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.
Thanks to the blessed, beautiful, and bodacious, Johnnette Benkovic, the host of Women of Grace on EWTN, for a great week together of shows talking about the feminine genius and all it means for us as Catholic women…. knowing our dignity, gifts, and mission! Much of the conversation over the five days covers ideas from my book, and what I’ve learned of the positive message that the Church teaches regarding women. Please share these with women you know!
Again, big time thanks to Johnnette who offered an EWTN debut to a new author, giving her a shot at reaching a new audience. I am truly grateful.
Here’s a recap of the archived shows in case you missed them. It’s a conversation that builds over the course of each day, so you may wish to view them in order.
For more reviews or interviews regarding the message of my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious, go to Ave Maria Press.
For more content from Johnnette Benkovic, including book resources, radio and television, go to Women of Grace.
If you are looking for a romantic kind of post here for Valentine’s Day, you might have to read something from my archives here, or here. This is one is a salute to another kind of Valentine that captures a woman’s heart.
I wept the first time I saw this. No, it wasn’t hormones. Something inside me just gave way to see what I’ve tried to put in print, and share in talks, revealed on this tiny screen*: the transformational power of loving and the inner beauty of the feminine gift of maternity.
Maternal love is genuinely expansive. At the very same time it is very, very personal.
I have spilled many words on this subject in Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious. It unpacks the beauty of womanhood found in her four amazing gifts… receptivity, generosity, sensitivity, and maternity. These gifts not only make women truly beautiful, but they are how women pour beauty into the world. All four gifts unfold in this little story told in seven minutes. The video even captures how maternity is being mocked and belittled in the world today — or thrown away.
So, in honor of Valentine’s Day, and in thanksgiving for the God of Love who designed women with innate, beautiful gifts, let me share this reminder of why this little video is so poignantly beautiful.
[In his 1988 document,] On the Dignity and Vocation of Women… John Paul II taught that women, by the beauty of their physiology and God-given design, are particularly well disposed to human persons, and this is our feminine genius.
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. . . .
A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting . . . 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. (Mulieris Dignitatem, par. 30)
[O]ur being blessed comes from the core of who we are… our dignity is rooted in how we are made. There’s no mistaking our biology. The beauty of our feminine design prepares us for motherhood. It flows from the sublime blessing of who we are in our creation. Our womanly bodies are wonderfully made and purposefully created with an empty space of a womb that we carry under our heart.
Our womb, or uterus, signals that we are made for something and someone more than ourselves. It is an organ that is made for welcoming and receiving the life of a child, and generously sheltering and nurturing the child, and finally, bringing the child to birth. Our breasts are meant to feed that child. Everything about a woman is made to give and support life.
The gift of maternity is being a beautiful life-bearer through motherhood. And even if a woman never gives birth, her life is still inclined and ordered toward mothering. Maternity is an inherent gift of femininity. That means all women have it. All women are entrusted with the call to care for the people within their sphere of influence. (From Chapter 7, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious)
I’m getting prepped and excited to travel to churches in Peoria IL, Duluth MN, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, to celebrate the dignity, gifts, and mission of women! I’ll explore the themes of my book with talks and discussions. Plus, we’ll hear from local women themselves sharing what it means to be blessed, beautiful, and bodacious… bodacious being most excellent and courageously undertaking the mission we woman have in the world. We’ll enjoy the company of other women, and the gift of faith as we take time to pray and reflect!
Mark your calendars and register! I hope I’ll be able to meet you at one of these venues.
March 7 & 8: Saint Jude Church, Peoria, IL
Details: Contact Kim.Thompson@stjudechurchpeoria.org
March 29: Queen of Peace Catholic Church, Duluth, MN
The second annual Authentic Catholic Women’s conference. Details here.
April 25-26: Saint Benedict Parish, Halifax, Nova Scotia, CA.
More details to follow…
“The Pro Life Movement has to be about saving mothers. We need to focus on the women to try to understand what they are suffering.”
-Cardinal Sean O’Malley-
Homily, Vigil for Life, Washington DC, January 21, 2014
It’s an easy equation: save the mother and you’ll save the child in the womb. You might even save a whole family.
I spent a lot of time writing and speaking about motherhood last year, and how the gift of maternity — be it physical or spiritual — is found at the core of what Catholics are coming to know in the last twenty-five years as the feminine genius. And I will do it again in the weeks and months to come.
