The Beauty of Women in Art and in Real Life

The Beauty of Women in Art and in Real Life

First, a little artsy video… about the beauty of women through the ages…

Now, let’s take a look at real life today… I think this song explains pretty well the mistakes we make about “beauty”…

The solution to a flawed sense of self is to know who we are in God.

YOU are beautiful. Just in case you needed to hear that today. That’s the truth of the feminine genius that St John Paul talked about. 

IMG_2045Mary knew who she was in God. Do we?

Are we grateful for our femininity? There’s a wide spectrum of answers that most women give to that question. But if you are wrestling with that, maybe just find one small way to be grateful for who you are, as a woman, today.

I wrote a whole book on the feminine genius and the beauty of women, but let me leave you with one quote referenced in the last chapter from Fr Donald Calloway, MIC. In it he is talking about how Mary — the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother — is grateful for the gift of being a woman. Below, Fr Calloway reminds us of that… and that one day, as we grow in holiness, grace will deepen our beauty until it imitates hers in heaven.

What Mary has at the beginning, namely, sinlessness, all will have at the end of life if they cooperate with the gift of their embodiedness. Mary shows us to accept the gift of our embodiedness . . . the God-given sex of the body . . . the body is not an obstacle to be overcome but rather, a gift to be lived. Mary delights in her body, especially in . . . femininity. It is precisely in her gift of being a woman, that Mary was fashioned and called by God to be the Theotokos [Mother of God]. . . .

Just think what would have happened if Mary had rebelled against the gift of her feminine body! We would be in a very different situation today.

Indeed, we women ought to revel in the gift of femininity… we are made “in the image of God”! May our souls, our very depths, “magnify the Lord” ! (See Gen 1: 27, and Luke 1:46-47)

:::

Speaking of Mary: I’d like to see this exhibit coming soon… Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea – coming to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC, on view Dec. 5, 2014–April 12, 2015.

:::

Need more on the beauty of women?

You might like this recent Among Women podcast “Show me, Lord, that I’m beautiful.”

Or this timely post from Jennifer Fitz, “Women Demystified: To Love Her is to Tell Her How Beautiful She Is”

Or find my book.

:::

I’m hitting the road today… gonna visit some beautiful women in real life in California this week and next. Maybe I’ll see you there!

:::

Banner photo: Woman Bathing in a Stream (Rembrandt)

You are amazing. You are enough. So am I.

You are amazing. You are enough. So am I.

Ok, I just love this…

Once upon a time, I had my own “mirror” moment… a moment when the truth of love shot straight to the heart… only it wasn’t with a mirror — it was with a well-traveled, well-prayed rosary.

I talk about it in my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious…

Sensitivity is a profound orientation in women that makes them quick to sense, or detect, people needing love, care, or nurture. A woman’s sensitivity picks up the cues or signals others give, and it makes her receptive nature ready to respond. It is easy to see the connection with a woman’s receptivity. Sensitivity is also deeply attuned to a woman’s maternal sensibilities (as we find out in the next chapter).

Sensitivity is both emotional and spiritual; it leads a woman to be present and ready to love and serve someone in terms of direct care and intentional prayer. A woman’s sensitivity makes connections between people and thoughtfully assists those in need.

Many times I have been on the magnificent receiving end of another woman’s sensitivity, most especially when it flows from women who are my family and friends. I have also experienced it through the different women’s ministries in my local parish.

Some of my fondest memories from my stay-at-home mothering years in New York come from my belonging to a parish prayer group for mothers. It was a weekly group, dubbed “Mothers’ Morning of Prayer,” for mothers and children to visit together to pray the Rosary aloud for one another’s intentions and needs. It was a strong source of spiritual support and friendship for me for many years.

In time, my husband’s work necessitated a move to Massachusetts. We were not looking to move away from our longtime home, so it was a hard decision. Before we left, the mother’s group gave us a lovely sendoff, complete with a Mass, a dinner, a keepsake photo album, and parting gifts for our new home. Most important, however, was their promise of their continued prayers. Not only that, the women challenged me to start a new Rosary group in my new town if one did not exist. In time, those prayers were answered. After finding some receptive women, Mothers’ Morning of Prayer was born in my new parish.

Two years later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Talk about tears! The physical lump in my breast was nothing compared to the silent lump that formed each day in my throat. It was often hard to talk aloud about this situation, since my young children were always around me. Yet I let the tears and fears wash my face when I was alone or with Bob, so as to minimize the impact on my children. When I was in public, at school with the children, or at church, the women who knew my circumstances helped me keep it together.

 I found endearing comfort—and the rhythm of normalcy—praying the Rosary each week in the company of those women from my parish. One day, without my knowledge, someone passed around a set of Rosary beads to all the women in the group. Each woman prayed for me on those beads. Then, again, unbeknownst to me, they sent the same Rosary beads to my former prayer group in New York, where the women there did the same thing.

Shortly before my surgery for a mastectomy and reconstruction, I walked out to the mailbox to retrieve the daily mail. A box arrived addressed to me with the recognizable handwriting of a dear friend from New York. I did not even make it back into the house. Right there I had to open it. Out came the well-traveled, well-prayed Rosary, plus dozens of cards and letters from all the New Yorkers who lifted prayers to heaven for me.

I cannot tell you the blessings I experienced in those minutes. For a few moments, time stood still, worry and stress dissipated. Joy at being spiritually and emotionally cared for, mingled with invisible long-distant hugs from friends and old neighbors, flooded my heart and leaked profusely from my eyes. I just sat in the grass in the front yard, as tears poured out of me, and grace poured over me.

