Patheos is 5 years young! Thanks to @TheAnchoress for the growth of @PatheosCatholic!

Patheos is 5 years young! Thanks to @TheAnchoress for the growth of @PatheosCatholic!

I’m grateful for Elizabeth Scalia’s suggestion back in 2010 that I do a little writing on Patheos in a column called ” A Word in Season”. It’s not the only place I write, and despite my current hiatus as I deal with some family needs and my life/writing balance, I’m still very grateful for my piece of real estate there.

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Some of my favorite past columns have been these:

From the personal reflection category:
Something of the Glory of God Shines on Your Face
Exquisite and Extraordinary: The Life of Married Love

From the practical Christianity category:
 From my writing on women’s issues and the feminine genius:
From the “getting acquainted with magisterial documents” files:
This is my series unpacking Francis’ first encyclical – Lumen Fidei – by chapters:
Head on over to the Catholic Portal for the celebration! I’ve enjoyed these links so far:
More will be added all week long from bloggers and columnists so bookmark the Catholic portal at Patheos, or find it on Facebook!   Patheos hosts several religion channels besides the one for Catholicism. For more on Patheos’ 5 year history, go here.
Welcome to my chaos, Jesus

Welcome to my chaos, Jesus

It’s been a difficult winter season here. No getting around that. And I’m not just talking about the cold and the snowfall. In some ways, that has added some beauty to the landscape, and frankly, the excuse to cocoon a bit. Just a bit, because I’ve been out straight as they say. To compensate I’ve have to let go of a few things in order to embrace whatever fire is burning in front of me. To that end, I’ve missed writing and working consistently, I’ve missed getting together with friends or experiencing restful downtimes, I’ve missed podcasting, I’ve missed walking, and I’ve missed what I call balance-in-my-life. Even my prayer life — the anchor of each day — has been getting shifted into new times and forms, though that’s not always a bad thing.

My heart has been broken over sadnesses within my family, my friends’ lives, and mounting pressures — some unavoidable and some self-inflicted. Thank God for the menopausal crying jags… they cleanse me when I least expect them! If you know me, you can laugh at that last thing. Being a woman is still a wonderful thing — and it’s a wonder that I can recognize this new me on some days! Haha!

I’m not griping or ranting as if I’m looking for pity or for sympathies. I’m just a beggar who knows where her bread comes from, and I’ve written about in my latest over at Patheos. I had one of those Jesus moments that I’ve been mulling over for quite some time.

Here’s some of that…

All I wanted was a minute’s peace.

No, that’s not accurate. All I wanted was world peace, or something akin in my own little corner of it. At the very least, I wanted the noise in the church to go away. I wanted peace and quiet and escape from all that burdened me.

The Christmas season was ebbing away. I closed my eyes to pray after communion at Mass, to adore the Presence of Jesus in that moment. I attempted to pour out my heart, to break free from my troubles, to lean in and let him restore me with his holy food.

Instead I was remarkably distracted.

Normally, in prayer, I can tune out what’s around me. This day my concentration proved inadequate to the distractions.

The church seemed chaotic. I could not escape the scratchy shuffling of communicants in line to receive. After a New England snowfall, the “snowmelt”—salt and sand that sticks to the bottom of shoes—makes a scraping, gritty contact with the floor tiles in our church.

It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Even the music distracted me; the cantor, Lord have mercy,was out of sync with the hymn.

Oh geez, I know I am pitiful as I nitpick others—after communion, no less! Lord have mercy… on me.

There’s the distinctive cry of a newborn baby, and a new momma trying all she can to console, to no avail. She’ll figure it out soon enough. She needs to be here as much as we need her to be here with her little one. And their small chaos jolts me back to where I am.

I refocus, this time on the other baby within my line of sight—the Babe in the manger—in all his poverty and humility; Jesus born into our chaos.

 Read it all. 

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You can subscribe to this column here. 