A woman’s dignity is predicated on the dignity of the human person, and exalted in the gift of maternity. But the bottom line is that respect is the basis, the foundation, of love. All love is build on respect. It is a friendly disposition — this respect — a mutual understanding of another’s right to life and the freedom to flourish. And many times the way we need to do this is woman to woman…. or as I wrote in Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious, we need to be about spiritual mothering in action.
Spiritual motherhood allows us to lovingly serve others, not for what they can do for us, or because they love us back, or help make us feel good. It is doing for their sakes. It is doing it for the sake of God, as if God himself personally asked it of us. Spiritual motherhood involves a willingness to suffer, be inconvenienced, be hurt, or taken for granted—and serving anyway.
From a logical standpoint, it will never seem fair. But God’s economy operates with a different scale of values, where giving with no thought of getting makes us better. It makes us more like Jesus.
Then [Jesus] said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.” (Lk 9:23–24; cf. Mt 10:38–39; Mk 8:35; Jn 12:25)
Spiritual mothering responds to the lover we cannot see but who is found in the face of our neighbor. It loves for the sake of someone and something –the truth — we hide in our hearts. So it seems crazy, at times, by the world’s standards.
A spiritual mother is a yes… She makes room in her person, in her heart, in her life for other people because she welcomes them as God’s plan for her for the short term or the long term. She trusts God and opens herself to his plans and his people. He initiates it, and she receives it. She leaves the results, or what she may come to bear, to him. In doing so, she brings forth life more abundant than she could ask for or imagine.
This is about becoming a woman of holy influence, being a life-giver to others. It’s about finding creative ways to love the generation that’s coming up behind you (and maybe your own peer group), through your feminine gifts of receptivity, generosity, sensitivity, and maternity. One friend describes it as giving others a soft place to land. It also means leaving someone better off for having spent time in your company.
This is how we will save mothers… by mothering them and befriending them in a myriad of ways. This is what a new feminism looks like. We need to act with concern both personally and corporately in order to renew our culture. And we need to find new models of concrete support for all women, especially those facing pregnancy.
This is why I’m so encouraged by what I see as a new vision for pro-woman, pro-life efforts in the work of The Guiding Star Project. Last summer I interviewed founder Leah Jacobson on Among Women, and have been keeping her and her team of colleagues in my prayers.
Abby Johnson, Founder of And Then There Were None and former Planned Parenthood Director, and the Guiding Star Project, a pro-woman organization committed to giving women Life-Affirming health care, are set to announce that the Brazos Valley Guiding Star Affiliate will begin serving the women of the Brazos Valley [Texas] in early 2014. “I left Planned Parenthood because I realized that I wasn’t helping women there. I wasn’t empowering them. I became pro-life but I have never stopped being pro-woman. The Guiding Star Project, with their vision for community based Guiding Star centers, has finally given me the opportunity to do what I have wanted all along – to help and serve women, while respecting their dignity and the dignity of the unborn as well,” says Johnson, President of the newly formed Board of Directors for the Brazos Valley Guiding Star Center. “Everyone knows the Planned Parenthood here in Bryan/College Station has closed, but this doesn’t mean that our work here is finished,” she said, speaking to the strong prolife community there, “ this means our work is just beginning. Women in the Brazos Valley were concerned that without the Planned Parenthood they wouldn’t have access to women’s health care. We are here to meet their need – in a life affirming and truly ‘Pro-woman’ way.”
The mission of Guiding Star is not only going to save mothers, it’s going to affirm them by understanding what’s at the heart of a woman’s angst and concerns.
According to Leah Jacobson, Founder of the The Guiding Star Project,“The Guiding Star Project is about bringing together organizations in a community under a shared philosophy and vision to provide women with real alternatives – real health care, real support, in every stage of their child bearing years. Whether they find themselves facing an unexpected pregnancy and needing support or a home, or whether they struggle with infertility and need help, whether they need a lactation consultant or want to learn how to work with their body’s natural cycles to avoid a future pregnancy, Guiding Star is there to meet their needs in a way that affirms their feminine dignity and empowers them to live their femininity fearlessly.”