These women and their families had been reaching out to heaven on my behalf for weeks and weeks. Then they found a tangible way to share those prayers with me, through the gift of that Rosary and their written messages of hope. My kitchen soon became wallpapered in well-wishes and cards.

That was just the beginning; their spiritual concern would turn into full-fledged physical compassion and beautiful service in the days to come.

A six-week recovery followed my surgery, when I needed rest, medication, and help orchestrating the family’s schedule. I had a limited range of motion and was banned from driving—a tough situation for a busy suburban mom with children who were three, six, and nine. It was not a worry for these faith-filled women from the local Rosary group. Together with my sisters and parents, they made sure meals and carpools and laundry and housework were covered. If there was a need, someone was there to fill it, almost immediately.

What a boon—a godsend—to my husband, my children, and me. Just as Mary and others walked with Jesus on the way to Calvary, my support group was with me all the way. I was not alone in carrying my cross.

Four years later, deep into my cancer survivorship, another beautiful moment came from the hearts of these same sensitive women. For my fortieth birthday, the same two groups of women threw a surprise party at a geographically central location in Connecticut. There, the two groups from Massachusetts and New York were united for one special afternoon.

I cannot thank these beautiful women enough. Through them I healed in ways that could only come from God—thanks to their hearts being sensitive to his Spirit. Not only was I touched on the occasion of my birthday—each one a milestone for a cancer survivor—but their concern for my inner life brought an additional blessing. Missing my family and friends in New York was always a small emotional cross in relocating to Massachusetts. Through the new Rosary group, I put down roots in a new town, and survived a major health crisis with phenomenal support. On that birthday, looking across the room at the faces of those women was overwhelming. Through their prayer and care, the two sides of my heart, my old life and my new life, came together.

 

This makes me think… all women are called to promote a new feminism, even those who have had abortions

In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a “new feminism” which rejects the temptation of imitating models of “male domination”, in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation.

Making my own the words of the concluding message of the Second Vatican Council, I address to women this urgent appeal: “Reconcile people with life”. You are called to bear witness to the meaning of genuine love, of that gift of self and of that acceptance of others which are present in a special way in the relationship of husband and wife, but which ought also to be at the heart of every other interpersonal relationship. The experience of motherhood makes you acutely aware of the other person and, at the same time, confers on you a particular task: “Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman’s 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”. A mother welcomes and carries in herself another human being, enabling it to grow inside her, giving it room, respecting it in its otherness. Women first learn and then teach others that human relations are authentic if they are open to accepting the other person: a person who is recognized and loved because of the dignity which comes from being a person and not from other considerations, such as usefulness, strength, intelligence, beauty or health. This is the fundamental contribution which the Church and humanity expect from women. And it is the indispensable prerequisite for an authentic cultural change.

I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.

-Pope Saint John Paul II-
The Gospel of Life, 1995, par. 99. [Emphasis mine.]

Women in the Diocese of Springfield Illinois: I’ll be there Sept 13!

Women in the Diocese of Springfield Illinois: I’ll be there Sept 13!

Have you been to a Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious retreat yet? Midwesterners will have there chance when I come to the Diocese of Springfield’s first ever women’s conference — at the beautiful Chiara Center… event details below! Follow and “like” the Facebook page. Plan your escape and come for the weekend! You can’t beat the one-day price or location!!

BBB_Handout

 

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 7.00.34 PM

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 7.01.14 PM

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 7.01.42 PM

See more lovely photos of Chiara Center. 

Thanks to Johnette Benkovic, of Women of Grace, for the invite! Links for archived shows!

Thanks to Johnette Benkovic, of Women of Grace, for the invite! Links for archived shows!

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 3.21.00 PMThanks 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.

 

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 3.10.21 PM

Living the Gift of Catholic Womanhood, Part 1

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 3.26.03 PM

Living the Gift of Catholic Womanhood, Part 2

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 3.54.42 PM

Living the Gift of Catholic Womanhood, Part 3

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 3.56.59 PM

Living the Gift of Catholic Womanhood, Part 4

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 4.18.02 PM

Living the Gift of Catholic Womanhood, Part 5

 

For more reviews or interviews regarding the message of my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious, go to Ave Maria Press.

Purchase my book at your local Catholic bookseller, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Ave Maria Press, or get a personalized copy from me here.

For more content from Johnnette Benkovic, including book resources, radio and television, go to Women of Grace. 

The F.U.N. Quotient… women’s Olympic style

The F.U.N. Quotient… women’s Olympic style

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.36.55 AM

Screen shot from WCVB video, Team USA Women’s Hockey, Boston Logan Airport

 

So proud of these great women from the silver-medal winning US hockey team — some of them returning to home here in the Boston area.

Watch the video of their comments after landing at Logan Airport in Boston, via WCVB-TV.

Also here’s some top Olympic moments for Team USA’s Women in other sports at Sochi. 

This makes me think… about what broader opportunities may exist for women in the Church

This makes me think… about what broader opportunities may exist for women in the Church

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 10.12.37 AMThe 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”. [73] 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”.[74] 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”.[75] 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.

This makes me think… about a woman’s innate power of sensitivity

The heart has an intuitive sense, more or less intense, that enables us to perceive the needs or sufferings that others would not notice. My own experience of life has convinced me that never a day goes by without our meeting someone in distress of body or soul, some form of sorrow or poverty, and there must surely be many more that we miss. Look around you, my friend, and you will soon see that your good heart does not need glasses.

- Elizabeth Leseur -