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

Among Women 246: 5 New Saints and a Manual for Women

Among Women 246: 5 New Saints and a Manual for Women

In this new episode of Among Women I offer a summary of the lives of 5 new saints being raised to the altar today (3 religious women, 1 laywoman, and 1 priest-Cardinal):

  • Dulce Lopes
  • Mariam Thresia
  • Marguerite Bays
  • Giuseppina Vannini
  • John Henry Newman

Danielle Bean,
courtesy of DanielleBean.com

I’m also happy to be joined by my friend, Danielle Bean, and together we take a deep dive into her new book, The Manual for Women . Topics include discovering the true dignity of women in Scripture and in the teachings of the Church (aka the feminine genius), plus the inspiration of Mary, receptivity, humility, and the practice of prayer, and avoiding the lies and claiming the truth about the goodness of being a woman.

Join in the conversation for this podcast.

 

 

Manual for Women

Image credits: 

Banner: Unsplash
TAN books
DanielleBean.com

Mama, This One’s For You – Beth Hart

I just came off another Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious retreat last week… the subject of motherhood is always a bittersweet one for many women. I love to speak about the joys and the trials of spiritual motherhood (what all women are called to) and of physical motherhood (what many of us are called to in the vocation of marriage). Then, there’s Mother Mary — who always loves us. In the order of grace, she is our true Momma, too.

It’s still May – the month of mothers and Mary… so here you go. Listen to this one and if you are able, go call your mother.

All that said, I get teared up when I see a video like this. I may have to add it to the retreat line-up.

A little hat tip to my pal, Heather Rice Fahey  (Go listen to her sing “Amazing Grace”!) for sharing it with her Facebook friends.

Making God a Priority in Your Catholic Home: Resources to help parents be prayer leaders

Making God a Priority in Your Catholic Home: Resources to help parents be prayer leaders

Priorities, to-do lists, goals…. we all get it, we’ve all got so much time and we’ve got to budget it according to what we wish to achieve. The spiritual leadership in our homes must be a priority.

As Catholics, our priorities are directed by the two great loves that could summarize the Ten Commandments: Love God and love our neighbor. And we must be deliberate about that — especially in our families. We must be in relationship with God — that means we pray — and we must share that relationship with our families. Parents need to be prayer leaders in our home. When my children were small we taught them prayers both formal and spontaneous. That and more! (I give real examples from our home in some of the articles I list for Catholic Mom and in the Among Women podcasts.) (Also, if you are a woman reading this, I also give a framework for spiritual motherhood in my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious.)

Here’s a few resources I suggest.

Three great books:

First, a new book: A Short Guide to Praying as a Family: Growing Together in Faith and Love Each Day.61eiluMcKxL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_

Last month on National Review Online, Kathryn Lopez interviews Sr Jane Laurel, OP, editor of the book. Sr Jane Laurel says…

Praying as a family helps us to see with the eyes of faith. We see others and the tasks of daily life in a different light, a light that sets us free from unrealistic expectations about ourselves, others, our time, and “the way things should be.”  Faith also helps us to see all the blessings the Lord gives to us.  As we see His providence and His presence at work in our daily lives, we are filled with gratitude and love.  And, we begin to invite Him more and more into our daily plans and decisions, to see as He sees, and to love as He loves.  Receiving His love for us inspires us to go out in love to the members of our family with this same love.  When family members love one another, they become more respectful towards and attentive to one other.  What we could really say is that they affirm one another’s existence, saying to one another in effect by their attitude and actions: “It is good that you are.” Everyone loves to be around people who love and appreciate them.  So, when family members love and appreciate one another, they are happy.  Thus, when a disagreement or a misunderstanding occurs, the foundation of faith and love are already there, and so opening the lines of communication and reconciliation comes more easily.

