Very well, then: What are men and women for? In one respect they are for the same thing: being rational, they are for the knowledge of the truth, especially the truth about God. But there is a difference. A man is a rational being of that sex whose members are potentially fathers, and a woman is a rational being of that sex whose members are potentially mothers.
The idea of potentiality needs explanation, because potentiality is not the same thing as physical possibility. Consider a man who is infertile because of some disease. Although it is not physically possible for him to be a father, we should not say that he lacks the potentiality for fatherhood; as a man, he has the potentiality, but the disease has blocked its realization. It is just because he is a man, just because he isendowed with the potentiality for fatherhood, that the block to its physical realization is such an occasion for sorrow.
Another reason why the expression “potentiality for fatherhood” requires explanation is that although siring children is the most characteristic expression of fatherhood, it is far from its only expression. A man might sire a child yet fail in the greater perspective of fatherhood, because he fails to protect the mother, or because he fails to protect the child, or because he fails to give the child that father’s love which only he can give because it is different from a mother’s love.
We can carry this line of reasoning still further. A potentiality is something like a calling. It wants, so to speak, to develop; it demands, so to speak, a response. It is like an arrow, notched in the string and aimed at the target, even if it never takes flight. It intimates an inbuilt meaning and expresses an inbuilt purpose, which cannot help but influence the mind and will of every person imbued with them. Alice von Hildebrand has remarked that although not every woman is called to marry and bear physical children, “every woman, whether married or unmarried, is called upon to be a biological, psychological or spiritual mother.” I am saying that, for men, the reality is parallel. Not every man is called to marry and sire physical children, but every man, whether married or unmarried, is called upon to be a biological, psychological, or spiritual father.
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