Another Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious retreat was experienced in the Garden Room of St John the Baptist, Folsom. I am grateful to the WINGS leadership for bringing me out there to pray and share with the women in attendance — including my pal, author Lisa Hendey, who decided to be my ride and wing-woman for the event!
A special shout out to Tricia and Bonnie — Among Women listeners (pictured at the top of the page) who traveled to the event!
Over 1100 women have experienced this retreat. You can too! Invite me to your parish, diocese, or retreat house.
In 2015, I’ll be in Southington CT, Billings MT, and Elkhart IN. Stay in touch with future bookings at my speaking page.
Following my recent talk at the Diocese of Fresno Congress, I traveled up north for a book signing and a talk in Madera, CA. St Joachim’s Church is blessed to have an amazing Catholic book and religious supply store right on its campus, St Marello Bookstore.
I was privileged to visit and offer a talk for women there, as well as offering some encouraging remarks at the end of the English speaking Masses there. The talk also dovetailed nicely with the parish’s kick off of Endow — where I got to share the podium with Emily Espinosa – the new Program Director for Endow.
My good friend and favorite California girl, author Lisa Hendey, dropped by the event and wielding her trusty smartphone, shot a few more photos.
Ok, I just love this…
Once upon a time, I had my own “mirror” moment… a moment when the truth of love shot straight to the heart… only it wasn’t with a mirror — it was with a well-traveled, well-prayed rosary.
I talk about it in my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious…
Sensitivity is a profound orientation in women that makes them quick to sense, or detect, people needing love, care, or nurture. A woman’s sensitivity picks up the cues or signals others give, and it makes her receptive nature ready to respond. It is easy to see the connection with a woman’s receptivity. Sensitivity is also deeply attuned to a woman’s maternal sensibilities (as we find out in the next chapter).
Sensitivity is both emotional and spiritual; it leads a woman to be present and ready to love and serve someone in terms of direct care and intentional prayer. A woman’s sensitivity makes connections between people and thoughtfully assists those in need.
Many times I have been on the magnificent receiving end of another woman’s sensitivity, most especially when it flows from women who are my family and friends. I have also experienced it through the different women’s ministries in my local parish.
Some of my fondest memories from my stay-at-home mothering years in New York come from my belonging to a parish prayer group for mothers. It was a weekly group, dubbed “Mothers’ Morning of Prayer,” for mothers and children to visit together to pray the Rosary aloud for one another’s intentions and needs. It was a strong source of spiritual support and friendship for me for many years.
In time, my husband’s work necessitated a move to Massachusetts. We were not looking to move away from our longtime home, so it was a hard decision. Before we left, the mother’s group gave us a lovely sendoff, complete with a Mass, a dinner, a keepsake photo album, and parting gifts for our new home. Most important, however, was their promise of their continued prayers. Not only that, the women challenged me to start a new Rosary group in my new town if one did not exist. In time, those prayers were answered. After finding some receptive women, Mothers’ Morning of Prayer was born in my new parish.
Two years later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Talk about tears! The physical lump in my breast was nothing compared to the silent lump that formed each day in my throat. It was often hard to talk aloud about this situation, since my young children were always around me. Yet I let the tears and fears wash my face when I was alone or with Bob, so as to minimize the impact on my children. When I was in public, at school with the children, or at church, the women who knew my circumstances helped me keep it together.
I found endearing comfort—and the rhythm of normalcy—praying the Rosary each week in the company of those women from my parish. One day, without my knowledge, someone passed around a set of Rosary beads to all the women in the group. Each woman prayed for me on those beads. Then, again, unbeknownst to me, they sent the same Rosary beads to my former prayer group in New York, where the women there did the same thing.
Shortly before my surgery for a mastectomy and reconstruction, I walked out to the mailbox to retrieve the daily mail. A box arrived addressed to me with the recognizable handwriting of a dear friend from New York. I did not even make it back into the house. Right there I had to open it. Out came the well-traveled, well-prayed Rosary, plus dozens of cards and letters from all the New Yorkers who lifted prayers to heaven for me.