To be absolutely honest, it really is a matter of priorities. The things that are important to us are those for which we make time. God and family should be our top two priorities; but we are all weak, we can easily allow other things — technology, sports, social media, and entertainment — to crowd out our time for God and our time for family. We can allow ourselves to get on to the hamster wheel, keeping ourselves so busy that we never stop and take time to think about where we are placing priorities in our lives.  We don’t have to live on the hamster wheel. The Lord wants to show us a simpler way. So the Scriptures tell us, “Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). The more cares we have, the more we need to rely on God. He can reveal to us where we are off with our priorities and pursuits. He knows those things that will not truly make us happy and the things that will.  Prayer is the way of entrusting our lives to Him and accepting His guidance.  He shows us the things that only create anxiety and frenzy.  He shows us also the things that lead to communion and communication, the things that genuinely refresh us, versus the things that only drain us of energy. His way is much simpler. Making prayer part of the fabric of daily life leads to peace. Through it, parents can also teach their children how to find peace. For instance, if a parent picks up a child from school and realizes that the child is preoccupied with something, the parent would most likely try to encourage the child to talk more about what he or she is thinking and feeling.  After listening and responding to the child’s answers, the parent could say, “Let’s pray about this together.” They can then pray together, and allow God to give them light and peace.  By making prayer the priority, they hand things over to God and this almost instantaneously makes life less stressful. It’s not about what we can do; it’s about what we can let God do in our lives. [Read it all. ]

Second, a book from last year that I’m still recommending, The Little Oratory: A Beginners Guid to Praying in the Home.  by David Clayton and Leila Maria Lawler. Look for the Among Women podcast I list below with Leila Lawlor — one of the most popular downloads in the last year!

Third, also from a year ago, still offers more: Six Sacred Rules for Families: A Spirituality for the Home by Tim and Sue Muldoon.

Articles from my Catholic Mom archives:Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 6.34.10 PM

Raising Them for Jesus

Spiritual Growth in a Catholic Family, Part One, and here’s Part Two.

Make sure you are familiar with Catholic Mom. It’s one of the best guide to family resources out there! For example, 3 Ways to Create a Prayerful Home, or this, Dear Young Family at Mass. Bookmark CatholicMom.com!

Among Women Podcasts:

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 7.09.47 PMAW 186: On Faith, Grace, and Prayer in Marriage and Family Life with Leila Marie Lawler talking about The Little Oratory.

AW 76: Raising Saints for the Church with blogger Laura Lee Richard

AW 104 Little Ones in the Domestic Church, Part One, with blogger Melanie Bettinelli, and here is its Part Two.

Finally, some strong encouragement and straight talk from School of Love in Kansas City.

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PS: (Oh yeah, that vintage photo of me above in the banner photo? That’s the 1989 baptism of my daughter, my middle child.)

 

I’m speaking in Wayland MA this Wednesday night April 29 at 7:30pm! Please pre-register!

On this Wednesday April 30, the Elizabeth Ministry of Good Shepherd parish welcomes all guests to a woman’s event featuring a talk on the “The Gift of Womanhood: Answering the God’s call to lead through Spiritual Motherhood”.

This evening will be held at St Zepherin Center at Good Shepherd parish in Wayland, MA. 7:30-9:15pm. The event is free, but kindly pre-register by phoning or emailing Lucy Prunier at 508-988-0338 or Luciana.prunier@gmail.com.

Among Women 188: Mary’s Spiritual Motherhood and Ours

Among Women 188: Mary’s Spiritual Motherhood and Ours

This new episode of Among Women discusses Mary’s spiritual maternity, her spiritual motherhood of the Church, and of us! The recent Marian feasts of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Immaculate Conception gives the perfect liturgical setting to call women to go deeper with Mary. Not only that, I give my summarization of spiritual motherhood — an aspect of the feminine genius that all women are called to exercise in imitation of Mary, our mother.

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 2.41.32 PMAlso in this show, I enjoy a conversation with Mary Matheus, this year’s Treasurer of the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW). Together we talk about how the NCCW shines the light on the leadership of women in the Church and in the world.

As a special additional feature of today’s show, I’m sharing my keynote address from the NCCW’s 2013 annual conventional — “What the World Needs Now are Spiritual Mothers.” Be sure to listen to that talk after the interview with Mary Matheus.

photoThe theme of spiritual motherhood is very dear to my heart, and I spend a few chapters on this subject in my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood. This show features an opportunity to win a free copy of the book in a random drawing I’m having now until Dec 21. Listen for more details on Among Women 188.

Listen the latest show, Among Women 188, or choose a show from our archives. 

Here’s to the mundane, the ordinary, and the works of mercy we cannot live without.

Here’s to the mundane, the ordinary, and the works of mercy we cannot live without.

Today I had a thought. A complete thought. And that’s a good thing amidst a million distractions.

Here’s to the mundane.

Here’s to the stuff of earth and all the little things we do — the unspectacular, unexciting needs met for love of God, and love of others. For God notices what we do, even when we forget He is there.

