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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 the privilege of being a woman who has borne a child

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 a new child in her body. This implies a “direct contact” between Him and the mother-to-be, a contact in which the father place 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 privilege that every pregnant woman should gratefully acknowledge.

Alice von Hildebrand

The Privilege of Being a Woman

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I reflect on this in chapter 8 of Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious.

4 Magazines for Women: Verily, Regina, Catholic Digest, and Radiant

4 Magazines for Women: Verily, Regina, Catholic Digest, and Radiant

Sara Kerens, Verily Magazine, First Date shoot, March 2013Tonight at 8pm Eastern, Verily Magazine is having a Twitter Party, according to their Facebook post celebrating their debut print edition. (Find it on Twitter: @verilymag, #VerilyParty)

I’ve been watching the growth of Verily, from an online dream to an in-print magazine over the past year, and I’m very happy to see it’s growth, and its beautiful sense of style and beauty that respects both the dignity and the intelligence of women. Their first print issue debuts now, and its cover is on the left. (Yeah, you bet, I’m subscribing, and getting one for my twenty-something daughter.)

Here’s the purpose and principles guiding Verily:

It is no secret that women today are more educated, influential, and affluent than ever before. Yet we report record levels of anxiety and decreased happiness. Is this what we were striving for?

In a world that seems to offer us limitless choices, somehow the modern narrative about women – what we should look like, how we should date, how to be successful, what should make us happy – can ring hollow. So Verily is starting a new conversation – one for those who want a fresh take on life; an honest message that relates to their experiences which is uplifting, affirming, and true.

STYLE

All women desire to be beautiful and alluring. Fashion can serve as an expression of that desire or it has the ability to betray a woman’s true worth. Verily will showcase current fashion trends – from street style to runway – for truly inspirational, wearable looks that complement women and enhance their dignity rather than compromise it.

RELATIONSHIPS

Women have made great strides in achieving educational and career advancement. Yet in their personal lives, many young women still face confusion as they navigate their relationships with friends, colleagues, family members, or romantic interests. Verily will combine empirical research, real stories, and a best-friend mentality for a holistic and positive vision of relationships to which women can aspire.

LIFESTYLE

From being effective at the office to making a house a home, running a marathon, or giving back to the community, what a woman does in her day-to-day life contributes deeply to her sense of who she is. Verily will offer fun, thoughtful articles to inform and inspire the woman who desires to set her own agenda for personal success without shunning her uniquely feminine gifts in order to get there.

CULTURE

No one is an island unto themselves – we are all engaged in the world and participate in shaping the culture. Verily will provide distinctive essays, reports, and profile pieces that highlight empowering stories of real women in the world. With attention to good writing and bold investigating, this section will feature articles on today’s most important issues.

-From Verily’s “about us” page

 Subscribe to Verily.

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Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 11.55.18 AMHere’s another new magazine that has a growing readership, Regina. This magazine seems to have a more global approach, with stories that come from around the world, it is offered for free, so its production budget is different, but there’s good content on its pages.

Here’s some Q and A with the magazine’s editor, Beverly De Soto:

Q. What made you start REGINA?

A. Basically, I see so many GREAT Catholic real-life stories that are ignored by the media (both secular and religious, sad to say) that I just HAD to. It is unutterably sad. Many Catholics don’t know their religion OR their culture anymore.

Q. What is ‘Catholic’ culture?

A. That is a fascinating question. Fundamentally, since the Church is the foundation of Western culture, everything we think of as being ‘civilized’ ultimately derives from the Church.  What is called “Western” culture is actually based in the Church, which fused the teachings of the Hebrew Scriptures and the accomplishments of Greece and Rome, then re-interpreted all of this through the lens of the Faith. Everything – the rule of law, science, technology, the very CONCEPT of a university – derives from the Church.

Q. How is Catholic culture passed on?

A. Through families, primarily women.  Through what is taught – or NOT taught – in a Christian home. Traditions, mores, values – a Catholic family passes these things down as easily as breathing.  However, today the twin threats of materialism and relativism have severely eroded both women’s security and our culture.