I cannot tell you the blessings I experienced in those minutes. For a few moments, time stood still, worry and stress dissipated. Joy at being spiritually and emotionally cared for, mingled with invisible long-distant hugs from friends and old neighbors, flooded my heart and leaked profusely from my eyes. I just sat in the grass in the front yard, as tears poured out of me, and grace poured over me.
These women and their families had been reaching out to heaven on my behalf for weeks and weeks. Then they found a tangible way to share those prayers with me, through the gift of that Rosary and their written messages of hope. My kitchen soon became wallpapered in well-wishes and cards.
That was just the beginning; their spiritual concern would turn into full-fledged physical compassion and beautiful service in the days to come.
A six-week recovery followed my surgery, when I needed rest, medication, and help orchestrating the family’s schedule. I had a limited range of motion and was banned from driving—a tough situation for a busy suburban mom with children who were three, six, and nine. It was not a worry for these faith-filled women from the local Rosary group. Together with my sisters and parents, they made sure meals and carpools and laundry and housework were covered. If there was a need, someone was there to fill it, almost immediately.
What a boon—a godsend—to my husband, my children, and me. Just as Mary and others walked with Jesus on the way to Calvary, my support group was with me all the way. I was not alone in carrying my cross.
Four years later, deep into my cancer survivorship, another beautiful moment came from the hearts of these same sensitive women. For my fortieth birthday, the same two groups of women threw a surprise party at a geographically central location in Connecticut. There, the two groups from Massachusetts and New York were united for one special afternoon.
I cannot thank these beautiful women enough. Through them I healed in ways that could only come from God—thanks to their hearts being sensitive to his Spirit. Not only was I touched on the occasion of my birthday—each one a milestone for a cancer survivor—but their concern for my inner life brought an additional blessing. Missing my family and friends in New York was always a small emotional cross in relocating to Massachusetts. Through the new Rosary group, I put down roots in a new town, and survived a major health crisis with phenomenal support. On that birthday, looking across the room at the faces of those women was overwhelming. Through their prayer and care, the two sides of my heart, my old life and my new life, came together.
Here’s a vision of hope for every woman stung by bad decisions and the pain of sin. It is the life of St. Mary Magdalene. First, imagine Mary Magdalene, one of the notorious sinners mentioned in the New Testament, from whom seven devils were cast out. When she met the God of love, she turned from her sins, converted, and lived to love and serve Jesus.
Now, here’s a second picture to envision: At the foot of Jesus’s Cross, the Gospel records that Mary Magdalene stood next to the Blessed Virgin Mary—the woman the Church declares and Mother of God, and John Paul II called “the mirror and measure of femininity” (See Angelus Message, 3, June 25, 1995.)
In the New Testament [Mary Magdalene] is mentioned among the women who accompanied Christ and ministered to Him (Lk 8:2–3), where it is also said that seven devils had been cast out of her (Mk 16:9). She is next named as standing at the foot of the cross (Mk 15:40; Mt 27:56; Jn 19:25; Lk 23:49). She saw Christ laid in the tomb, and she was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection. (Jn 20:11–18)
(Pope, “St. Mary Magdalen ”, New Advent.)
If Mary Magdalene, with her checkered past, can stand with the Blessed Virgin Mary – the epitome of grace and womanhood – then we all have a chance to do the same. The Blessed Mother is truly the friend and refuge of sinners…
Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious wins a 2014 Catholic Press Association Award, as do others from Ave Maria Press!
What a honor! Thanks to the Catholic Press Association! Let me also extend my deep gratitude to publisher Tom Grady and the great editorial, marketing, and creative teams at Ave Maria Press for their support of my book and those titles and authors listed below.
Ave Maria Press made this announcement via this press release:
We are very pleased to announce that multiple Ave Maria Press books were selected as Catholic Press Association award winners this weekend. Congratulations to all these wonderful authors!