St Therese of Lisieux got it right when she said, “Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.” Therese’s wisdom points to the beauty of the little way.

Every day, I need to pray in the morning: what is God’s will for me now? That’s where my peace is.

Some days there might be brilliant deeds, but honestly, for me, most of them are pretty ordinary.

So here’s to the mundane. Because that’s where He wants me right now.

Here’s to the everyday and to the myriad of things we might do that never get noticed by anyone other than God. They matter.

God’s plan for my life these past few months included countless things that I would not have chosen for myself. Yet God very much intended these activities and places to be on my calendar. Since late spring, I’ve been absorbed in a whirlwind of tending to others’ needs. God has kept me busy.

IMG_2539I have not had a lot of time to write because I have not had time to process it all. It has been much more important to just live it, not chronicle it… staying present to the people I’m with and the tasks I’m given. I sometimes think I place an unrealistic expectation on myself to constantly write about things. Not to mention I’m tempted by the alluring social media zeitgeist of our plugged-in culture beckoning me to come and play and escape for a while. But, for now, I’m not answering.

Yet I wouldn’t be honest if I did not confess that I struggled with acquiring that virtue.

I went through a withdrawal of sorts regarding my unplugged status. For the first few weeks of this shift, I was constantly feeling guilty that I was not producing new material for my writing career… a daily mental nagging that my slow disappearance from my online platforms was hurting my career’s visibility and viability.

The withdrawal period came to a halt when I remembered Who is in charge of everything, from my day’s agenda to my life’s work. My expectations are not his. My ways are not his ways. This became the basis for my relearning how to tune out my own perfectionistic expectations and continue to trust in God’s plan for me. My expectations usually always become worse by media noise — the digital megaphone yelling at me reminding me what I’m supposedly missing every day.

His will equals my peaceIt plots the path for my knowing which way to choose, and what to pack and what to leave behind.

So, here’s to the mundane, to living the hidden life that is oh so necessary.

Hiddenness is an essential quality of the spiritual life. Solitude, silence, ordinary tasks, being with people without great agendas, sleeping, eating, working, playing … all of that without being different from others, that is the life that Jesus lived and the life he asks us to live. It is in hiddenness that we, like Jesus, can increase “in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and with people” (Luke 2:51). It is in hiddenness that we can find a true intimacy with God and a true love for people.

Even during his active ministry, Jesus continued to return to hidden places to be alone with God. If we don’t have a hidden life with God, our public life for God cannot bear fruit.

-Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, 1995-

Here’s to the routine earthiness that grounds ordinary life — the roll of the day, the humdrum of what needs to be done. And honing a mature vision to see and act.

Here’s to finding a whispered sense of the sacred in every day… to knowing God is with us wherever we are, whatever we do.

Here’s to trusting God is found in every single person we’re with. Honestly, some days I have had to work harder to see that. But my faith acknowledges it, and right thinking does indeed lead to right action, most of the time.

Here’s to being in the moment with someone who needs me, to being about My Father’s business, to His will, not mine.

Of late, I’ve been caregiving in a variety of ways. I’ve been visiting the sick, clothing the naked, wiping the dirty, feeding the hungry, tackling the moldy and the dusty, driving to the hospital, the nursing home, the physical therapy appointment, and back again. I’ve been smiling at the next step taken with a walker, the graduation to solid food, the progress of wounds closing, and the dosage of pain meds lowering.

It is rather mundane and simple. Routines have to keep going, for the sake of others. I’ve been picking up after others, and tending to the dressing, the laundering, and the meal prep. It has reminded me of my years of hands-on motherhood, but to those I’ve been tending, I am no mother. I’ve been caring for parents who have been dealing with a longterm health crisis and a very slow recovery. Then my husband was unexpectedly sidelined with a back ailment. Then, in the midst of that, over the last six weeks, three of my friends have buried their fathers.

Some days the only good I think I can do is in prayer. But besides the prayer, there is a spiritual motherhood that I’m being called to – that of lifting up the lowly and the depressed, and making the things I serve taste good even if I can’t make the people eating them feel good. It is standing by and staying awake and in between, I’m providing friendship, nurture, coffee, and yes, adult beverages.

I’ve had to do things that I have no taste for either – like reading up on medical issues, prescription dosages, geriatrics, Medicare, financial planning, and wills.