“Guiding Star Brazos Valley, which will be the first of its kind, is expected to open in 2014 and will go through three phases of development,” explains Laura Ricketts, Executive Director of the Guiding Star Project who works closely with the Guiding Star Project’s Affiliates in Development, “Phase One will see the Guiding Star Brazos Valley offering a host of Pregnancy Care and Resource services and will focus on the renovating and readying of the Guiding Star Brazos Valley Maternity Home. Phase Two will include the opening of the Maternity Home. Phase Three will be an expansion to coordinate services beyond pregnancy support to include lactation consultation, child care classes, fertility care and instruction, birth support and comprehensive women’s health care. Guiding Star Brazos Valley is designed to be places where women can come and have their needs met in a concrete, pro-active, empowering atmosphere. We don’t make empty promises. We offer substance; something every woman can appreciate.”
Read the whole Guiding Star press release.
Last year, on the anniversary of Roe vs Wade, and the March for Life, I penned this column as a summary of the beauty of womanhood, and her gift of maternity and it was featured in the online version of the Washington Post…
Here it is in its entirety.
Woman, you are a gift!
From the first presentation of woman to man in the Garden of Eden, the gift of who you are is nothing less than “wow!” Your dignity comes from the gift of your being, and the gift of your being created feminine.
Man saw your profound and complementary gifts right away, and rejoiced. In God’s first act of blessing humanity, the creator smiled upon and blessed the union of the first couple, encouraging them be fertile and multiply (Gen 1:28).
Their loving union was a blessed gift to each other, and their offspring, delivered through woman’s maternity, was designed to be a visible sign of that blessing; another gift.
Then sin entered the world. For their failures the woman and man suffered grievous losses, and because we are their progeny, our own pains followed.
Tragically, humanity has habitually lost sight of the true gifts we are to one another, and the treasure of maternity was rarely appreciated as the blessing it is, until Jesus; the savior of all was born of a woman.
In and through Mary, the world heard once more: Woman, you are a gift!
Blessed John Paul II was especially eager to teach that women, by the beauty of their physiology and God-given design, are particularly well-disposed to seeing, comprehending and loving human persons. This is our “feminine genius.” This particular strength of woman bears repeating and rediscovery, as we survey the political rhetoric of the day that tends to degrade maternity, especially as the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade comes to pass.
The late pontiff’s major treatise on women, Mulieris Dignatatem, exults in the dignity and beauty of femininity. The gift of maternity, he wrote is a strength, not a weakness.
There’s no mistaking biology. Womanly bodies are wonderfully made, and purposefully created with an empty space of a womb carried under her heart.
A woman’s womb, her uterus, signals that she is made for something and someone more than herself. This reality touches a woman at her very core — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The womb’s raison d’etre illuminates this gift that welcomes and receives the life of a child, sheltering and nurturing it, until finally, a woman gives birth. We even use the expression — giving birth — denoting the gift that it is. The maternal gift ought to be honored and celebrated.
What’s more, a pregnant mother is entrusted with carrying an immortal soul besides her own — a soul that is destined for eternity. That’s why a woman really needs to be aware of the dignity of her feminine creation, and the sublime gift of her maternity, so she can confer that dignity on her child, and upon others through her love of life.
The gift of maternity is inherent in all women. They are predisposed to motherhood by their design. Yet, as we know, not all women bear children. Even if a woman never gives birth, a woman’s life is still inclined toward mothering. All women are entrusted with the call to care for the people within their sphere of influence. This broadens our ideas of maternity beyond gestation and lactation.
A woman’s relationships with others, even though they may not be fruitful biologically, can be fruitful spiritually. Therefore a woman’s life–her feminine genius–is characterized by physical and/or spiritual motherhood.
When the gift of a woman’s fertility and maternity are devalued, they are misinterpreted as liabilities or threats to a woman’s potential happiness, or earning power, or freedom.
Both women and men are crippled when disrespect for any of the gifts of the other are ignored, stifled, abused, or rejected. But women are demeaned when this precious part of them is reduced to a faculty to be managed, rather than a capability to be treasured.
Our beautiful maternity, and the lives and loves that issue forth from it, is why the church continues to stand in defense of chastity and marriage, along with its opposition to the use of contraception, abortion of the unborn and any other threat to human life.
Finally, dear woman, here’s something else the church teaches: If we’ve failed to live up to this teaching on maternity, if we’ve disrespected or abused the beautiful gifts of our womanhood, we can make our way back. The gifts of grace and forgiveness through the sacraments provide that path.