 

 

Another feast day for Momma Mary — as Patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe

Another feast day for Momma Mary — as Patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe

IMG_0123Our Lady of Guadalupe is among my favorite titles for Mary. And though my circumstances prevent me from sharing very much here, I do have a few things you may like…

My favorite quote from this apparition:

“Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”
(Words of Our Lady to Juan Diego)

You can watch a short video reflection about the feast day here — look for today’s date!

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Unrelated to Guadalupe, but now my favorite new Mary-related quote from Francis’ latest apostolic exhortation:

She is the friend who is ever concerned that wine not be lacking in our lives. 

(See Evangelii Gaudium, par. 286 )

And in case you don’t get the joke — or more importantly the catechesis — from Francis, see John 2, or the Second Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, or let Dr Ed Sri explain it all for you.

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From my Patheos archives, a cool post by Maria Johnson.

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From the Among Women archives, going back a few years to Among Women 37: my Blessed are They segment features details about Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the “Among Women” segment features a little Christmas miracle that took place in a little boy’s life… one of my friend’s who will forever be “God’s Will” to me.

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Photos and video of the Shrine to Mary in Mexico.

Book on the subject.

My column at Patheos: Lumen Fidei’s last chapter = Faith as light in family, cities, culture

My column at Patheos: Lumen Fidei’s last chapter = Faith as light in family, cities, culture

As we conclude the Year of Faith this month, I’m completing my 5-part series at Patheos summarizing Francis’ first encyclical on faith, Lumen Fidei, looking at chapter four. (Check out the new study guide on the document at the bottom of this post.)

Here’s the opening of my latest column at Patheos…

God has our best in mind — always! God sees the eternal city he longs to bring us to one day. Yet at the same time God provides faith for the life we are called to build in our homes, cities, and societies. In this final chapter of Lumen Fidei (LF), Francis explores how faith builds a better world for the sake of all.

Screen Shot 2012-09-26 at 11.39.54 AMFaith is not only a journey, but also “a process of building, the preparing of a place in which human beings can dwell together with one another (LF, 50).” God first built the Creation where humanity could live and flourish. Then he took it a step farther and engaged humanity, calling us into a relationship with himself.

We’ve seen from history that God always builds with the good of his people in mind. God calls us to build with him, and we must do so with faith in God in mind.

The faith of Abraham and the Old Testament peoples was built upon the promises of God and a yearning for their fulfillment: a holy land, a chosen nation, a blessing for the world. The Letter to the Hebrews recalls how their faith was built on God.

“They desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Heb 11:16).”

Faith builds reliably on the firmness and fidelity of God himself. Faith illuminates all we do, not just for ourselves but for the good of all.

We are designed to think and act like God — for the common good — building families and societies with faith.

Faith makes us appreciate the architecture of human relationships because it grasps their ultimate foundation and definitive destiny in God, in his love, and thus sheds light on the art of building; as such it becomes a service to the common good. Faith is truly a good for everyone; it is a common good. Its light does not simply brighten the interior of the Church, nor does it serve solely to build an eternal city in the hereafter; it helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope. (LF, 51)

Families are the building blocks of society that best serve the common good. God’s master plan uses families to bring love to the world.

The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family. I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan. Grounded in this love, a man and a woman can promise each other mutual love in a gesture which engages their entire lives and mirrors many features of faith. Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love. Faith also helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator who entrusts us with the mystery of a new person. (LF, 52)

Truly the vocation of marriage and family life is bigger than what a husband and wife might plan for themselves. Their home is the field where the seeds of God’s plan are sown; it is the where faith is passed on and where children learn to trust in the love of parents, and ultimately trust God too.

This is why it is so important that within their families parents encourage shared expressions of faith which can help children gradually to mature in their own faith (LF, 53).

The encounter with Christ is an indispensible necessity to fruitful family life. Strong Christian marriages give birth and build strong Christians. Homes built on the foundation of Christ provide a secure and firm environment for the conversion of children and their spiritual maturing.

