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The Feminine Genius and reading ’round the Web… Don’t miss these posts!

The Feminine Genius and reading ’round the Web… Don’t miss these posts!

There has been, in the last two weeks, much important reading on subjects close to my heart, and many women’s hearts, relating to the feminine genius and the beauty of womanhood — and our loss of that sensibility and truth. Much of my writing and speaking in the three years has been to point out the basics of woman’s dignity, gifts, and mission as presented to our through the teachings of the Catholic Church, which is more pro-woman and pro-life than any other institution or organization you could name. (To learn more on this perspective, see my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious. Or come to one of my events.)

Sadly, I have been unable to comment on these posts, save for the briefest ideas,  due to my current writing work load and travel schedule

I am, however, linking to a few of those posts here. It’s Lent, after all, so I invite you to read and reflect on these in light of the Gospel, and our call to live it.

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1. Mary Eberstadt’s piece on Jailhouse Feminism over at National Review online is jarring as it is astutely on to something… the rage of women in the media and elsewhere is pointing to their abuse and abasement by themselves and others all in the name of freedom. This is must reading. Warning: course language here.

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2. Read Our Emotions, Our Bodies, Ourselves by Carolyn Moynihan as she comments on a female psychiatrist, writing in the NY Times about a boom in the number of women (1 in 4) talking medications… it was most emailed article on the New York Times website over the weekend, “Medicating Women’s Feelings”. I admit I have not had time to read the NY Times article but this reply references offers much quoted source material.  It is worth reading this piece by the ever-wise Carolyn Moynihan.

A few of my thoughts: One of the powerful gifts of women is their sensitivity, or empathy. It is more than emotions, for sure. But if we don’t understand the body-soul connection of a woman’s great ability of “seeing” with her heart, she might not understand that what breaks her heart also points her in the direction of holy actions: To be deeply rooted in prayer and clinging to Christ, and to be ready to acknowledge the the persons in their midst in need of care and nurture.

Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them. In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty—not merely physical, but above all spiritual—which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women.

(St John Paul II, Letter to Women, 12)

How many women may have been medicated, or told they were crazy or unbalanced, when, really they are not — just normal? I can’t take that in now, but it grieves my heart.

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3. Yet another post on one of the gifts of women, this time, maternity: Motherhood is the Strongest Bond written by a blogger who describes the heart of women… and how we need to stand alongside one another, mother to mother, when we encounter the toughest of all crosses, the death of a child. I’m reminded here how mothers are well disposed, as St John Paul would say, not only their own children, but to all children. The author of the piece has this central message: “You’re a mother, you know.”

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. (St John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, On the Dignity and Vocation of Women, 18)

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4. The Christophers’ Tony Rossi has a piece up includes some compelling lyrics from singer Kelly Clarkson, and others who are trying to combat the madness of sexual imagery that is everywhere.

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5. Some hope here from Lisa Hendey in her piece on The Blogosphere as a Mission Field, with lots of commentary from women leaders, including myself.

While I really appreciate this well written piece, it’s important to remember Lisa’s end point: we are all called to the new evangelization. For many of us, it’s the call to be saints whose mission is to rescue the culture from its confusion and chaos regarding the gifts of masculinity and femininity.

50 Shades’ ain’t sexy… forget the movie — try a virtual marriage retreat during National Marriage Week

50 Shades of Grey, the movie version of the best-selling novel, is hitting theaters this weekend. Lots of commentary about the film’s negative attributes is floating around the blogosphere. Matt Fradd, author of Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women Who Turned from Porn to Purity, has a video up at Covenant Eyes:

Fradd’s points would make good conversation fodder around the dinner table for parents and teens. So would this article. 

Certainly, from a spiritual standpoint, one might be very wary of the film  but even some secular reviewers have panned this movie, calling it 50 shades of Nay! (<– salty language alert) but kudos to those brave enough to call out the abuse of women this movie glorifies.

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Here’s an idea for married folks: Forget going to the movies for Valentine’s Day, this is National Marriage Week!  

Why not try a virtual marriage retreat with your spouse?

