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This makes me think… about who we are…

Will there be times when the Lord still reveals areas in our lives that need to change? Yes, of course. But His conviction is about what we do, not about who we are.

-Holley Gerth-

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

I’m writing about embracing the feminine genius in Family Foundations Magazine’s “Celebrate NFP Women” issue

I’m writing about embracing the feminine genius in Family Foundations Magazine’s “Celebrate NFP Women” issue

I’m happy to have my writing featured in the award-winning Family Foundations magazine in the July/August edition, published by the Couple to Couple League (CCLI.org). My article is part of their “Celebrating NFP Women” issue and is found on pages 30-33. In the article I talk about embracing your feminine genius.

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Here’s a snippet from the article “Embrace Your Feminine Genius”:

God loves our femininity! After all, he designed it! Women were God’s good idea! The Church calls us to a new feminism that treats the whole woman – and all her gifts — as precious, full of enduring, eternal value. Nothing about a woman is a mistake, nothing about her body or soul is anything less than a true gift, when seen through the eyes of God’s good opinion.

I grew up with feminism. For years I saw it mostly as a good in society dealing with issues of justice and fairness. And historically, there have been benefits that we must laud. Coming of age in the 70s, I became the first woman to get a college degree in my family. In the 80s, I broke some glass ceilings – being hired at jobs that had previously dominated by men. I was all about equal pay for equal work, and seeing an end to sexual harassment in the workplace and elsewhere. I’m still grateful for these legal gains for the sake of women, and for men.

Yet over time, I realized that there were certain aspects to cultural feminism to did not square with my deeply held Catholic faith. Feminism’s strong advocacy for oral and barrier-method contraception sent me a message that certain parts of my body couldn’t be trusted. My fertility was suspect, and my ability to conceive children were seen as potential liabilities to my happiness or threats to my earning power. This was mixed messaging. It led to a kind of reductionist thinking that said sometimes my body’s natural reproduction function was “good”, and sometimes it was “bad”, depending on prevailing opinions regarding a pregnancy. Being a woman was a negative, not a positive experience, for some of the women in my milieu.

Were some parts of us were considered less than good and holy? I remember women joking about “the monthly curse” or “riding the crimson wave”. Why did contraception treat fertility as some kind of disease to be managed rather than a gift to be celebrated? These questions were in conflict with my experience of God’s love and care for me.

Frankly, these assumptions were diametrically opposed to my faith that God made us good – even, very good! The Bible and the Church taught that God’s creation of man and woman was good. God does not make junk… every human life is a gift and has value.

I needed a coherent, consistent, and unchanging understanding of my dignity of my personhood — all of me, all the time — not one that wavered by whims.

My adult faith required that I take a hard look at how I might live a well-integrated life…. A life that knows God’s loves for me, and seeks to live that out in all the actions of my daily life. I wanted my life and faith to harmonize, not sing out of key… Especially when it

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came to love, sex, and family planning… the very core of my femininity.

So I started to pay closer attention to what the Church was saying about these things. I discovered that there is a “theology” to the body… that is, the God-who-made-our-bodies had a few good things to say about them. God always has our best interest – and a woman’s feminine genius — at heart.

What are the things that make women blessed, beautiful, and bodacious? They are a woman’s dignity, gifts, and mission.

Read the whole article by subscribing to Family Foundations magazine, a wonderful resource for couples! To receive Family Foundations, just become a member of the Couple to Couple League. The cost is $35 per year. Family Foundations is published 6 times a year.

 

My WaPo response to Francis’ comments about needing a deeper theology of women in the church

Screen Shot 2013-01-19 at 6.27.30 PMLast Sunday, on his flight home from World Youth Day in Rio, reporters asked several questions of the Holy Father on a variety of subjects. Of note for women is that Francis, while stipulating that the path to priestly ordination for women is closed, he suggested that a deeper “theology of women in the church” might be in order.

From where I sit, Francis’ comments should not be misconstrued to mean the church has no theology of women, for, as many of you know, the church has spoken quite a bit about women and their vocations most notably in the last fifty years. The problem as I see it, is that many women and men in the pews have not heard much about the dignity and vocation of women. I wrote my book, Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious as an introduction to many of these themes.

In light of this, all I can say to our pontiff is, Holy Father, we welcome this!

And to the media all I can say is, it’s time to catch up on what the church has already said about women! 

Read my thoughts on this subject at the “On Faith” column in today’s Washington Post online.

 

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Update: I’m loving this response from former Among Women guest, author Emily Stimpson gives over at CatholicVote.org.

These words made me think… about the formula for writing my book*…

These words made me think… about the formula for writing my book*…

May the Blessed Virgin help men and women in our time

clearly understand God’s plan for femininity.

Called to the highest vocation of divine motherhood,

Our Lady is the exemplary woman. . . .

 

May Mary obtain for women throughout the world

an enlightened and active awareness

of their dignity, gifts, and mission.

 – John Paul II –

Angelus Message – June 18, 1995

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The Vatican website does not offer the complete 1995 Angelus text in English, but it can be found at this blog, or in this book.

