Vigilance is a characteristic note of the lioness’ protective and maternal instinct, which makes her as fierce in defence as in attack. However, in everything she shows herself subject to the king of the jungle, putting her abilities at the service of the pride.
In the savannahs of faraway Africa, there is a lord more powerful than the lion: silence. In the midst of the struggles for animal survival, it reigns not as a tyrant, but gently, providing the ideal environment for the most intrepid undertakings.
In this mysterious and perilous setting, many incorrectly ascribe the sovereignty that the lion species enjoys over others solely to the king of the jungle, who, with his mane and robust physique, imposes reverential awe on all who approach him. Few, however, recognize the value of a discreet and silent heroine…
And yet the lionesses shoulder the greatest responsibilities in the pride. To them falls the task of deciding on the admission of new lions to the group, carefully guarding the “tradition” of the lineage and preventing the infiltration of undesirable elements. Endowed with a strong family instinct, the care of the offspring is their concern, and in the discharge of this duty, the lionesses of the same group rely on strong mutual support, in order not to lose the control they exert. They also have a sense of property, and will not allow intrusions into their territory.
Finally, it is up to them to obtain the daily food. Vigilance is one of the characteristic notes of their protective and maternal instinct, which makes them as fierce in defence as in attack.
Before going out to hunt, they leave their cubs in the care of younger lionesses not yet fit for the rigours of the chase. While some act as sentinels, on the lookout for danger and ready to lend whatever service is necessary, two close in on the prey to attack it at the right moment. Everything is measured and calculated, with a perfection proper to their almost inerrant animal instinct, less impaired by the effects of original sin than human instincts. With assurance and precision, they spring on their prey and kill it, without flinching. Then, their objective successfully and dutifully accomplished, they drag the carcass back to their territory.
Nevertheless, in everything the lioness show herself to be a true servant, putting her abilities at the service of the king of the jungle, without vying for first place. Having worked hard on the hunt, it would seem that she has every right over the prey, and might begin straightaway to feed at will. However, the lioness does not impose herself. Aware of her role, she hunts disinterestedly and eats nothing of her “conquest” until the lion has satisfied his appetite and withdrawn.
St. Bonaventure says that nature is like a book through which we can reach God because, having been created by Him, it necessarily reflects Him and His own. Thus, we can compare the lioness to the “virtuous woman” (Sir 26:2), that is, the authentically Catholic lady so highly praised in Scripture.
Everyone is aware that “from a woman sin had its beginning, and because of her we all die” (Sir 25:24), since Eve ate the forbidden fruit in earthly Paradise. However, it was through a Woman – Mary Most Holy – that Our Lord Jesus Christ became incarnate to bring salvation to men. Destined to crush the head of the Serpent eternally (cf. Gn 3:15), Our Lady became the model for all those who wish to follow the path of virtue, particularly when invoked as Acies Ordinata: “terrible as an army set in array” (Cant. 6:9).
Those who think that only men must fight are mistaken, for in order to overcome the obstacles that we all encounter in this vale of tears, it is indispensable that men and women strive together and with courageous souls. History testifies to the heroism of women who stood up against the evil of their times, sometimes prefiguring the Blessed Virgin and at other times imitating Her. In the Old Testament, the Jewish people were liberated more than once from their enemies by the hands of a woman, such as Judith, Deborah and Jael; in more recent times we find many examples of women who were true warriors because they were Catholic, and vice versa, such as St. Joan of Arc or St. Teresa of Jesus.
From the beginning, God created woman to be the “helper fit for” (cf. Gn 2:20) man. And St. Paul revealed the sublime meaning hidden in this role: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the Head of the Church, His Body, and is Himself its Saviour” (Eph 5:22-23).
The virtuous woman, whose value surpasses that of pearls, not only “works with willing hands” (Prv 31:13) and “opens her hand to the poor” (Prv 31:20), but also “girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong” (Prv 31:17), as the Book of Proverbs exalts. Thus, when it is a question of defending the principles of the Faith, it is fitting for a Catholic woman to show strength, determination and steadfastness, like the lioness, who does not hesitate when she should strike! ◊
In featured photo: A lion pair, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (Africa)