Let us trust that grace. Let us be gentle and generous in dealing with our own failures as regards our sexuality or our maternity. Jesus wants us to be healed, and especially to be healed of wounds related to our sexuality and maternity.
Let us come to him with our brokenness, and the sins against our genius of maternity, no matter how grievous or painful.
Let us come to know this God who came through the womb to save us.
This is a topic that is dear to my heart, and I’m very happy that The Christophers have taken up the subject in one of their newest booklets, written by author Mary De Turris Poust, who coincidentally, also wrote Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship.
Here’s a snippet:
The definition of “friendship” has taken some hits in recent years. After all, we live in a world where social media allows us to “friend” or “unfriend” someone with the click of our computer or smartphone. But that’s precisely why face-to-face and heart-to-heart friendship is needed more than ever. These are the times that call for spiritual friendships, the kinds of bonds that reach to a place deep within our souls, far beyond shared interests, book clubs, and shopping dates.
Spiritual friendship is not an invention of our modern times. In fact, we can trace it back into the Old Testament. “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure,” we read in Sirach 6:14. We’re not talking about just any good friend here; we’re talking about a friend whose hunger for spiritual connection, whose journey toward God mirrors our own.
Aelred of Rivealux, a Cistercian monk who lived in the 12th century, wrote the original book on spiritual friendship. His collection of letters was meant to help readers discover the beauty of this kind of soul-to-soul relationship. Five centuries later, St. Francis de Sales took up the mantle and wrote extensively about spiritual friendship in his classic “Introduction to the Devout Life.”
“If the bond of your mutual liking be charity, devotion, and Christian perfection, God knows how very precious a friendship it is! Precious because it comes from God, because it tends to God, because God is the link that binds you, because it will last forever in Him,” wrote St. Francis.
But spiritual friendship is not some remnant of a bygone era. It is alive and well among faithful friends who want to be companions on the spiritual journey through highs and lows, good times and bad, from here to eternity.
There’s a lot of good stuff in this piece, so don’t miss it! I’m also pleased that my book gets mentioned.
Pat Gohn, author of “Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood,” talks about the importance of “spiritual motherhood,” those relationships where a woman—whether biological mother or not—nurtures the spiritual life of another. This is just one of the many incarnations of spiritual friendship available to us today.
Gohn says, “As the parent of a child, we freely pour our love and energy into their growth, even though a child is often not capable of a reciprocal giving back. A spiritual mother willingly gives of herself, and lets her love be planted in another person’s life, investing without expectation of a return, yet leaving the results to God, because God is the source of all our goodness in the first place.”
That same spirit is very much at the heart of spiritual friendship—loving without expecting anything in return, offering without strings attached. And it’s something that flies in the face of what our society tells us. In a world where there’s “no free lunch,” spiritual friendship is counter-cultural. It says, yes, you can give and receive this love, this bond, this communion without fear of indebtedness or guilt.
Read the rest here.
The Church acknowledges the indispensable contribution which women make to society through the sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess. I think, for example, of the special concern which women show to others, which finds a particular, even if not exclusive, expression in motherhood. I readily acknowledge that many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological reflection. But we need to create still broader opportunities for a more inclusive female presence in the Church. Because “the feminine genius is needed is all expressions in the life of society, the presence of women must also be guaranteed in the workplace”* and in the various other settings where important decisions are made, both in the Church and in social structures.
Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded. The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general. It must be remembered that when we speak of sacramental power “we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness”.  The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all. The configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above oth- ers. In the Church, functions “do not favour the superiority of some vis-à-vis the others”. Indeed, a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops. Even when the function of ministerial priesthood is considered “hierarchical”, it must be remembered that “it is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members”. Its key and axis is not power understood as domination, but the power to administer the sacrament of the Eucharist; this is the origin of its authority, which is al- ways a service to God’s people. This presents a great challenge for pastors and theologians, who are in a position to recognize more fully what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life.
Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel”, 103 and 104.
72 Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 295.
73 John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (30 December 1988), 51: AAS 81 (1989), 413.
74 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Inter Insigniores on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood (15 October 1976): AAS 68 (1977) 115, cited in John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (30 December 1988), note 190: AAS 81 (1989), 493.