuss:
- Have there been times when you felt your authentic voice, your own joyful contribution to the Kingdom of God was suppressed? Ask Our Lady to enter with you into a prayerful contemplation of any circumstances that have wounded your sense of self and to help you lay it at the feet of Jesus. Through his mercy, ask for the grace of forgiveness and healing. Pray a Divine Mercy chaplet for anyone who has hurt you.
- Are there women in your life who could use a boost of confidence? This week, look for the best in everyone you meet, and prayerfully imbue all written correspondence—emails, social media postings—with encouraging sentiments based on a sincere appreciation for the gifts and contributions of others. St. Therese of Lisieux wrote that it was a great joy to focus on the best in others because those were the parts that were “of God.” Consider that when we look for God in each other, we increase our own resemblance to him.
- You are a beautiful, precious daughter of God. Ask God, this week, to show you how He sees you. Ask for the grace to embrace his vision of you, his beloved daughter. When we embrace and accept our own authentic, interior beauty—that place in our souls where Jesus dwells—we become purveyors of that beauty, and our voices can never be silenced again.
About the Author:
Lisa Mladinich hosts Shalom World TV’s WOMAN: Strong Faith, True Beauty and is the founder of AmazingCatechists.com. She teaches online classes for teens at HomeschoolConnectionsOnline.com; topics include authentic beauty, leadership, and writing. A bestselling, award winning author of four Catholic books, Lisa speaks around the country about conversion, authentic beauty, Marian spirituality, prayer, and teaching the Faith to children. Contact: CMG Booking