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Among Women 232: On the Cusp of Advent

Among Women 232: On the Cusp of Advent

Connie Clark, author

This episode of Among Women begins with a few Advent tips. Then, it shines a spotlight on the life of two women who, as writers, offer their gifts for the sake of the Church, and advancing its mission. Blessed Mary Theresa Ledóchowska is a Polish saint whose writing for the missions eventually blossomed into a religious order. And Connie Clark is a prolific Catholic author with numerous Catholic titles including the one that recently prompted my contacting her, Pep Talks for Catholic Parents. She’s also the editor of Living Faith Kids(Find more of her books linked at the podcast page.)

Listen to this episode of Among Women here, or find it on iTunes, episode 232.

A happy shout out to the Moms — these are the women I come from… (music video)

A happy shout out to the Moms — these are the women I come from… (music video)

My mom and me, circa 2009. New York.

My mom and me, circa 2009. New York.

My mom with my daughter Katie on her wedding day, last July 2013.

My mom with my daughter Katie on her wedding day, last July 2013.

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This is my mother’s mother, Margaret, on her wedding day. Circa 1934. With my grandfather, John Patrick. (Margaret is the one I most look like in the family, so they say.)

This is my paternal grandmother, Henrietta. "Henri" for short. In the days before her wedding in the 1920's.

This is my paternal grandmother, Henrietta. “Henri” for short. In the days before her wedding in the 1920’s.

Circa 1966, Backyard 25 Sheppard Lane, Huntington. L to R: Peg, Pam, Pat

Circa 1966-67. These are my sisters. Peg in the blue. Me in the daisy dress, and Pam the little one. Both my sisters are great moms too! They each have four children!

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Can’t forget an image of Momma Mary — this is the one from our home church in MA. Beautiful hand painted statue.

 

A throwback to 1994, with a recent remake… “These Are The Women I Come From”

lyrics: by Bonnie Keen and Tori Taff

These are the faces in photographs

Heads all held high

Not afraid to look life in the eye

They are women with backbone

Keepers of the flame

With a spirit even hard times couldn’t tame

These are the women I come from

The faith that sustained them is bred in my bones

I know what I’m made of and where I belong

‘Cause these are the women I come from

They were lovers of babies and lovers of God

With lessons and laughter in their songs

Did they dream better dreams for their children?

As they prayed silent prayers in the night

“Lord, make their way clear and always be near”

Purchase that music here.

Among Women 179: Momnipotent! With Danielle Bean

Among Women 179: Momnipotent! With Danielle Bean

danielle_bean

This episode is dedicated to mothers — the physical and spiritual mothers in all of us. We celebrate the coming of Mother’s Day by first exploring the idea of Mary as a mother to us all. Then, in our conversation segment, I welcome author and editor of Catholic Digest, Danielle Bean — one of my favorite people — who discusses her new book and study: Momnipotent! The not-so perfect guide to Catholic Motherhood.  This great new book is for Moms who are busy raising families.

 

What captures a woman’s heart… (a beautiful, yet non-romantic, story for Valentine’s Day)

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)

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Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all!

 So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. – 1 Cor 13: 13.

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*Thai, with subtitles.

Saving Mothers

Saving Mothers

“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.

Just this week Guiding Star announced a fabulous project in collaboration with Abby Johnson.

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.

Please pray for this need, and if you are so moved, donate!  Find out how you can get involved.