Vatican City -- "Ever ancient, ever new": It's hard not to think of St. Augustine's paean to the lord when you're walking past a synod of bishops, on the way up to meet the pope in Rome, as I was one recent morning.
I was in Rome to receive, as a representative of the United States and "women of the world," a message first delivered by Pope Paul VI at the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965.
"Women, you do know how to make truth sweet, tender and accessible; make it your task to bring the spirit of this council into institutions, schools, homes and daily life," the message concludes, after a celebration of women in all states of life. "Women of the entire universe, whether Christian or non-believing, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world."
No small task! But can anyone deny our culture is in dire need of just such a thing? Women and men need to work together without the hostility all too often inherent in our conversations about life, liberty and happiness.
It's a notion we've gotten so far away from that we've reached the point where the federal government has by regulatory diktat declared fertility to be a disease, a source of oppression for women, one that must be suppressed if women's freedom is to be achieved. That's exactly why we find ourselves confronted by the Department of Health and Human Services' abortion, sterilization and contraception mandate that has Americans -- Protestants and Catholics together -- suing for their religious liberties.
It's a situation that the women of Verily, a new Catholic magazine, are helping to make better. A few fashionable young women came up with the concept for the magazine over brunch in New York. Verily intends to bring a positive, integrated message about being authentically feminine in the 21st century.
"It's no secret that the old rules and roles between men and women in relationships have largely gone by the wayside in today's culture," the gals tell me in a collaborative statement, via email. "There can be advantages to this, and yet, without any social 'scripts' or guideposts, many young adults -- men and women alike --tend to find themselves without a clear sense of how to navigate relationships.