Called to discuss the particular needs of the family at this time, a special session of the Synod of Bishops is about to begin, and George Weigel has some good words:
The Synod discussion, in other words, should take the crisis of marriage and the family as a given and then lift up Christian marriages, lived faithfully and fruitfully, as the answer to that crisis. The Synod should begin with what is good and true and beautiful about Christian marriage and Christian family life, and show, by living examples, how that truth, goodness and beauty respond to the deepest longings of the human heart for solidarity, fidelity and fruitful love.
It’s quite obvious that the Church faces real pastoral challenges in dealing with broken marriages and their results. But to begin the discussion of marriage and the family in the 21st century there is to begin at the wrong end of things. For it is only within the truth-about-marriage, which was given to the Church by the Lord himself, that compassionate and truthful solutions to those pastoral problems can be found.
That said, besides living our marriages well -- despite the trials and difficulties, supporting those who are married, and reminding others of how grace transforms couples and makes it all possible, how can women specifically help? By understanding authentic femininity and where the woman's particular gifts lie. John Paul II didn't stop with the family, but wrote on that topic in Mulieris Dignitatem ("On the Dignity and Vocation of Women").
Interestingly, a quote at the end of the novel, Middlemarch (by George Eliot), highlights the beauty of a woman's life well lived, as it relates to the quiet heroine in that book:
And Dorothea..she had no dreams of being praised above other women. Feeling that there was always something better which she might have done if she had only been better and known better, her full nature spent itself in deeds which left no great name on the earth, but the effect of her being on those around her was incalculable. For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts and on all those Dorotheas who live faithfully their hidden lives and rest in unvisited tombs.
As ever, the importance of our vocation rests, not on doing, but being (although that "being" does spill out into the gift of self!) In that stellar novel, Dorothea was a steadfast example of being good. That said, in order to "be good," we need to know who we are before God, and what specifically he entrusted to the care of women. In the words of John Paul II:
The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. Of course, God entrusts every human being to each and every other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way - precisely by reason of their femininity - and this in a particular way determines their vocation (MD. 30)
When we live our little piece well, we have helped those around us to see the truth, removing possible obstacles that hinder people from turning to the Source of authentic love.