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Finally if you want to do a bit more reading, you might enjoy this excerpt about respecting human dignity, with a focus on the feminine genius. Fortunately, Jesus, in the Gospels, led the way. St John Paul II unpacks some of Jesus’ groundbreaking respect for women in Mulieris Dignitatem:

In all of Jesus’ teaching, as well as in his behaviour, one can find nothing which reflects the discrimination against women prevalent in his day. On the contrary, his words and works always express the respect and honour due to women. The woman with a stoop is called a “daughter of Abraham” (Lk 13:16), while in the whole Bible the title “son of Abraham” is used only of men. Walking the Via Dolorosa to Golgotha, Jesus will say to the women: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me” (Lk 23:28). This way of speaking to and about women, as well as his manner of treating them, clearly constitutes an “innovation” with respect to the prevailing custom at that time.

This becomes even more explicit in regard to women whom popular opinion contemptuously labelled sinners, public sinners and adulteresses. There is the Samaritan woman, to whom Jesus himself says: “For you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband”. And she, realizing that he knows the secrets of her life, recognizes him as the Messiah and runs to tell her neighbours. The conversation leading up to this realization is one of the most beautiful in the Gospel (cf. Jn 4:7-27).

Then there is the public sinner who, in spite of her condemnation by common opinion, enters into the house of the Pharisee to anoint the feet of Jesus with perfumed oil. To his host, who is scandalized by this, he will say: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much” (cf. Lk 7:37-47).

Finally, there is a situation which is perhaps the most eloquent: a woman caught in adultery is brought to Jesus. To the leading question “In the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?”, Jesus replies: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her”. The power of truth contained in this answer is so great that “they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest”. Only Jesus and the woman remain. “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”. “No one, Lord”. “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (cf. Jn 8:3-11).

These episodes provide a very clear picture. Christ is the one who “knows what is in man” (cf. Jn 2:25) – in man and woman. He knows the dignity of man, his worth in God’s eyes. He himself, the Christ, is the definitive confirmation of this worth. Everything he says and does is definitively fulfilled in the Paschal Mystery of the Redemption. Jesus’ attitude to the women whom he meets in the course of his Messianic service reflects the eternal plan of God, who, in creating each one of them, chooses her and loves her in Christ (cf. Eph 1:1-5). Each woman therefore is “the only creature on earth which God willed for its own sake”. Each of them from the “beginning” inherits as a woman the dignity of personhood. Jesus of Nazareth confirms this dignity, recalls it, renews it, and makes it a part of the Gospel and of the Redemption for which he is sent into the world. Every word and gesture of Christ about women must therefore be brought into the dimension of the Paschal Mystery. In this way everything is completely explained.

Read Mulieris Dignitatem for more.

 

Got 5 mins? Watch this great video about St Gianna Beretta Molla – a 20th century saint!

Preparing for the World Meeting of Families, Salt and Light  of Toronto produced this video about this heroic saint. To me, St Gianna exemplifies the feminine genius. You might want to listen to my Among Women podcasts that profile her life, listed below. But for now, enjoy this!

St. Gianna Molla – World Meeting of Families 2015 from saltandlighttv on Vimeo.

Among Women 161: Catholic Pediatricians Make a Difference

Among Women 11: Hear one of the earliest AW podcasts featuring a bio of St Gianna Molla

That ain’t no way to treat a lady — Maddie and Tae’s “Girl In A Country Song”

Music lyrics degrading to both women and men have long been present in the music industry at large. I’m happy to see a few inside-the-industry professionals call their fellow songwriters out on the subject… and using humor to get their point across. Maddie and Tae’s breakout country music hit and video “Girl in a Country Song” captures-by-parody a few of country’s hottest tune lyrics that dehumanize and objectify women. Meanwhile “Girl in a Country Song” points to the essence of the feminine genius — how woman is unique and of inestimable value.

What I like most about the song is that the singers are calling on men to shape up and pay attention to the whole person of a woman. As I wrote recently concerning gentlemen, respecting the dignity of women — and men — is the real glue between the sexes.

From  Maddie and Tae’s  website:

“Girl in a Country Song” is the pair’s take on the reality of what men say they’re expecting from the fairer sex. “Boys we love you, we want to look good, but it’s not all we’re good for,” MADDIE says.

The tune pokes fun at a few songs you may know, but the girls – who Rolling Stone named one of the 10 New Artists You Need to Know – assure you, it’s all in good fun. “We love every single one of these guys,” TAE adds. “We don’t want to bring them down, we just want to lift the ladies up as well.”

