This week’s arts and culture column should especially endear me to the woke world.

Here’s how it begins:

Not long ago I was lunching with a group that included a widowed ex-nun who had been married to an ex-priest.

Her late husband, turned out, had been a professor of philosophy at a Catholic university. “And so,” she mentioned airily at one point, “Greg had the honor of disabusing the young girls of their notion of the Virgin Birth and other such fairy tales.”

“ Poor things,” she added with a someone-has-to-be-the-bearer-of-bad-news shrug. “They probably still haven’t gotten over it.”

I couldn’t have been more shocked if she’d casually admitted to being a cannibal.

To disown the Virgin Birth is to disown the power of sacrament, story, and the world beyond this one. It is to diminish the glory of motherhood and to reduce womanhood to a commodity. It is to be part of the cultural “movement” that increasingly threatens the very identity of the human person.


14 Replies to “MOTHER LOVE”

  1. stephensparrownz says: Reply

    Those folk who ridicule the virgin birth of Jesus baffle me. In the next breath they will without reserve welcome the virgin birth of the universe. Inconsistency? Sure thing. Anyway, a nice piece Heather

  2. Jennifer Worrell says: Reply

    Fabulous! God bless you.

  3. Teresa Kleber says: Reply

    Oh Heather, what a good article! It is such an honor to be a woman because the world needs mothering. It is so tired and sick. Mary, ever virgin Mother of God, pray for us.

  4. Patrick Dooling says: Reply

    Early in this truly lovely piece, I was thinking, “Well, Heather will never have lunch again in wherever,” but I kept reading and your eyes meeting those of another woman at the outdoor Mass and THEN the concluding ‘yes, yes, YES‘ caught the best moment of grace I’ve come across in a long, long time. Thank you x 1000, Heather.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thanks, Fr. Pat–to know we have been born into just the RIGHT body, and to embrace everything that entails, both sufferings and joys, is a great gift…Also, I’m in the middle of “This is Happiness,” the Niall Williams novel you recommended. Wonderful!!

  5. I really enjoyed this piece. I have a question about the virgin birth (which I believe in). I worked for several decades for an evangelical bookseller, and many of the employees were evangelical Christians, who believed Mary had other children, and I understood that. But when the movie the Nativity Story came out, they thought I would be horrified because it showed Mary in LABOR! They “believed” that Catholics “believed”, that Mary did not give birth physically because she had to remain a virgin, and remain physically intact. I think they thought Jesus just appeared?
    I always understood that she was a virgin because she said to the angel: “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?
    I apologize if this is a foolish question, but I really didn’t know how to answer their question. If you can shed any light on it, I would appreciate it.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Hi Kathy, I am far far from a theologian, but good question and I looked for the answer as you could, by googling…This is from a piece from the Univ of Dayton called Virginity of Mary Dogma. They note: “Traditionally Mary’s virginity has been described as ante partum (before the birth), inpartu (during childbirth without breaking the hymen and/or a birth without pain) and post partum (after the birth of Jesus). A question rises regarding the “brothers and the sisters of the Lord.” If they are Mary’s children, then Mary’s virginity relates only to Jesus’ conception and possibly his birth.” Clearly she physically gave birth–otherwise she wouldn’t have had to look for an inn…

      I like this observation, too: “Luke makes it clear that Mary is a virgin. Virginity was not valued by the Jews. Thus the daughter of Jephthah goes to the mountains to bewail her virginity because ‘She had never known a man’ (Judges 11:39). Similarly, Judges 12:12 speaks of four hundred virgins ‘who never slept with a man’ as though they were unfulfilled.

      Ignace de la Potterie raises the question whether Mary had intended to preserve her virginity despite her marriage to Joseph. He writes: “We do not think that it is a question of a conscious decision to keep one’s virginity. That would be putting too much into the text. At this moment in salvation history that would be an anachronism. It is rather a question of orientation, of a profound attraction to a virginal way of life, a secret desire for virginity, proved and existentially experienced by Mary, but which could not yet take the form of a decision, because that was impossible in the milieu in which she lived.”

      The overarching point of the Virgin Birth to me is that things happen on a level we can’t see–also there are all kinds of theological ramifications that flow from the Virgin Birth which we can all explore at our leisure, chief among them the fact that Christ was not conceived by a human man. To get hung up on questions like was Mary’s hymen still intact after the birth reminds me of the disciples asking Jesus about the woman who in turn married seven brothers–whose wife would she be after the Resurrection?/ Christ was like, people don’t give themselves in marriage in heaven. In other words, you’re asking the questions of people of the world–the kingdom of heaven is a different realm–not removed from the world but qualitatively different from the world…Interesting that the Protestant women were so hung up on the question–in a way the dif between Catholics and Protestants is that Catholics believe in the power of Story… mystery, miracles, the supernatural dimension, the Sacraments. It’s because of that that, paradoxically, that we can afford also to be in such close contact with reality. God made man, the Incarnation, human suffering, a lacerated Body on the Cross…Without the marriage of the two, you get legalism. Life flatlines…Thanks for inviting me to reflect upon the Virgin Birth more deeply, Kathy!

      1. Thanks Heather. That is pretty much what I have found also. I found discussions with some of my co-workers to be very either/or. I tend to think more both/and. As Sister Odila would have said, it’s a sacred mystery!

        1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

          So glad you raised the question, Kathy, my pleasure. And yes, in the end we simply bow to sacred mystery!

  6. stephensparrownz says: Reply

    Further to Kathy’s comment and you excellent reply Heather, several things strike me.
    St Luke tells us that Mary wrapped the baby in swaddling cloths – not a midwife, not Joseph, but Mary. There’s no mention of Mary being knocked out in post natal torpor, no mention of Joseph cutting the cord or cleaning up the mess, just Mary wrapping Jesus is swaddling cloths. And shortly afterward the shepherds arrived to find the Holy Family in the cave or whatever shelter it was & presumably there was some sort of artificial light – candles maybe but hardly the scene we see on Hallmark cards unless the illumination was celestial. So the shepherds encountered the holy family in a state of not abnormal poverty but everything must have been in order. The incarnation of Jesus was miraculous – Gabriel told Mary that. Gabriel also told Mary Nothing is impossible with God. The trouble with the mindset that Mary gave birth normally and had other children is the refusal to acknowledge the miraculous – anything to be different from Catholic doctrine eg Mary was a perpetual virgin. With the miraculous birth of Jesus, Joseph would have have been finally confronted with the enormity and sacredness of his role.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Wonderful, Stephen, as always–thanks so much for your reflection and insight!

  7. Dave Light says: Reply

    Loved this piece–sincere thanks.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thanks so much, Dave. for the support and for reading–this piece had been rattling around in various forms on my desk for almost a year–so getting it out to the world feels extra good–

  8. Ron Lewberg says: Reply

    You said it all so well. Thank-you Heather.