The World's First Love by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Part 36.

This is the greatest crisis this earth ever staged, and women did not fail. May not this be the key to the crisis of our hour? Men have been ruling the world, and the world is still collapsing. Those very qualities in which man, apparently, shone are the ones that today seem to be evaporating. The first of his peculiar powers, reason, is gradually being abdicated, as philosophy rejects first principles, as law ignores the Eternal Reason behind all ordinances and legislation, and as psychology substitutes for reason the dark, cavernous instincts of the subterranean libido. The second of his powers, governing, is gradually vanishing, as democracy becomes arithmocracy, as numbers and polls decide what is right and wrong, and as people degenerate into masses who are no longer self-determined personalities, but groups moved by alien and extrinsic forces of propaganda. The third of his powers, dedication to the temporal and the material, has become so perverted that the material, in the shape of an atom, is used to annihilate the human, and even to bring the world to a point where time itself may cease in the dissolution of the world as "an unsubstantial pageant faded." His fourth attribute, that of being the giver, has in its forgetfulness of God made him the taker; assuming that this world is all, he feels he ought to get all he can out of it, before he dies like an animal.

This does not mean that woman has kept her qualities of soul untarnished; she would be the first to admit that she, too, has failed to live up to her ideals. When the bow is broken, the violin cannot give forth its chords. Woman has been insisting on "equality" with man, not in the spiritual sense, but only as the right to be a competitor with him in the economic field. Admitting, then, only one difference, namely, the procreation of species, which is often stifled for economic reasons, she no longer receives either minor or major respect from her "equal" man. He no longer gives her a seat in the crowded train; since she is his equal in doing a man's work, there is no reason why she should not be an Amazon and fight with man in war and be bombed with man in Nagasaki. Totalitarian war, which makes no distinction of combatant and civilian, of soldier and mother, is a direct consequence of a philosophy in which woman abdicated her peculiar superiority and even the right to protest against the demoralization. This is not to condemn women's place in economic life, but only to condemn the failure to live up to those creative and inspiring functions which are specifically feminine.

In this time of trouble, there must be a hearkening back to a woman. In the Crisis of the Fall of man, it was to a Woman and her seed that God promised relief from the catastrophe; in the crisis of a world when many, blessed with Revelation, forgot it and the Gentiles abandoned Reason, it was to a Woman that an angel was sent, to offer the fulfillment of the promise that the seed would be Word made flesh, Our Divine Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is a historical fact that, whenever the world has been in danger of collapse, there has been re-emphasis of devotion to the Woman, who is not Salvation but who renders it by bringing her children back again to Christ.

More important still, the modern world needs, above all things else, the restoration of the image of man. Modern politics, from Monopolistic Capitalism through Socialism to Communism, is the destruction of the image of man. Capitalism made man a "hand" whose business it was to produce wealth for the employer; Communism made man a "tool" without a soul, without freedom, without rights, whose task it was to make money for the State. Communism, from an economic point of view, is rotted Capitalism. Freudianism reduced the Divine image of man to a sex organ, which explained his mental processes, his taboos, his religion, his God, and his Super-Ego. Modern education denied, first, that he had a soul, then that he had a mind, finally that he had a consciousness.

The major problem of the world is the restoration of the image of man. Every time a child is born into the world, there is a restoration of the human image, but only from the physical point of view. The surcease from the tragedy can come only from the restoration of the spiritual image of man, as a creature made to the image and likeness of God and destined one day, through the human will in cooperation with God's grace, to become a child of God and an heir of the Kingdom of Heaven. The image of man that was first ruined in the revolt against God in Eden was restored when the Woman brought forth a Man a perfect man without sin, but a man personally united with God. He is the pattern of the new race of men, who would be called Christians. If the image of man was restored through a Woman, in the beginning, then shall not the Woman again be summoned by the Mercy of God, to recall us once again to that original pattern?

This would seem to be the reason for the frequent revelations of the Blessed Mother in modern times at Salette, Lourdes, and Fatima. The very emergence of woman into the political, economic, and social life of the world suggests that the world needs a continuity which she alone can supply; for while man is more closely related to things, she is the protector and defender of life. She cannot look at a limping dog, a flower overhanging a vase, without her heart and mind and soul going out to it, as if to bear witness that she has been appointed by God as the very guardian and custodian of life. Although contemporary literature associates her with frivolity and allurement, her instincts find repose only in the preservation of vitality. Her very body commits her to the drama of existence and links her in some way with the rhythm of the cosmos. In her arms, life takes its first breath, and in her arms, life wants to die. The word most often used by soldiers dying on the battlefields is "Mother." The woman with her children is "at home" and man is "at home" with her.