“We are girls with something to say,” MADDIE says. “We were brought up to know how we should be treated. We’ve got a new perspective that we think is relatable. We also have a vulnerable side that you hear in the music. We’re not saying, ‘we’re girls and we’re taking over the world!’ We’re just saying a little something different that hasn’t really been said.”

These women make a good point in denouncing song lyrics that thing-a-fies them and reduces them to sex objects. Yet, in a blatant comedic role-reversal on the single’s video, these gals do the same “thing” to men to make their point. I’m not pleased they stooped to committing a similar faux pas in their video’s content, since the lyrics alone — what caught my ear in the first place on country radio — generally state the case against derogatory lyrics.

“Girl In A Country Song”

(“No country music was harmed in the making of this song, this is only a test-t-t”)

Well I wish I had some shoes on my two bare feet
And it’s gettin’ kinda cold in these painted on cut off jeans
I hate the way this bikini top chafes
Do I really have to wear it all day? (Yeah baby)

I hear you over there on your tailgate whistlin’ [*whistle*]
Sayin’, “Hey girl”
But you know I ain’t listenin’
Cause I got a name
And to you it ain’t “pretty little thing”, “honey” or “baby”
Yeah it’s drivin’ me red-red-red-red-red-red-red neck crazy

[Chorus:]
Bein’ the girl in a country song
How in the world did it go so wrong?
Like all we’re good for
Is looking good for you and your friends on the weekend
Nothing more
We used to get a little respect
Now we’re lucky if we even get
To climb up in your truck, keep my mouth shut and ride along
And be the girl in a country song

Well shakin’ my moneymaker ain’t ever made me a dime
And there ain’t no sugar for you in this shaker of mine
Tell me one more time, “you gotta get you some of that”
Sure I’ll slide on over, but you’re gonna get slapped (Hah!)
These days it ain’t easy being that

[Chorus:]
Girl in a country song
How in the world did it go so wrong?
Like all we’re good for
Is looking good for you and your friends on the weekend
Nothing more
We used to get a little respect
Now we’re lucky if we even get
To climb up in your truck, keep my mouth shut and ride along
And be the girl in a country song (Yeah, yeah baby)

Aww no, Conway and George Strait
Never did it this way
Back in the old days
Aww y’all, we ain’t a cliché
That ain’t no way
To treat a lady

[Chorus:]
Like a girl in a country song
How in the world did it go so wrong?
Like all we’re good for
Is looking good for you and your friends on the weekend
Nothing more
We used to get a little respect
Now we’re lucky if we even get
To climb up in your truck, keep my mouth shut and ride along
Down some old dirt road we don’t even wanna be on
And be the girl in a country song

(“Yeah baby, I ain’t your tan legged Juliet. Can I put on some real clothes now?”)

Aww, no

 

 

 

Of Note: a Vatican-based colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman

From Nov 17-19, the Vatican is hosting an international interreligious colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Women. Some details are over at the Italian-based website Humanum. 

From the website:

The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium is a gathering of leaders and scholars from many religions across the globe, to examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society.

Witnesses will draw from
 the wisdom of their religious tradition and cultural experience as they attest to the power and vitality of the complementary union of man and woman. It is hoped that the colloquium be a catalyst for creative language and projects, as well as for global solidarity, in the work
 of strengthening the nuptial relationship, both for the good of the spouses themselves and for the good of all who depend upon them.

The Colloquium is sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and co-sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and
 the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

The program will bring together scholars and others from around the world to discuss the complementarity of the sexes, marriage, family, and “the sacramentality of human love according to Saint John Paul II”, otherwise known as the theology of the body, and more.

Archbishop Charles Chaput will be there to talk about next year’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Sister Prudence Allen, a brilliant writer, whose love of the writings of John Paul II and the feminine genius helped to launch Endow,  will also be there.  (Yes, I’d like to be fly on the wall.)

Here’s one of the videos from Humanum.

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Others reporting:

Crux 

Catholic News Service

Religion News Service.

A report out of Utah on Mormon leader attending.