I’ve been conversing, cheering, cajoling, joking, arguing, admonishing, strategizing, and soothing. I’ve been praying, crying, grieving. I’ve been shooting the breeze and swearing a bit too much. I’ve not been getting enough sleep. Yet my fatigue is no excuse for the many times I’ve tripped headlong into the sinful gulch that runs deep alongside the river of my would-be sanctity. I’m not the most patient person. But I’m trying to remember all the times when I was the patient and others were caring for me.

Still, here’s to the mundane.

There is simply holy work that must be done. It is the caring for a family and home, for the sick and for the dying.

The corporal and spiritual works of mercy never really make headlines but they make the world go round. We’d be loveless and lost without them.

When doubting our effectiveness, some days all we can do is offer it all up. It still counts before a Father who sees all and knows all. My stay-at-home-Mom years taught me a valuable lesson when serving… I call it not keeping score. There is a time and a season for everything under heaven. (Eccl. 3:1.)IMG_3063

Today love means tending to the ones most needy and the work most pressing. Right now, that means not much writing for me. There have been a few short respites. I’m watching the calendar pages change. My presence is all that is required for now. Soon there will be time to pick up the things I’ve laid aside temporarily.

Here’s to the mundane.

Here’s to today. God made it. He sees it, knows it and loves it. Everything He makes is good.

Do not be anxious, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.

Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.
-Matthew 6: 31-34 rsv-

“This is my body, which is given for you”: reflecting on the Eucharistic parallel in motherhood – a book excerpt

“This is my body, which is given for you” (Lk 22:19).

These words of Jesus captured the heart of his mission. His life on earth would be given in sacrifice on the Cross for the sake of our redemption from the sins that separated us from God. For Catholics, these precious words also capture the institution of the Eucharist, the great sacrifice and sacrament considered to be the source and summit of their faith.

In these holy words, uttered in prayer by a priest at Mass, we cannot escape the “bodiliness” of God––the truly superlative way that Jesus continues to be present in the world today––that his flesh and blood would be miraculously concealed under the auspices of consecrated bread and wine that we consume in the Eucharist.

“This is my body, which is given for you.”

These words reveal the significant value and sacredness of our own bodies. And if you’ll forgive the informality—the bod—which God created for us is bodacious! Everything God does, he does for a reason. Our bodies have as much meaning in the eyes of God as our souls, to which they are remarkably joined.

Dictionaries list meanings for the word bodacious as “most excellent” or “remarkable,” or “audacious in a way that is considered admirable.” Some consider the word bodacious a portmanteau, a word that is a linguistic blend of two meanings, such as “bold” and “audacious.” How bold that our God would come to earth as a human person in a body, and how audacious that our bodies might somehow image the divine God who made us, and one day be glorified in heaven.

Our Creator creates the body; our Baptism consecrates the body. Through Baptism, the body is baptized and anointed, as the soul is marked with the sign of faith. A woman’s body is part of the Body of Christ. So, too, is a man’s body. We are grafted in our entirety into the Body of Christ.
Just as the body of Jesus exemplified his mission as the Christ, so, too, the mission of the Christian is lived in and through the body. We do all things—we carry out our mission—in our bodies and through our bodies. Indeed, our bodies belong to the Body of Christ.

Catholic churches have depictions of the body of Christ on the Cross—the crucifix—a man’s broken body hanging on a cross. We are confronted with the bodiliness of God. In his suffering and broken body, we can see our own wounds of body and soul. Through our sin and ignorance, we defile the body, revile the body, ignore the body, and denigrate the body. Yet in the crucifix, we also are confronted with the godliness of grace. Through Christ’s sacrifice, the deepest graces are found in the Body of Christ––graces to restore and heal the brokenness we find in ourselves.

“This is my body, which is given for you.”

The body of a woman signifies her mission; she is designed to mother.

Our female bodies point to the bodacious life-giving mission of women. The mission of the eye is to see. The mission of the tongue is to speak. The mission of the skin is to feel and protect. The mission of the uterus is to house new life. The mission of the breast is to nourish.

“This is my body, which is given for you.”

With all due reverence, these could be the same words that a mother might say to a child growing in her womb. A pregnancy is a concrete way to lay one’s life and body down for another person. (Now imagine the reality of the mother of multiples carrying more than one baby!) Recall the generosity and beauty of mutual self-giving, self-donating love between spouses. In pregnancy, a woman builds on this self-donating love. She makes a minute-by-minute gift of self to her unborn child.