Check out all the results at the Catholic Press Association website.
Pastoral Ministry Category (First Place)
Spirituality (Soft Cover) (First Place)
Best Trade/Seasonal Catalog Category (Second Place)
Ave Maria Press Fall 2013 Trade Catalog by John Carson, Chris Tobin, and Heather Glenn
Professional Book Category (Third Place)
Gender Issues Category (Third Place)
Design and Production Category (Honorable Mention)
My book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious would never have been written if I had not first been inspired by the goodness of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate, and in particular, his preaching on the feminine genius and the dignity and vocation of women.
In honor of John Paul’s canonization on April 27, I’m holding a drawing to give away three copies of Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood, with the three winners announced on May 1.
To enter this free drawing, leave a comment in the box below.
And, please, join me in offering a prayer of thanksgiving to St John Paul for all he has given to our church.
“On the Dignity and Vocation of Women”
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.
The moral force of women, which draws strength from this awareness and this entrusting, expresses itself in a great number of figures of the Old Testament, of the time of Christ, and of later ages right up to our own day.
A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting, strong because of the fact that God “entrusts the human being to her”, always and in every way, even in the situations of social discrimination in which she may find herself. This awareness and this fundamental vocation speak to women of the dignity which they receive from God himself, and this makes them “strong” and strengthens their vocation.
Thus the “perfect woman” (cf. Prov 31:10) becomes an irreplaceable support and source of spiritual strength for other people, who perceive the great energies of her spirit. These “perfect women” are owed much by their families, and sometimes by whole nations.
In our own time, the successes of science and technology make it possible to attain material well-being to a degree hitherto unknown. While this favours some, it pushes others to the edges of society. In this way, unilateral progress can also lead to a gradual loss of sensitivity for man, that is, for what is essentially human. In this sense, our time in particular awaits the manifestation of that “genius” which belongs to women, and which can ensure sensitivity for human beings in every circumstance: because they are human! – and because “the greatest of these is love” (cf. 1Cor 13:13).
Thus a careful reading of the biblical exemplar of the Woman – from the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation – confirms that which constitutes women’s dignity and vocation, as well as that which is unchangeable and ever relevant in them, because it has its “ultimate foundation in Christ, who is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever”. If the human being is entrusted by God to women in a particular way, does not this mean that Christ looks to them for the accomplishment of the “royal priesthood” (1 Pt 2:9), which is the treasure he has given to every individual? Christ, as the supreme and only priest of the New and Eternal Covenant, and as the Bridegroom of the Church, does not cease to submit this same inheritance to the Father through the Spirit, so that God may be “everything to everyone” (1 Cor 15:28).62
Then the truth that “the greatest of these is love” (cf. 1 Cor 13:13) will have its definitive fulfillment.
“If you knew the gift of God” (Jn 4:10), Jesus says to the Samaritan woman during one of those remarkable conversations which show his great esteem for the dignity of women and for the vocation which enables them to share in his messianic mission.
The present reflections, now at an end, have sought to recognize, within the “gift of God”, what he, as Creator and Redeemer, entrusts to women, to every woman. In the Spirit of Christ, in fact, women can discover the entire meaning of their femininity and thus be disposed to making a “sincere gift of self” to others, thereby finding themselves.
During the Marian Year the Church desires to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the “mystery of woman” and for every woman – for that which constitutes the eternal measure of her feminine dignity, for the “great works of God”, which throughout human history have been accomplished in and through her. After all, was it not in and through her that the greatest event in human history – the incarnation of God himself – was accomplished?