 

Coming Up Nov. 8:  Long Island NY’s Women’s Conference — with yours truly & team

Coming Up Nov. 8: Long Island NY’s Women’s Conference — with yours truly & team

Come join me for a day-long event this Saturday, November 8th! The day features Mass plus three main talks adapted from my award-winning book, Blessed, Beautiful, and BodaciousI’m pleased to be womens_conference_2014_231x273_231x273joined by three dynamic women — Peggy Clores, Bridget McCormack, and Angela Rizzo — who will share the podium and with testimonials on the how the feminine genius shapes their dignity, gifts, and mission. Eileen Benthal will provide the music ministry.

It will be a privilege to present this day “back home” in New York, after my move to New England twenty years ago. The event will be at St Joseph’s Church in Babylon, NY. Register here.

Good for the Soul: On Writerly friends, Pray-ers,  and Sisters-in-Christ

Good for the Soul: On Writerly friends, Pray-ers, and Sisters-in-Christ

I am a blessed woman and I know it. For much of my life I have not only enjoyed the love and friendship of my husband, Bob, but I have known the wealth of women friends who are devoted to Christ and each other. And let me tell you, Bob himself is grateful that I enjoy such a rich sisterhood, as he benefits from a happy and renewed wife when she comes back from visiting with her friends. Smart man.

We women need good girlfriends in every phase of life. Catholic Christian women need to find other women with whom to share their spiritual journey. This is a subject that is dear to my heart.

“Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter;
whoever finds one finds a treasure.

Faithful friends are beyond price,
no amount can balance their worth.

Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
those who fear God will find them.”

-Sirach 6:14-16-

Spiritual friendships are borne not only of kindred spirits, but of the Holy Spirit. My friend, Lisa Hendey, calls them soul sisters. I call them sisters in Christ. My pal Maureen calls her possé the “rosary chicks”. Whatever you name them, all women need to be about reclaiming the gift of female friendship as a priority in our culture today. We need to affirm and uplift the dignity of Christian womanhood, and bring each other before the altar of God. (I can’t speak for the menfolk. Yet, Lord knows, they need their guy-friends too.)

Besides the busyness of my work this month, October afforded me not one but two opportunities to spend some extended time with two of my writerly friends, true sisters in Christ.

Listeners have heard me speak of Maria Johnson before, and many of you may know her from her blog and work with SQPN. Her day job as a college professor brought her north to Boston this month and I greedily invited Bego to extend her stay for a few days so we could make a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Divine Mercy. 

I do that a lot: Make pilgrimages out of friend visits. It usually comes about because, to be honest, we need it. Modern women are so busy!

Taking mini-retreat days during our friendly visits or taking in a local church or shrine pays rich dividends in our souls and in the life of our friendship. I love the opportunity to pray daily prayers and rosaries, sure. But I also love all the catching up that goes along with the journey — the walks and the car rides. Going to Mass together and making a pilgrimage to a shrine enshrines the friendship as well… offering it a dignity more sublime than a casual visit might.

Of course, as my favorite Long Island pastor used to say, first comes the holy hour… then the happy hour. Joy in Christ has a spillover effect.

[Click on any photo to enlarge.]

A toast with Maria Johnson at the Red Lion Tavern in Stockbridge MA, Oct 2014.

After Divine Mercy: A toast with Maria Johnson at the Red Lion Tavern in Stockbridge MA, Oct 2014.

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That night outside the Red Lion I took Bego’s picture next to the Great Pumpkin. That ball of light is the pumpkin! (you can kind of see the orange edge of it.) (#camerafail)

Here's one with me in it! This just might be my fav photo of Bego and I-- drinking wine of course and dining al fresco in Boston's North End a couple summer's back.

Here’s one with me in it! This just might be my favorite photo of Bego and I– drinking wine of course (!) — dining al fresco in Boston’s North End a couple summer’s back.

A few years ago on Patheos, author and screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi offered this wisdom in a profound article on how creative types like writers and artists need friendship with those who ‘get them’…

Scripture says he who finds a welcome in a storm “finds a treasure.”

Friendship’s shelter for an artist is a place to retreat amidst the chaos of your creative process to find peace. Friendship’s shelter offers the shade of acceptance when the artist is laboring under the burning heat of criticism or rejection. It is a place where there is the warm light of counsel and perspective when the artist’s soul shivers in the cold darkness of doubt. Friendship is a wall of security against the tearing wind of instability that is the life of the creative person.

