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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.

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.

Reprise: Woman, you are a gift! Respecting women respects life!!

Reprise: Woman, you are a gift! Respecting women respects life!!

Last year, on the anniversary of Roe vs Wade, and the March for Life, I penned this column as a summary of the beauty of womanhood, and her gift of maternity and it was featured in the online version of the Washington Post…

Here it is in its entirety.

Woman, you are a gift!

From the first presentation of woman to man in the Garden of Eden, the gift of who you are is nothing less than “wow!” Your dignity comes from the gift of your being, and the gift of your being created feminine.

Man saw your profound and complementary gifts right away, and rejoiced. In God’s first act of blessing humanity, the creator smiled upon and blessed the union of the first couple, encouraging them be fertile and multiply (Gen 1:28).

Their loving union was a blessed gift to each other, and their offspring, delivered through woman’s maternity, was designed to be a visible sign of that blessing; another gift.

Then sin entered the world. For their failures the woman and man suffered grievous losses, and because we are their progeny, our own pains followed.

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 to degrade maternity, especially as the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade comes to pass.

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.

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’etre 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.

What’s more, a pregnant mother is entrusted with carrying an immortal soul besides her own — a soul that is destined for eternity. That’s why a woman really needs to be aware of the dignity of her feminine creation, and the sublime gift of her maternity, so she can confer that dignity on her child, and upon others through her love of life.

The gift of maternity is inherent in all women. They are predisposed to motherhood by their design. Yet, as we know, not all women bear children. Even if a woman never gives birth, a woman’s life is still inclined toward mothering. All women are entrusted with the call to care for the people within their sphere of influence. This broadens our ideas of maternity beyond gestation and lactation.

A woman’s relationships with others, even though they may not be fruitful biologically, can be fruitful spiritually. Therefore a woman’s life–her feminine genius–is characterized by physical and/or spiritual motherhood.

When the gift of a woman’s fertility and maternity are devalued, they are misinterpreted as liabilities or threats to a woman’s potential happiness, or earning power, or freedom.

Both women and men are crippled when disrespect for any of the gifts of the other are ignored, stifled, abused, or rejected. But women are demeaned when this precious part of them is reduced to a faculty to be managed, rather than a capability to be treasured.

Our beautiful maternity, and the lives and loves that issue forth from it, is why the church continues to stand in defense of chastity and marriage, along with its opposition to the use of contraception, abortion of the unborn and any other threat to human life.

Finally, dear woman, here’s something else the church teaches: If we’ve failed to live up to this teaching on maternity, if we’ve disrespected or abused the beautiful gifts of our womanhood, we can make our way back. The gifts of grace and forgiveness through the sacraments provide that path.

Let us trust that grace. Let us be gentle and generous in dealing with our own failures as regards our sexuality or our maternity. Jesus wants us to be healed, and especially to be healed of wounds related to our sexuality and maternity.

Let us come to him with our brokenness, and the sins against our genius of maternity, no matter how grievous or painful.

Let us come to know this God who came through the womb to save us.

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The On Faith column of the Washington Post has moved to On Faith at Faithstreet.com. Here’s the link for the column above.

 

This makes me think… about women as guardians of life

The maternal mission is also the basis of a particular responsibility. The mother is appointed guardian of life. It is her task to accept it with care, encouraging the human being’s first dialogue with the world, which is carried out precisely in the symbiosis with the mother’s body. It is here that history of every human being begins… with an exclusive and unmistakable plan of life.

-Blessed John Paul II, Angelus message, July 16, 1995-

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I write about this theme in Chapter 8 of Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious. 

An “office Mom’s” maternal gift brings compassion, nurture, mentoring, and dignity to the workplace

In my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious,  one area of focus is the maternal gift that women bring to the world  based on their feminine nature. This maternal nature is part of God’s design of womanhood, as Blessed John Paul II taught, in that the human person is entrusted to women in a special way because of this gift of maternity.

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 – and this in a particular way determines their vocation…

A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting… (John Paul II, Mulieris Dignatatem, 30)

Often, women help to humanize the situations they are in; they are all about “relationships”and how well people mesh together. This is one of the strengths of women, and when exercised in friendly and respectful ways, women become a life-giving resource in our society, especially in the workplace. In this recent piece in the Wall Street Journal, we see this demonstrated, as writer Katherine Rosman asks the question: “Who’s Your Office Mom?”

The office mom is shorthand for a figure in many offices: the colleague who remembers everyone’s birthdays and brings in cupcakes. She has Advil and tissues in her desk drawer. She knows your significant other is all wrong for you—and will say so.

She is often an office manager but can be a senior executive, too. Just as people talk about their “office spouse,” a colleague they spend time with and confide in, the office mom is asserting herself as the matriarch of the office family. This is especially true for more companies as they ditch private offices in favor of open-space desks where senior staff members sit among the junior and every personal phone call is overheard.

The office mom is almost always a woman and often slightly older than other colleagues. She might actually be a mother, but not necessarily. A relationship with her is complex like all family relationships tend to be: A younger employee might want to please her professionally, even as she grits her teeth listening to her personal advice.

Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 1.41.43 PMHow an office mom might operate? I think it is as individual as a woman herself. Someone might offer to celebrate birthdays and such, but then, another might change the office culture just by being thoughtful, as in this case where a woman serves her co-workers when she sees needs and intentionally  sets out to fill them:

In an economy where companies can grow quickly without the infrastructure of human resources, an office mom is about more than birthday cakes. Pamela Mendoza is the executive assistant and office manager at Udemy, a Silicon Valley online education company. At 38, she is one of the oldest in the office. When new people move to town to join the company, she offers advice on finding apartments and restaurants. She shares her feelings about the importance of a work-life balance. Recently, she ordered a dining room table for the center of the office to encourage people to step away from their computers for long enough to eat lunch. “It’s not the job, it’s my personality,” Ms. Mendoza says.

For Eliza Davidson, a 23-year-old recent college graduate, Ms. Mendoza’s support has been a comfort. Ms. Davidson says: “Pamela has been a great guide for the more quote-unquote ‘adult things’ I need to care about, like health care and taxes.”

Some office moms say they take on the role without thinking—they are moms at home and don’t know how to switch it off. Others become office moms because nurturing younger colleagues gives them an outlet for maternal energy.

The rest of the WSJ article is here.

The mission of women in the world at large is to nurture and care for it… that includes the people in her sphere of influence.

For more on this subject of women and work, especially, faith-filled women at work, you might be interested in this recent Among Women podcast with Mary Wallace, author of the blog The Working Catholic Mom. 

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.

(Read the whole post.)

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

Woman, YOU are a gift! Encouragement for women in the Washington Post: an article by yours truly…

Woman, YOU are a gift! Encouragement for women in the Washington Post: an article by yours truly…

Here’s  a snippet:

Woman, you are a gift!

 

From the first presentation of woman to man in the Garden of Eden, the gift of who you are is nothing less than “wow!” Your dignity comes from the gift of your being, and the gift of your being created feminine.

 

Man saw your profound and complementary gifts right away, and rejoiced. In God’s first act of blessing humanity, the Creator smiled upon and blessed the union of the first couple, encouraging them be fertile and multiply (Gen 1:28).

 

Their loving union was a blessed gift to each other, and their offspring, delivered through woman’s maternity, was designed to be a visible sign of that blessing; another gift.

 

Then sin entered the world. For their failures the woman and man suffered grievous losses, and because we are their progeny, our own pains followed.

 

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!

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[Read the article in its entirety here.]

Listen to my interview about it, on “A Closer Look” on Relevant Radio, tonight at 5:30pm central/ 6:30pm eastern.