Learn more about my latest book – All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters. Available now!

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.

:::

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.

:::

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.

:::

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)

:::

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.

:::

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.

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… 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

This makes me think…. about the beautiful gift sensitivity in women and why it’s so needed…

Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the personbecause 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 themIn 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 beautynot merely physical, but above all spiritual-which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women.

-Blessed John Paul II, Letter to Women, par. 12.-

For more on this subject, read Ch 6 of my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious.

This makes me think… about the feminine soul

The soul of woman must therefore be expansive and open to all human beings; it must be quiet so that no small weak flame will be extinguished by stormy winds; warm so as not to benumb fragile buds; clear, so that no vermin will settle in dark corners and recesses; self-contained, so that no invasions from without can imperil the inner life; empty of itself, in order that extraneous life may have room in it; finally, it is mistress of itself and also of its body, so that the entire person is readily at the disposal of every call.

Edith SteinEssays on Women, pp.132–33 –