The spark of friendship is initially kindled when two people experience what St. Aelred of Rivaulx called the miracle of mutual attraction. In his wonderful twelfth-century work Spiritual Friendship, the Cistercian monk remembered as “the Bernard of the North” wrote that it is already amazing when we meet a person whose personality causes delight in us. When two people experience holy delight in each other—without any motivation of greed or ambition or other unholy need—it borders on the miraculous.

Holy delight means seeing the other person with Divine wisdom, to know her name the way God does. It’s a gift that Adam had and then lost: to know the essential gift and place of each creature. In friendship, we recover it and we are able to see the miracle that is the core in another soul. It is the friend’s gift to still delight when the other really needs a shelter, when her beauty is most obscured by tragedy, or sorrow, or suffering, or, in the artist’s case, by the demands of creativity. A real friend feels tenderness at a condition in which a non-friend would probably feel revulsion. Aelred goes so far as to say that friendship is “the kiss of Christ,” which He mediates through the physical presence of the human friend.

I could not agree more. I’m grateful for the friends who have kept me sane in the writing life in recent years… by offering refuge and camaraderie and counsel. Oh yeah, and they pray intentionally for me. And I for them.

“The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”
-James 5:16-

I just got back from three speaking events in California that were planned months in advance. When I realized the close proximity of the dates, and the central California locations, I just had to dial up my dearest friend in the Pacific Time Zone, Lisa Hendey. Fortunately for me, by the grace of God — our calendars aligned for a get-together. This, you will see, really was an act of God.

Besides being the founder of CatholicMom.com, Lisa Hendey is an A-list Catholic author and speaker in hot demand, and she’s about to launch her newest book, The Grace of Yes! But the biggest grace for me was her warm hospitality and the opportunity to enjoy her friendship and have her be a guest at one of my Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious retreats. (She was the paparazzi over here, too.)

It was Lisa’s idea that we escape the cities where I was speaking and head to the coast and to the wine country. She got no resistance from me. But before we departed, I loved praying in the Fresno cathedral of St John the Baptist.  In it, I found the coolest stained glass window of my patron, Patrick… I’m super-sizing it so you can appreciate the details of the wind in his hair and the blowing of the waves…

St Patrick, snake chasin'. Circa late 5th century.

St Patrick, snake chasin’. Circa late 5th century.

But I digress… But the real point here is that not only do we need patron saints, we need patrons in life — little local saints who support the work that we do, but more importantly, the life of faith in us — companions on the journey. I have that in Lisa. She has been such a supportive, generous friend in all the ten years I’ve known her.

And for what’s its worth: I’m so glad we also share a road warrior’s spirit! We put some serious mileage on her car this week.

Lisa and I first headed for Monterey and Carmel where we spent a wonderful afternoon praying in the San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission, where St Junipero Serra – founder of the California Missions — died.

Entry into the chapel off the courtyard.

Entry into the chapel off the courtyard.

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Lisa and I at the mission.

Momma Mary was there too. (Our Lady of Bethlehem.)

Momma Mary was there too. (Our Lady of Bethlehem.)

Mission's altar

Mission’s altar

St Junipero Serra lies beneath the marble in front of his icon.

St Junipero Serra lies beneath the marble in front of his icon.

Then it was off to the Napa Valley . (Where I long to go back already.) I won’t list all the places we visited. A few may show up on Lisa’s Catholic Tourist blog.  Rest assured, we enjoyed the scenery, the wines, the restaurants, and the local church with Mass and adoration!

We interrupt this blog post for this commercial message…

Napa area Catholics: I’m primed to give a retreat in your area! My contact form is below!

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Napa area vineyards.

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I told you: From holy hour to happy hour — God is good!

Once again, capturing images of my friends with giant gourds. Lisa with Great Pumpkin II.

Once again, capturing images of my friends with giant gourds. Lisa with Great Pumpkin II.

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Wishing I could bring a cask home!

After a week of shared prayer and daily life, it was time to part. This New England woman is sad to put the geographical distance of a whole country between Lisa and myself. Our online friendship dates back to CatholicMom.com 1.0. years. Our in-person visits are treasured. Yet, I’m grateful for all the graces of the sacraments and prayer times we shared this week, the good times we had, the digital detox, and the restorative value of retreating with a trusted friend who loves Jesus and Mary.

I’m home now. I still have the messy desk that I left. But I’m full of gratitude.

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