Encountering Christ, letting themselves be caught up in and guided by his love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives [life] a firm hope which will not disappoint. Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God’s faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness (LF, 53).

Read the rest at my column on Patheos.

To catch up with the series I wrote on Lumen Fidei, you can find the introduction here, and my earlier articles on Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 3.

Go here to subscribe to my column by email or RSS.

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EXCELLENT RESOURCE!! Master Catechist and Ave Maria Press author, Jared Dees, has a great study guide on Lumen Fidei. Now you can do a personal study on this encyclical, or do a group study in your home or church! Don’t miss this study guide!

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Among Women 167: Taking Issue with Idols… an interview with Elizabeth Scalia

Among Women 167: Taking Issue with Idols… an interview with Elizabeth Scalia

This episode of Among Women features a return visit from The Anchoress — author-blogger Elizabeth Scalia, discussing themes from her new book,  Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday LifeIn this interview we talk about rooting out hidden forms of idolatry in our own lives in order to deepen our faith in Christ.1-59471-342-1

I also share some of my favorite themes from Lumen Fidei – Pope Francis’ first encyclical letter. Also, discover inspiration from the life story of Blessed Anna Schaeffer who, despite tragic injuries that caused lifelong pain and suffering, found the keys to hope and faith.

Find out how you can win a copy of Strange Gods by listening to the whole episode here. Or find Among Women, episode 167, on iTunes. 

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Photo above: Elizabeth and I, last summer, at the Catholic New Media Conference in Dallas. Don’t miss Elizabeth’s return to the Catholic New Media Conference in Boston next month!

 

Faith’s Eyes See a New Reality… more on Francis’ “Lumen Fidei”

My Patheos series on Pope Francis’ first encyclical on faith, Lumen Fidei, continues…

All church teaching is based on Scripture, and chapter one of Pope Francis’ Lumen Fidei (LF) is no exception; its over-arching theme is from St. John’s First Epistle, “We know and believe the love God has for us” (cf. 1 Jn 4:16). Memorize that verse and you’ll have a very good definition of faith in the Christian life. Knowing and believing are the head and heart components of faith.

A powerful secondary theme that chapter one, “We Have Believed in Love,” introduces is that when one has faith one has the basis of understanding reality. That is, the “new eyes” of faith detect and experience God and discern the deepest meanings of life. Several selections from chapter one bear this out as it examines the profound history of faith, beginning with our “father in faith,” Abraham, and finding its completion in God’s Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.

Read the entire piece here, and read the introduction to the series here. Subscribe to my column by RSS or email here. 

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My Column at Patheos has me working my way through Lumen Fidei (Francis’ first encyclical)

My Column at Patheos has me working my way through Lumen Fidei (Francis’ first encyclical)

As the Year of Faith continues, I thought it wise to study and reflect on Francis’ first encyclical specially geared to teach on faith. This encyclical letter was much anticipated and begun by Benedict XVI, and was subsequently completed and released under Francis. It was released at the end of June, just in time for my summer vacation. But I’m back! And happy to share a few quotes from it —  the “greatest hits” imho — that I find there.

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Today, at my column at Patheos, I begin a series reflecting on each of the parts of this wise and easy-to-digest catechesis on faith. As you might expect, the document is filled with scripture. I give you a snippet below of a particular verse that moved me…

One verse from Scripture cited in Lumen Fidei struck me with unusual power, to see it with new eyes.

On the eve of his passion, Jesus assured Peter: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail (Lk 22: 32).”

What a momentous statement.

So often Christians think about the action of our prayers being made to God. Yet in this instance, the Lord and the Light of the World, offers an intentional and personal prayer for an arrogant and blundering fisherman in Peter. The gospels have numerous instances of Jesus at prayer. But in this short verse we get a vision of God who prays for us! Jesus has each of us in mind before we utter a word or thought of the heart.

In this clear intercession – I have prayed for you – Jesus pins hope on Peter’s faith, but it is not fainthearted. Jesus backs it with his power and light. Jesus entrusts this faith, by turn, on the followers to come after Peter, as they too will be transformed by the light of faith.