Therefore the Church gives thanks for each and every woman: for mothers, for sisters, for wives; for women consecrated to God in virginity; for women dedicated to the many human beings who await the gratuitous love of another person; for women who watch over the human persons in the family, which is the fundamental sign of the human community; for women who work professionally, and who at times are burdened by a great social responsibility; for “perfect”women and for “weak” women – for all women as they have come forth from the heart of God in all the beauty and richness of their femininity; as they have been embraced by his eternal love; as, together with men, they are pilgrims on this earth, which is the temporal “homeland” of all people and is transformed sometimes into a “valley of tears”; as they assume, together with men, a common responsibility for the destiny of humanity according to daily necessities and according to that definitive destiny which the human family has in God himself, in the bosom of the ineffable Trinity.
The Church gives thanks for all the manifestations of the feminine “genius” which have appeared in the course of history, in the midst of all peoples and nations; she gives thanks for all the charisms which the Holy Spirit distributes to women in the history of the People of God, for all the victories which she owes to their faith, hope and charity: she gives thanks for all the fruits of feminine holiness.
The Church asks at the same time that these invaluable “manifestations of the Spirit” (cf. 1 Cor12:4ff.), which with great generosity are poured forth upon the “daughters” of the eternal Jerusalem, may be attentively recognized and appreciated so that they may return for the common good of the Church and of humanity, especially in our times. Meditating on the biblical mystery of the “woman”, the Church prays that in this mystery all women may discover themselves and their “supreme vocation”.
-John Paul II-
Mulieris Dignitatem, par 30-31, August 18, 1988.
UPDATE: May 5, 2014:
Comments are now closed. The three winners have been notified by email. Thanks to all who participated.
“This is my body, which is given for you”: reflecting on the Eucharistic parallel in motherhood – a book excerpt
“This is my body, which is given for you” (Lk 22:19).
These words of Jesus captured the heart of his mission. His life on earth would be given in sacrifice on the Cross for the sake of our redemption from the sins that separated us from God. For Catholics, these precious words also capture the institution of the Eucharist, the great sacrifice and sacrament considered to be the source and summit of their faith.
In these holy words, uttered in prayer by a priest at Mass, we cannot escape the “bodiliness” of God––the truly superlative way that Jesus continues to be present in the world today––that his flesh and blood would be miraculously concealed under the auspices of consecrated bread and wine that we consume in the Eucharist.
“This is my body, which is given for you.”
These words reveal the significant value and sacredness of our own bodies. And if you’ll forgive the informality—the bod—which God created for us is bodacious! Everything God does, he does for a reason. Our bodies have as much meaning in the eyes of God as our souls, to which they are remarkably joined.
Dictionaries list meanings for the word bodacious as “most excellent” or “remarkable,” or “audacious in a way that is considered admirable.” Some consider the word bodacious a portmanteau, a word that is a linguistic blend of two meanings, such as “bold” and “audacious.” How bold that our God would come to earth as a human person in a body, and how audacious that our bodies might somehow image the divine God who made us, and one day be glorified in heaven.
Our Creator creates the body; our Baptism consecrates the body. Through Baptism, the body is baptized and anointed, as the soul is marked with the sign of faith. A woman’s body is part of the Body of Christ. So, too, is a man’s body. We are grafted in our entirety into the Body of Christ.
Just as the body of Jesus exemplified his mission as the Christ, so, too, the mission of the Christian is lived in and through the body. We do all things—we carry out our mission—in our bodies and through our bodies. Indeed, our bodies belong to the Body of Christ.
Catholic churches have depictions of the body of Christ on the Cross—the crucifix—a man’s broken body hanging on a cross. We are confronted with the bodiliness of God. In his suffering and broken body, we can see our own wounds of body and soul. Through our sin and ignorance, we defile the body, revile the body, ignore the body, and denigrate the body. Yet in the crucifix, we also are confronted with the godliness of grace. Through Christ’s sacrifice, the deepest graces are found in the Body of Christ––graces to restore and heal the brokenness we find in ourselves.
“This is my body, which is given for you.”
The body of a woman signifies her mission; she is designed to mother.
Our female bodies point to the bodacious life-giving mission of women. The mission of the eye is to see. The mission of the tongue is to speak. The mission of the skin is to feel and protect. The mission of the uterus is to house new life. The mission of the breast is to nourish.