Woman restores the physical image, but it is the spiritual image that must be restored, both for man and woman. This can be done by the Eternal Feminine: the Woman who is blessed above all women. Through the centuries woman has been saying: "My Hour is not yet come," but now, "The Hour is come." Mankind will find its way back again to God through the Woman who will gather up and restore the broken fragments of the image. This she will do in three ways.

By restoring constancy in love. Love today is fickle, although it was meant to be permanent. Love has only two words in its vocabulary: "You" and "Always." "You," because love is unique. "Always," because love is enduring. Love never says, "I will love you for two years and six days." Divorce is inconstancy, infidelity, temporality, the very fragmentation of the heart. But how shall constancy return except through woman? A woman's love is less egotistic, less ephemeral than a man's. Man has to struggle to be monogamous; a woman takes this for granted. Because every woman promises only what God can give, man is prone to seek the Infinite in a multiplication of the finite. The woman, on the contrary, is more devoted and faithful to the one she loves on human terms. But modern woman too often fails to give an example of this constancy; she either lets her love degenerate into a jealous possessiveness, or she learns infidelity from law courts and psychiatrists. There is need of The Woman, whose love was so constant that the Fiat to physical union with love in the Annunciation became celestial union with it in the Assumption. The Woman, who leads all souls to Christ, and who attracts only to "betray" them to her Divine Son, will teach lovers that "What God hath joined together let no man put asunder."

By restoring respect for personality. Man generally speaks of things: woman generally speaks of persons. Since man is made to control nature and to rule over it, his principal concern is with some thing. Woman is closer to life, and its prolongation; her life centers more on personality. Even when falling from feminine heights, her gossip is about people. Since the whole present political and economic world is gauged to the destruction of personality, God in His Mercy is trumpeting once more to The Woman to "make a man," to remake personality. The twentieth-century resurgence of devotion to Mary is God's way of pulling the world away from the primacy of the economic to the primacy of the human, from the things to life and machines to men. The praise of the woman in the crowd who heard Our Lord preaching and exclaimed: "Blessed is the womb that bore Thee and the breasts that nursed Thee" (Luke 11:27), was typically feminine. And the answer of Our Lord was equally significant: "Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it." (Luke 11:28) This, then, is what devotion to Mary does in this troubled hour: it restores personality by inspiring it to keep the Word of God.

By infusing the virtue of Purity into souls. A man teaches a woman pleasure; a woman teaches a man continence. Man is the raging torrent of the cascading river; woman is the bank which keeps it within limits. Pleasure is the bait God uses to induce creatures to fulfill their heavenly infused instincts - pleasure in eating, for the sake of the preservation of the individual - pleasure in mating, for the sake of the preservation of the species. But God puts a limit to each to prevent the riotous overflow. One is satiety, which comes from nature itself and limits the pleasure of eating; the other is the woman who rarely confuses the pleasure of mating with the sanctity of marriage. During the weakness of human nature, the liberty of man can degenerate into license, infidelity, and promiscuity as the love of woman can decay into tyranny, possessiveness, and insane jealousy.

Since the abandonment of the Christian concept of marriage, both man and woman have forgotten their mission. Purity has become identified with repression, instead of being seen as it really is - the reverence for preserving a mystery of creativeness until God sanctions the use of that power. While man is outgoing in his pleasure, womanly purity keeps hers inward, channeled or even self-possessed, as if a great secret had to be hugged to the heart. There is no conflict between purity and carnal pleasure in blessed unions, for desire, pleasure, and purity each has its place.

Since woman today has failed to restrain man, we must look to the Woman to restore purity. The Church proclaims two dogmas of purity for the Woman: one, the purity of soul in the Immaculate Conception, the other, the purity of body in the Assumption. Purity is not glorified as ignorance; for when the Virgin Birth was announced to Mary, she said, "I know not man." This meant not only that she was untaught by pleasures; it also implied that she had so brought her soul to focus on inwardness that she was a Virgin, not only through the absence of man, but through the Presence of God. No greater inspiration to purity has the world ever known than The Woman, whose own life was so pure that God chose her as His Mother. But she also understands human frailty and so is prepared to lift souls out of the mire into peace, as at the Cross she chose as her companion the converted sinner Magdalene. Through all the centuries, to those who marry to be loved, Mary teaches that they should marry to love. To the unwed, she bids them all keep the secret of purity until an Annunciation, when God will send them a partner; to those who, in carnal love, allow the body to swallow the soul, she bids that the soul envelop the body. To the twentieth century, with its Freud and sex, she bids man to be made again to the God-like image through herself as The Woman while she, in turn, with "traitorous trueness and loyal deceits" betrays us to Christ Who in His turn delivers us to the Father, that God may be all in all.