I now imagine this word of God applying to me. I see Jesus praying for my faith, the virtue infused at my baptism. To assist me in not failing, Jesus has given me brothers and sisters in the church, along with the graces of the sacraments, to insure it. This, indeed, is the faith born of encounter with Jesus: it brightens one’s path, and opens “vast horizons” that lead “beyond our isolated selves towards the breadth of communion.” It is a faith that “enriches life in all its dimensions (LF, par 6.)”

Read the whole article at my column, “A Word in Season”, on Patheos.

To subscribe to my column at Patheos via RSS or to get the whole series delivered to your email inbox, go here.

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Photos: Top cover photo: me and a cardboard cut-out of Francis at Catholic Marketing Network, near the Ignatius Press booth.

Mid text: Screen shot from news.va

On writing, keeping God first, and Elizabeth Scalia’s new book: Strange Gods

On writing, keeping God first, and Elizabeth Scalia’s new book: Strange Gods

There’s a simple line from the Book of Wisdom, that comes from Solomon’s prayer for wisdom…

“For both we and our words are in his Hand.” (Wisdom 7:16 rsv)

One of the things I love about God is that He is a Creator, and very much, a writer. The Bible is his book. He wrote laws, prose, prophecy, and poetry. And He gets writers. And he is pleased when writers words inspire and point to him. He not only chose to use human writers to pass on his divine revelation when He breathed his life into the Scriptures, but he shares his divine life still today — in the Spirit — for “in him, we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). This doesn’t mean that what we modern Catholic writers are writing is scripture, but if we are writing anything worthwhile, it had better be based on the truths of scripture.

As a member of the Catholic Writers Guild, and as a writer at many Catholic websites and periodicals, I’ve been blessed to meet several writers who strive to be agents of the new evangelization, to write, as it were, in a certain sense, for God, and for making his words and his ways better known throughout the earth in whatever genre or media we may be using. As a spiritual and writing practice  each day, as we take up our pens and keyboards, I suggest it would be good for us to recognize this simple truth from Solomon, one of the great biblical writers, that both we, and our words are in God’s hands. That God is, really, our all in all. And we should let nothing, nothing, get between God and us.

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Elizabeth Scalia is a writer I’ve long admired. Her posts at The Anchoress, Our Sunday Visitor, and her weekly column on Tuesdays at First Things, have been staples in my weekly reading for several years.

In recent years, when I’ve been asked to give talks to new media newbies for the Catholic Writers Guild, and elsewhere, The Anchoress’s blog would be one of the few that I would cite for new would-be bloggers as one of the premier blogs that we might all hope to emulate. Good writing. Crisp analysis. Witty. Engaging. And more good writing.Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 11.02.57 PM

One summer day in 2010, when I was giving that same new media talk to a gathering of Catholic writers in New York, much to my surprise, Elizabeth Scalia was in the audience. We had never met before, and we later struck up a little conversation after her very constructive comments were given from the floor to the group in an open Q&A. I believe the subject matter at that moment was that I was exhorting future and present writers to be of service to one another — to help form a community for the cause of Christ, and to view one another with charity, not as competition within the same media, but as potential allies and friends, where friendly “iron sharpening iron” could take place without tearing down the other, knowing that we are called to call each other forward in this great endeavor. In this way, we’d foster the new evangelization by first being evangelized ourselves by the law of love… remembering that we and our words are in His hand.

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Elizabeth Scalia and me, Catholic New Media Conference, 2012.

In the three years since that day, I can say that I truly have been a personal recipient of that kind of generosity of spirit in the blog space that is offered by The Anchoress. Plus, I’m privileged to serve as one of the column writers at Patheos and grateful for my piece of real estate over there that came after Elizabeth asked me to write a short piece for Patheos after our first meeting back in 2010. From there came Elizabeth’s first guest appearance on Among Women, and a whole lot more that I never really expected. Yet like her surprise appearance in my audience that summer afternoon, she has remained someone that has contributed a great deal to the conversation that is my life, both as a writer, and in person, including her kind endorsement and support of my book, and now it is my happy thrill to share a publisher with her in Ave Maria Press.