“This is my body, which is given for you.”
With all due reverence, these could be the same words that a mother might say to a child growing in her womb. A pregnancy is a concrete way to lay one’s life and body down for another person. (Now imagine the reality of the mother of multiples carrying more than one baby!) Recall the generosity and beauty of mutual self-giving, self-donating love between spouses. In pregnancy, a woman builds on this self-donating love. She makes a minute-by-minute gift of self to her unborn child.
I’ve mentioned my own pregnancy struggles. My third trimesters for my three pregnancies were as unpredictable as my first trimesters and filled with medical testing. I was poked and prodded and checked for blood-pressure issues, gestational diabetes, large-gestational-age issues, and more. These, plus the returning nausea and heartburn that I began each pregnancy with, brought bouts of worry and uncertainty for me.
Yet the Christian is called to rely on God: “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pt 5:7). Despite my temperament’s bent toward worry, I did something each Sunday that brought me great peace: I attended Mass and received the Lord in the Eucharist.
I lived to hear those words: “This is my body, which is given for you.” And I tried to join myself to the words as Christ joined himself to me through that sacrament.
As I received the nourishing host and the precious Blood at the altar, I imagined the Lord’s Body and Blood pumping through my veins, reaching through the umbilical cord where my unborn baby received nourishment. My heart was consoled that my baby “received” Christ in some miraculous way that was unknown to me from a scientific or biological standpoint, but in some kind of supernatural way, very much known to Jesus. As I was being touched by and nourished by Christ, so was my child. And with each Communion I made a deeper connection with the baby that was yet to be born.
Philosopher Alice von Hildebrand captures the immense privilege women have as they participate in the biological and spiritual processes of maternity. In The Privilege of Being a Woman, she explains:
The special role granted to women in procreation . . . is highlighted by the fact that as soon as she has conceived (and conception takes place hours after the marital embrace), God creates the soul of the new child in her body. This implies a direct “contact” between Him and the mother-to-be, a contact in which the father plays no role whatever. This contact gives the female body a note of sacredness, for any closeness between God and one of His creatures is stamped by His Holy Seal. This divine “touch” is . . . a special female privilege that every pregnant woman should gratefully acknowledge. (86.)
While pregnant, a woman has the unique privilege of carrying two souls in her body: hers and her child’s. My sense of this was magnified every time I received the Eucharist during pregnancy. Before I ever got to teach my children about Jesus or the faith, God had already visited my womb in creating the souls of my sons and daughter, and “touched” them in their creation and via the Eucharistic miracle. This armed me with confidence that I was never alone in caring for this tiny child in utero. It also indicated my growth as a spiritual mother, as praying for this child was a totally natural thing to do. Spiritual mothering was something I did not have the words for when I was young, though I was slowly intuiting the reality that physical and spiritual mothering was the way my body and soul were designed.
As a parent, my spiritual maternity was found in this longing in my heart that my children might know and receive the Lord and live in his will. With each successive pregnancy, this desire grew, and it motivated me to act in ways that would teach and lead my children to know Christ.
Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman’s womb. The mother is filled with wonder at this mystery of life, and “understands” with unique intuition what is happening inside her. In the light of the “beginning,” the mother accepts and loves as a person the child she is carrying in her womb. This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings—not only towards her own child, but every human being—which profoundly marks the woman’s personality. (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women, 18)
The preceding post was an excerpt from Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood.
Yesterday I was happy to share some studio time with two of my favorite media guys from the Archdiocese of Boston, Fr Chip Hines and Dom Bettinelli. The show opens with film critic, Fr Chip, giving some of his thoughts on the new movie “Son of God”. And then I was introduced.
We talked about the church’s positive message for women as presented in my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious on the radio show “The Good Catholic Life”, produced in the studio at the Pastoral Center in Braintree.
It was a wide ranging discussion and I’m grateful for the questions that were asked.