I’ve mentioned my own pregnancy struggles. My third trimesters for my three pregnancies were as unpredictable as my first trimesters and filled with medical testing. I was poked and prodded and checked for blood-pressure issues, gestational diabetes, large-gestational-age issues, and more. These, plus the returning nausea and heartburn that I began each pregnancy with, brought bouts of worry and uncertainty for me.

Yet the Christian is called to rely on God: “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pt 5:7). Despite my temperament’s bent toward worry, I did something each Sunday that brought me great peace: I attended Mass and received the Lord in the Eucharist.
I lived to hear those words: “This is my body, which is given for you.” And I tried to join myself to the words as Christ joined himself to me through that sacrament.

As I received the nourishing host and the precious Blood at the altar, I imagined the Lord’s Body and Blood pumping through my veins, reaching through the umbilical cord where my unborn baby received nourishment. My heart was consoled that my baby “received” Christ in some miraculous way that was unknown to me from a scientific or biological standpoint, but in some kind of supernatural way, very much known to Jesus. As I was being touched by and nourished by Christ, so was my child. And with each Communion I made a deeper connection with the baby that was yet to be born.

Philosopher Alice von Hildebrand captures the immense privilege women have as they participate in the biological and spiritual processes of maternity. In The Privilege of Being a Woman, she explains:

The special role granted to women in procreation . . . is highlighted by the fact that as soon as she has conceived (and conception takes place hours after the marital embrace), God creates the soul of the new child in her body. This implies a direct “contact” between Him and the mother-to-be, a contact in which the father plays no role whatever. This contact gives the female body a note of sacredness, for any closeness between God and one of His creatures is stamped by His Holy Seal. This divine “touch” is . . . a special female privilege that every pregnant woman should gratefully acknowledge. (86.)

While pregnant, a woman has the unique privilege of carrying two souls in her body: hers and her child’s. My sense of this was magnified every time I received the Eucharist during pregnancy. Before I ever got to teach my children about Jesus or the faith, God had already visited my womb in creating the souls of my sons and daughter, and “touched” them in their creation and via the Eucharistic miracle. This armed me with confidence that I was never alone in caring for this tiny child in utero. It also indicated my growth as a spiritual mother, as praying for this child was a totally natural thing to do. Spiritual mothering was something I did not have the words for when I was young, though I was slowly intuiting the reality that physical and spiritual mothering was the way my body and soul were designed.

As a parent, my spiritual maternity was found in this longing in my heart that my children might know and receive the Lord and live in his will. With each successive pregnancy, this desire grew, and it motivated me to act in ways that would teach and lead my children to know Christ.

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. (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women, 18)

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The preceding post was an excerpt from Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood. 

Raising Them for Jesus – 3 influences your kids need today to have faith tomorrow

I’m over at CatholicMom.com this week, sharing a post on parenting…

The young bride-to-be, a good friend’s daughter, sent me a thank you note for my gift and my attendance at her bridal shower. She wrote: “Thank you for being a ‘second mother’ in my life. I am blessed to have grown up with role models of faithful, holy women.” That’s the second time I’ve heard her call me that. The first time was at the shower as she opened the gift. Her mother smiled at the compliment, recognizing how she, too, has been a kind of spiritual mother to some of my children.

Every young Catholic, especially teens, needs to find credible witnesses for the faith. I’m so grateful to the family members and the friends who have helped to spiritually mentor my children – especially in their teenage years on the way to adulthood. Those Catholic friends made the faith real to my children. I’m seeing its effects now as my grown children age into their mid-twenties.

Spiritual mentoring, or other faithful adults whose witness bears an impact, is just one of three important factors that raises the odds for our children having an adult faith.

Three powerful influences help shape the spiritual life in children in a lasting way – the faith practice of their parents, a spiritual mentor or two outside of the family, and a personal encounter with God.

The first is the practice of faith in the daily life of the family. There is no replacement for the genuine faith and devotional practices of a child’s parents in leading the family. The eyes and ears of children are the most sensitive spiritual surveillance systems ever designed. They pick up on authenticity, honesty, and integrity of their parents’ relationship to God and to the teachings of the Church better than we imagine.

Read the rest at Catholic Mom.

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.

A Woman of Holy Influence: Alice von Hildebrand, philosopher-theologian, knighted by Francis

In my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious, as in my podcast, Among Women, I often discuss what it means to be a woman of holy influence. And what the end game really is: making a difference in the culture as spiritual and physical mothers. You cannot get there unless you understand the dignity and the gifts of women in the first place. I quote Alice von Hildebrand’s wisdom in two places in my own book, and at the back of my book I encourage readers to read her short, academic treatise on women: The Priviliege of Being A Woman. (Her other writings are listed here.)