Elizabeth wrote one heck of book in Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life. There are amazing people who have endorsed it. Frankly, it would be easy for me to say, just go read it and be done. I’ve reviewed it over at the Patheos Book Club, let me tell you why you need to read this: This woman’s words are in God’s hands. This book is one very thought-provoking meditation on just one line from Sacred Scripture… the first commandment: “I am the LORD your God… You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex 20: 2-3 rsv) Yep, that’s it. That’s the text and thesis of the whole book. And its one we need to recall and bring to mind, and contemplate in a daily way, because for many of us the words in that commandment have grown dull. Or maybe, we’ve never really given them much thought at all.

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Here’s part of my review of Strange Gods at Patheos…

The Ten Commandments first declare, “I am the LORD your God… You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex 20: 2-3 rsv). And yet, we do. This thoughtful and thought-provoking book, Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life, exposes to our chagrin, yet ultimately to our benefit, that this premiere command of the Decalogue cannot be overlooked if we are to ever dare to live the other nine. Armed with faith in the graces that that sustain us in our failures, plus witty sensibilities regarding the nature of fortitude and wisdom, author and blogger extraordinaireElizabeth Scalia, offers us mortals in search of grace, a thorough reality check:

“We dismiss the golden calf story and its lessons at our peril. It’s true we are no longer literally flinging our precious metals into a crucible and buffing up stolid beasts of burden to worship. In some ways matters are worse, for we do not know the idols we bow down to. Our present-day idols are much less obvious, but they are also less distant and more ingrained within us. Idols begin with ideas. From there we shape them in the psyche, grow them in the ego, and then engage with them intimately, throughout our lives, in our families, our culture, our entertainments, and our political discourse. We create idols out of our norms of behavior, our material possessions, and social status. We even create them out of our faith.”

Who among us has not bowed down to something we have really wanted?  Or maybe we’ve used different language for it — we might be flinging ourselves toward someone or something, or actively achieving something that consumes us — even the seemingly good things in life? Or what about all the trophies we line up for ourselves — the way we make plans, use time, or even play or work with technology? Whatever captivates or demands our attention has the distinct potential to become an idol standing between the verity that is our true life with God — an encounter we may miss, delay, or betray in favor of our strange gods. Ouch! Do you really what to read this book? Yes and yes.

1-59471-342-1Yes, open this book, and prepare to feel, perhaps momentarily, panicked that all of your life is an unexposed idol minefield, fraught with spiritual missteps that you can never avoid. But, YES, take courage! Like an experienced special ops mission commander unlocking the mysteries of night vision goggles and other tactics to detect the presence of The Enemy at close range, Scalia teaches plebes and veterans alike how to see more clearly so they can wisely navigate the previously unseen dangers of modern idolatry.

A particular strength of this book, and why it will be successful in furthering the new evangelization, is that Scalia offers a self-effacing demeanor and candor in describing her own idol worship. But more than that, Scalia affirms, ultimately, that Christianity as a yes – at its heart is a benevolent and loving God Who really is worthy of all attempts at idol smashing.

The rest is here.

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Among Women listeners can look forward to a guest appearance from Elizabeth Scalia, coming in June.

 

Wanted: Spiritual Fathers and Mothers – my latest column @PatheosCatholic

Do you have spiritual heroes? I do. They are people who remain dear to my heart. They are men and women who have showed me the way to change my life for the better, and many of them, through their friendly mentoring helped to grow me up in the faith. I could list many names from years gone by beyond my family circle. They were church folk, school folk, older women friends. Somehow they generously took time to love me and encourage me even when I could not offer anything of value in return. They were magnanimous spiritual mothers and fathers to me. I’m fortunate to still know a few today.