The result is what we see today – a landscape littered with broken families and Catholics who are really lost. It feels like a kind of widespread spiritual starvation.

Q. What is the significance of the name, “REGINA”?

A. LOL, well “REGINA” means “QUEEN” in Italian and I thought that ANY Catholic would recognize who THAT Is – Mary, the Queen of Heaven, of course. And one thing is for SURE — we need HER help with this project! This is why we have dedicated Regina to her.

Q. Who are REGINA’s readers?

A. Regina is mainly aimed at women, though about 20% of our subscribers are men. These are people who consider themselves to be serious Catholics, about half of whom attend the TLM (the Extraordinary Rite). There are many who have NEVER attended a TLM, however – whether because it is not available near them or simply because they have never been exposed to the beauty of this Mass.

Q. What is REGINA all about?

A. As you will note from the Winter and Spring issues, we are aiming for the center of Catholicism and seeking to evangelize with beauty, taking as our starting point the topics women care about — ie how to live a beautiful life. We cover Catholic culture in each article, in a humorous, interesting and non-confrontational way. So many in the West have never really been educated or exposed to the true beauty of a ‘Catholic’ lifestyle that we need to go slow, and show them the beauty.

Q. Why is REGINA covering fashion?

A. Fashion is a sore point in the culture, as it has become increasing coarse. TV shows and so-called ‘women’s magazines’  feature actresses and models wearing low-cut or very tight clothing, as well as hair styles and tattoos designed to garner as much (positive or negative) attention as possible.

This hunger for attention is more evidence of what I call ‘spiritual starvation,’ and women imitate these negative role models in daily life – in offices, for example. This results in all kinds of bad situations, including ill feeling among spouses, friends, co-workers and customers.

Years ago the Catholic culture was strong enough to blunt the impact, but now women take their cues from the media.  For them it’s a business — it is all about selling cheap sex, let’s face it. It’s a downward spiral, too, as girls spend money they don’t have on more and more provocative clothing, which brings diminishing returns in terms of male attention and respect.

Regina covers fashion from a classic point of view. The Faith has always known that women’s beauty is a great good, to be prized, not abused. St Thomas Aquinas even wrote about this, from a moral point of view. Fashion is also a great art, and a global industry and it is important, therefore, to cover.

Q. Why is REGINA covering food?

A. Food — what you eat, where you eat, if you cook – has also become politicized. Regina covers food because the Christian table is the core of Catholic families and friends – our table culture, if you will. This has long been known in Europe, but America’s ‘fast food lifestyle’ has all but killed this – taking our health with it

Q. How is REGINA doing?

A. Well, I must say that Our Lady is an EXCELLENT patroness! Regina is growing exponentially, thanks to the help of some committed Catholics like my husband Harry Stevens and our webmaster Jim Bryant. Our readership list has grown 500% since our first issue, which was first emailed as an attachment Feb 14. The Facebook page now reaches 30,000 people per week and we are publishing in German and Spanish too.

Q. Any plans to charge for REGINA?

A. No. Regina is free and always will be.

Q. Plans for the next few issues?

A. I’m SO glad you asked! The Summer issue of REGINA will focus on Catholic England and the Autumn issue is all about Catholic America!

-From Regina’s “our story” page

Subscribe to Regina.

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photoLongtime readers of mine will know that I’m a contributor to Catholic Digest magazine, and I’ve profiled it in a recent blog post. Catholic Digest, though not specifically aimed at women alone, editor-in-chief Danielle Bean has brought the magazine to a new era where it’s content is concerned. She has also worked to make the magazine  beautifully displayed. The most recent cover is at left.

Subscribe to Catholic Digest.

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Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 12.30.42 PMFor  younger women and teens, you can’t go wrong with Radiant magazine. Targeted for 15-25, this is a great magazine with short to-the-heart articles and resources for young Catholics. A few years back, as Radiant was launching, I interviewed editor and founder, Rose Rea on Among Women. I’ve been pleased to see this magazine distributed at Catholic events too!

Subscribe to Radiant. 

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 –

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.

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.