As I write this, the Women’s March just took place in Washington, D.C. and around the country. My sister, mother and I inadvertently found ourselves in the midst of the one in Boston, on a visit to the city. While I’m ALL about standing up for the dignity of women, I couldn’t help but be saddened at what we saw. Many women were holding graphic posters, proudly calling themselves by the exact crude names that they were protesting against. Instead of rallying behind the goodness of our common bond as women, they seemed to draw their strength from such a false and divisive version of feminism. As a Catholic woman, I felt I had to hide my identity amongst the wolves, as Esther did. I felt defeated, worried of what speaking out might bring upon me.
Esther felt this same way when Mordecai begged her to intercede for her people. She knew that by saying yes there was a good chance she would face death. Mordecai wisely encourages her, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews… Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:13-14) Perhaps we, too, have been born for just such a time as this. We are called to band together as women and witness to true beauty and goodness, to point to the Light, when it feels like the entire world is against us. But what does true feminism look like?
“Then Queen Esther, seized with deadly anxiety, fled to the Lord.” (Esther 14:1) Esther went straight to prayer. Not just fluffy, half-hearted prayer, but deep gut-wrenching prayer. The Prayer of Esther is so beautiful, I encourage you to go back and read it slowly. Esther first humbled herself in prayer, by physically taking off her royal gowns and then by reaffirming her complete dependence on God. She then offered praise and thanksgiving to God, by recalling His wondrous deeds to the Jewish people. It’s only after this humbling of herself and praise of God that she prays intercessory prayers, even still with God’s glory in mind. And she ends in trust, that God will keep His promises, and asks for strength to carry out His will. This is the perfect formula for intercessory prayer, one we can follow in our own lives.
Then the torrents of grace came, which started from a spring of fear.
A woman who prays like this is a mighty sight to behold, especially when she is fighting for the truth, for the good, or to protect the vulnerable. There have been many of them throughout Scripture, whose voices of prayer rise and flow together like a tidal wave of grace, culminating with Mary our Queen Mother.
Queen Esther is a prototype of Mary, a foreshadowing of what is to come. Just as Esther interceded on behalf of her people, Mary was at the foot of the Cross and is now at the foot of God’s throne in Heaven interceding on our behalf. She only wore royal garments after she had worn the sackcloth and ashes of Calvary. Her prayers save God’s people not just from death of the body, but also death of the soul. We need the confidence to ask for her powerful intercession, as Mordecai knew to ask Esther.
And in turn, how can we, as women, intercede on the behalf of others? Do others know to turn to us as strong prayer warriors? We may feel weak, anxious, or laden down with discouragement. But not even Esther went in to face the king alone - “after invoking the aid of the all-seeing God and Savior, she took two maids with her; on one she leaned gently for support, while the other followed, carrying her train.” (Esther 15:2-4) Do we ask our fellow sisters to bear us up, to help us in our intercession, when we may be too weak ourselves to plead before the King? When this happens, our prayers aren’t always answered in the way we want them to, but the miracle is that our souls are made steady and comforted by the fact that our sisters are holding us.
This is the true strength of a woman, the power of our hearts, the ability to bring about change and withstand the hardest of trials. It’s found when we connect ourselves to God, when we use the feminine genius that He has created us with to fight for the good. It’s working with men in this mission, wanting to be equal but still unique co-partners. When this dynamic works the right way, it can save nations. So sisters, let us pray, let us hold each other up in true dignity. We have been born for such a time as this.
Reflect: What qualities do you think are found in true feminism? Can you see any of them in Esther throughout this chapter? Have you ever felt the strength of a group of women who pray together?
Act: Who in your life could you intercede for today? It could be someone in your family, a stranger, or even a country. If you’re married, try interceding for your spouse. Use the formula of Queen Esther - humble yourself before God, thank and praise Him for His goodness, pray intercessory prayers, and end in trust. Ask Mary, Queen of Heaven, to aid in your intercession.