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*These words from Blessed John Paul II, gave me the organizing principle for my new book — on the dignity, gifts, and mission of women — with great zeal for its Marian dimensions. The book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is on sale today at Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. Ask for it at your local Catholic bookseller or order it from Ave Maria Press.

Powerful wisdom from Emily Stimpson & Angela Franks – both recent guests on Among Women

While I’m busy in my own corner of the world launching a book to make the gift of womanhood and the feminine genius better known, I have to just stop and offer some praise for the genius of some of the bodacious –most excellent– writers and teachers I know who are doing the same. I learn so much from them!

First of all, there’s Angela Franks, my most recent guest on Among Women. We talk about a lot of issues on that show including how Catholic “new feminism” understands contraception, Margaret Sanger, and eugenics. For those of us who may not know our 20th century history very well, many of Margaret Sanger’s ideas have become part of the foundation that supports a culture that tries to “fix” society by weeding out undesirables, and has no true respect for the dignity of all human persons. Much of this thinking plays a role in our society’s contraceptive and abortive mentalities. But we have the power to change that both from a faith and a common-sense perspective.

In a recent blog post about working women, Angela Franks states:

According to Dr. [Jennifer Roback] Morse, fertility is not seen as the norm for women but is rather viewed as a problem.

This is exactly the problem facing women struggling with “work-life” issues today: their fertility is not a gift to be embraced but a problem to be solved.

What do we need? We need to recognize that fertility has certain biological coordinates that won’t change, no matter how much we want them to: namely, peak fertility in the twenties and decreasing fertility after that. Artificial reproductive technologies [ART] have less and less effect the older a woman is, not to mention the horrific side effects of hyperstimulating the ovaries plus multiple “left-over” frozen embryos. Check out Katie Elrod’s chapter on ART in Women, Sex, and the Church: A Case for Catholic Teaching.

What is changeable? Not really fertility, but rather social attitudes and structures. Let’s not attack biology. Let’s attack the real problems, and create better structures that allow women to bear and raise children…

Read the rest, it’s informative.

Then, there’s the amazing Emily Stimpson — also a previous guest on Among Women, (and whose book I recommend in the resources listed in my own book) — whose recent piece just further adds fuel to the fire that our societal standards are dangerous for women, especially our upcoming girls.

Here’s an excerpt from her post, “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Daughters Grow Up to be Disney Stars” over at CatholicVote.org:

Squeaky clean, wholesome goodness. For almost a century, that’s been Disney’s brand. But the young girls working for the Mouse have the most terrible habit of not getting the memo.

Case in point? Miley Cyrus (aka “Hannah Montana”), who went from teenage cutie to dominatrix sex kitten in little more than a calendar year.

There’s also Demi Lovato, who backed out of her hit Disney show after provocative photos surfaced online of her kissing another girl.

And now Selena Gomez has gotten in the game, with her newest flick, Spring Breakers, featuring The Wizards of Waverly star doing both drugs and engaging in threesomes with her female co-stars.

It’s not just Disney starlets that are the problem, though. The annals of Hollywood are filled with similarly cautionary tales. Not coincidentally, so too are homes across America, where girls from 5 to 15 and beyond are imitating the starlets they idolize, dressing, talking, and acting in ways that, in the not too distant past, would have made a sailor blush.

Setting aside the soul-destroying consequences of living life as a sexual object, from even the most secular vantage point the sexualization of young girls—Disney stars or otherwise—is bad news. Defining your worth by your sexual desirability causes grades to drop and athletic performance to suffer. It induces depression and triggers eating disorders. It leads to high-risk behaviors, sexually transmitted diseases, and situations where no amount of saying “no” can help.

On Sunday, two young football players in the town where I live, Steubenville, Ohio, were found guilty of raping an underage girl. That ruling has generated all sorts of chatter in the media about the lessons parents need to teach their boys.

And boys in this culture do need to learn some serious lessons. Parents need to teach their sons how to love, honor, and respect women, to see them as human beings to value, not bodies to use.

But as a cursory glance at either the Disney bullpen or the local junior high will tell you, our girls need to learn a few lessons too, lessons that are foundational to protecting their bodies, their souls, and their futures.

Then Emily gives some good lesson points for families, so go read the rest. You’ll be happy you did.

If the idea of living a kind of feminine freedom that is free of the shackles of a feminism that denies the gift of who we are as women — in the fullness of our biology  — and the fullness of our intellect, will, and emotions that are baptized by grace, you might just want to read my book  for an executive summary of the dignity, gifts, and mission of women. You might also wish keep on your radar the next books that both Emily Stimpson and Angela Franks will be publishing later this year. Emily Stimpson’s future title is: Everyday Theology of the Body: Meditations on the Mysteries and Manners of the Sacramental Worldview. Angela Franks, a theology PhD, will be writing about how we can better live out our lives with faith and knowledge of a sexuality and life that is loving, faithful, and fruitful —  and free of the entanglements of contraception and, oh, and so much more! So stay tuned!

There’s a lot of bodacious women out there. I hope you’ll count yourself among them.