Her life’s work as a professor at New York’s Hunter College for over three decades, and being the keeper of her husband’s philosophical legacy, as well as her own work, Von Hildebrand always kept the dignity of the human person in full view.

John Burger at Aleteia reports:

The aim of education is to cultivate in students a “listening heart,” Cardinal Raymond Burke said in New York this week.

Cardinal Burke invested von Hildebrand as a Dame Grand Cross of the Pontifical Order of St. Gregory the Great, an honor Pope Francis bestowed on her Sept. 19. The investiture took place during a dinner at a club in midtown Manhattan. The affair marked von Hildebrand’s 90th birthday and was held by the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project, which seeks to disseminate the work of the German Catholic philosopher of the same name.

Cardinal Burke, prefect of the Vatican Signatura – the highest judicial body in the Church – said in a keynote address that both Dietrich von Hildebrand, a professor at Fordham University, and his wife… faithfully carried out the role of Catholic educators in engendering in students the “listening heart” that leads one to the fullness of truth in the Catholic faith.

“So often today, we find individual Catholics as well as Catholic endeavors and institutions in the state of some confusion or even error about their Catholic identity,” he said. “In particular, a notion of tolerance of ways of thinking and acting contrary to Catholic teaching and morals seemingly has become the interpretative key of many of our Catholic activities. This notion is not securely grounded in the moral tradition, but it tends to dominate our approach to the extent that we end up claiming to be Catholic while tolerating ways of thinking and acting which are diametrically opposed to the moral law and therefore to the Catholic faith.” Such a relativistic approach is illogical, he said.

The piece also noted Von Hildebrand’s love of students, and the moral leadership she offered to students from every walk of life…

The cardinal said that Alice von Hildebrand “tirelessly gives witness to the truth of the faith through the witness of her life and through her speaking and writing. … So many students were drawn to Christ and assisted in receiving faith in him who alone is our salvation. She truly loved her students, and therefore wanted them to know the truth and its living source in God.”

Alice von Hildebrand has said that she never sought to proselytize her students, but that simply teaching that there is an objective truth that can be known led many to the Catholic faith.

One of her former students, journalist Stephanie Block, herself a convert, said that von Hildebrand was often under fire at Hunter, part of the City University of New York system, for her adherence to objective truth.

“Why would someone remain in such an environment?” Block asked, answering with a quote from her former teacher’s memoirs: “I was convinced I was doing meaningful work and was equipped to address every possible nationality, every possible philosophical outlook and every sort of background, particularly the humble and problematic circumstances typical of Hunter College students.”

“There’s a whole passel of former students who are her godchildren, and for every one of them dozens of others, if not hundreds who owed so much to her intellectually and spiritually,” Block continued. “Her wit and generosity were the sugar that made the medicine go down. The medicine was the truth, the salubrious truth that was her gift to us in a world that was so stingy about it.”

Author Genevieve Kineke, blogger at the Feminine Genius, and a recent Among Women guest, chimes in on Von Hildebrand’s efforts being honored.

Consider the spiritual motherhood at work in that very classroom, and how her active and listening heart won over so many souls to the truth. Truth and beauty speak a language of dignity and consistency, which must have been present even in the indifferent halls of Hunter College. Her integrity of character is tremendously inspiring, showing us that there is no setting where maternal wisdom cannot shine.

While Pope Francis seems to think that we need a new “theology of women,” it seems that the theology surrounding the truth of God is sufficient to form young men and women–even today. Dame Alice always sensed that, and used her classroom as a “seat of wisdom.”

Burger reports that Von Hildebrand poignantly offered deep gratitude to the many important people in her life as she marked the occasion. Indeed, the fire of a Christian’s soul is fanned by grace and good company.

“My husband said toward the end of his life, ‘Love and friendship are remnants of the earthly paradise.’ In this vale of tears, when we encounter so many difficulties, to have people you can call friends is such a joy, such a comfort, such a gift,” von Hildebrand said. “We are meant to be united by a bond of love. Friendship implies that you have a clear vision of what the other person is called to be. You see that person with imperfections but you are willing to forget that.”

Read the whole report at Aleteia.

I found an interview with Alice von Hildebrand archived at Catholic Answers, and one more recent at Blog Radio.