I could also list the names of many favorite saints who have inspired me along the way.

I thank God for all of them, the saints, and the good Christians I met who have shepherded me, especially as a teen and younger woman. Somewhere along the way, I started to want to be like them.

If you read my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious, you’ll find that I make the case that Christian women are called to grow and mature in such a way as to be able to make disciples through their holy influence in their spheres of life — to be physical and spiritual mothers. Whether single, married, or religious, women are baptized and called to participate in the universal mission of the Church that ignites faith and light and love in others. That we not only come to know, love, and serve Christ ourselves, but that we bring others along to Heaven with us as well.

Yet we live in a society that often demeans parenthood and degrades or ignores the spiritual dimensions that are so necessary to human flourishing. As I wrote in my latest column at Patheos, we need spiritual heroes…

What the world needs now are spiritual heroes. Be they spiritual fathers or spiritual mothers, we need them. The Catholic Church has long known this and has produced spiritual fathers and mothers by the millions. We call them saints.

Besides all the famous names on the heavenly rolls like the Blessed Mother, St Joseph, the Apostles and Martyrs, and the rest, there are millions more –- unnamed and lesser saints — who started their days just like you and me. They got up in the morning and got to work.

Many of us mere mortals, while piously attempting to honor and revere saints, mistakenly see their heroic virtue as beyond our reach. What I’m saying is that many Catholics and others put saints on pedestals in ways that leave us fretting that such sanctity is unattainable for the regular folks, the Joe and Joan Q. Public sitting in the pew.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Saints in heaven this very moment are looking at us and praying that we dispatch with this silly notion, and dispel this excuse from the responsibility and, yes, the privilege, each baptized person has to grow in holiness. That is, to try to be a saint.

Let me say this as forthrightly as I can: Get a grip, People of God!

The saints began with the same raw materials we do: A sinful life in need of God and his grace. Fortunately grace is not in short supply, for where sin increases, grace abounds all the more. (Cf. Romans 5: 20)

There’s more, of course.

Go read it. There’s a bodacious mission out there waiting for you.

Pope Francis, Day One -”Among Women”-style: The gifts of Mary, womanhood, and the new evangelization

Pope Francis, Day One -”Among Women”-style: The gifts of Mary, womanhood, and the new evangelization

Last night, when he first met us from the balcony of St Peter’s, the new “Peter” — Pope Francis — told us his plan for today. Job One would be to bring this pontificate to Mary, the Mother of God, the woman who brings us all to Jesus. This kind of holy bow is a profound “yes” to being open and receptive to the Holy Spirit. Then the Holy Father would get down to the rest of the tasks that his schedule would demand.

Why does this matter?

Mary was the one God the Father entrusted to receive and bear God the Son. She brought Jesus into the world. By the power of the Holy Spirit, she was the first one to make Jesus present in the world, in the flesh. The Good Pontiff humbly seeks her out as he courageously begins his very high profile mission of bringing Jesus to the world.

Here’s a video of his travels to St Mary Major Basilica…not only does he pray earnestly to Mary for his papacy, but on the way out to go back to the Vatican, the new Pope pauses to bless a pregnant woman.

What a beautiful demonstration of God’s love and blessing for the gift of woman, her maternity, and the new life within in! How many pregnant women today might understand the gift of their maternity through such a public blessing? I can only hope many.

One of the reasons I’ve written my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious, is to draw attention to the reverence and awe that the Church has for the gift of womanhood — and to introduce the basic ideas of a woman’s dignity, gifts, and mission that the Church has proclaimed to people like us, the women in the pew. As I’ve recently explained in an article for the Washington Post that is currently at my column at Patheos, despite the negativity that our society often describes of women being enslaved by her maternal gift, rather, a woman herself is blessed by God by the gift of her created being — and being made feminine!

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 degrades maternity…

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.

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 Dignatatem, par 30)  

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’être 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.

(Read the rest here.)

What’s more, a woman is further dignified by Mary’s maternity, by her bringing forth the Christ to humanity. Mary is “blessed among women”, as we pray in the Hail Mary Prayer; she is “the feminine genius” par excellence. The gift of maternity is magnified in Mary, and the gift of maternity in all women is elevated because of the amazing gift of who Mary is to Christ and to his Church. She brings us to Jesus, while she teaches us that we women, indeed, have a mission to help make disciples in our world through physical and spiritual motherhood.

I was edified to read a wonderful post this morning over at Ignitum Today by Miriam Fightlin Brower that gives more voice to this. Like me, she notes there is something sadly missing from feminist ideology if it discounts the fullness of the womanly gift of maternity. Her article is titled “Liberated from the Women’s Movement.”

Modern feminism is a peculiar ideology. It professes to offer us, as women, all the choices in the world, to determine our own paths and not be hindered by the shackles of patriarchy. Yet, with all the exhortation for choice and empowerment for women, there is one choice that is like Kryptonite to these feminists–the choice of women to celebrate and honor their own nature.

When unwrapping this philosophy, it is impossible to escape the irony. The true enemy of the 1960s and 70s era Women’s Movement is not patriarchy, but none other then Mother Nature herself.

Embedded deep within Modern feminist ideology is a fundamental flaw.

This brand of feminism views equality through the singular lens of sameness–completely unwilling to acknowledge our female biology and psychological and spiritual make-up. Instead of truly celebrating our diversity and uniqueness, it succeeds only in advocating an “equality” which extracts and then promptly discards everything that is most distinctly and most powerfully female.

You really start to wonder: Is this brand of feminism advocating for our advancement or our demise?

The Bible says “by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:16). Yet, in a very real way we know modern feminism because it refuses to produce any fruits. Our fertility is deemed a hindrance simply because it doesn’t look like or act like a man’s. In their quest to advance the cause of women, they have somehow managed to make male fertility the gold standard thereby deeming women’s fertility defective; our biology becomes something we are encouraged to mutilate instead of embrace. It has truly become the fulfillment of Bl. John Paul II’s warning in Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women) when he wrote, “There is a well-founded fear that if they take this path, women will not “reach fulfillment”, but instead will deform and lose what constitutes their essential richness.”

Unless women allow themselves to be defined by this rigid and confining notion of what it means to be a free and equal woman, completely ignore their biology and pretend to be less than they are, they will not find a seat at the table of modern feminism. It has indeed become the embodiment of that stifling patriarchy it fought so hard to overcome.

Authentic Catholic feminism recognizes the beauty of our distinct nature and celebrates women in their entirety. It rejoices in the awesome power of creation that women have been given rather than apologizing for it. It acknowledges the nurturing aspects of our femininity, the importance that we place on relationships, and our centralness in the world family. We are truly raised up, mind, body and spirit as something beautiful and meaningful to behold.

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As we witness the birth of a new papacy, we are reminded that this becomes a time to renew a deeper call to a new evangelization in our world. With it comes a responsibility to promote human dignity. Such a task must include a new brand of feminism, a new wave of feminism that is paired with the Christian message and a proper anthropology — an understanding of the dignity of women and men in their blessed design. It must be bathed in justice, as it is immersed in an ocean of charity that sees human persons as the invaluable and unique gifts that they are.

A Pope who entrusts himself first to Mary is showing us the path to a holiness that is both consoling as it is courageous. Both Benedict XVI and John Paul II entrusted the new millennium to Mary, calling her the Star of the New Evangelization. Francis knows this.

Likewise, a woman who entrusts herself to Jesus through Mary has found a path to understanding the exquisite dignity she has a person, especially as a feminine person. Women, in a very particular way, hold the fate of humanity, in their hands.

A woman aware of her blessed dignity and her beautiful gifts will naturally become a bodacious evangelist — hers is a most excellent mission to bring the life of Christ into the world, like Mary did.

 

 

Image credit: from RomeReports.com