Feminine Genius: The Interior
“She reigns” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!
The original Bright Maidens chose this topic to follow last month’s topic (Feminine Genius: The Dress) because of the unexpected blow-up in [uncharitable] comments on Julie’s blog post. We happen to think some of those who commented were misunderstanding her post’s objective, but in an effort to “listen first to understand, then to be understood,” we want to explain our full understanding of the Feminine Genius.
“You ain’t all that, honey, and all the dresses in the world aren’t going to fix what’s wrong with you.”
-Anonymous Commenter 2
I still laugh when I reread the comments on Julie’s last Bright Maidens post. This offending concluding sentence came at the end of a ramble about good tailoring, an insult to Julie’s friend’s wardrobe choice, and more random explanations about what makes a woman look her best.
The consensus is this commenter was a female. Comments like the above quote prove that she missed the boat on how to make a woman appear in the best light, ie, not eternally insulting and provocative.
We’re all called to serve in Christ’s mission. Our mission is to serve for His mission.
Some have God-given musical talents or use humor to serve Him, while others must assume a role through sportsmanship or writing. We use what He gave us, including the gifts of our femininity and masculinity, depending on our sex. The roles of men and women are simply different, not one better or worse than the other.
One major hang up for non-Catholic onlookers (and for some within the Church), is the concept of the woman in the body of the Church. I’ve heard the lament many times that the Church doesn’t treat women well, the stand out reasoning stemming from the ordination of male-only priests.
Have they forgotten our reverence for the Holy Mother of God? Have they forgotten that we refer to the Church as a female body?
Christ died for the Church, just as men “die” (either literally or figuratively) for those they are called to protect. This doesn’t mean a man is greater just because he is the same sex as Jesus. It means we have different roles with different service opportunities.
As Bl. John Paul II once wrote, God entrusts people to each and every other person. However, the woman is entrusted with the ability to bear human beings “precisely by reason of their femininity” in a special way.
He went on to explain that the “feminine genius” is the effect of the strength drawn from this awareness and this entrusting. It has been this way since the beginning of time, throughout the Old Testament, especially during the Annunciation, and continues today.
“A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting, strong because of the fact that God ‘entrusts the human being to her’, 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.” -Bl. John Paul II, “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women on the Occasion of the Marian Year”
The genius of femininity does not take away from the masculine genius anymore than the masculine genius strips power from the feminine genius. The two work in tandem, ideally filling the roles we human beings can possibly fill on Earth. The power is God’s.
Let’s look at the feminine genius of three very different women in my life: My mother, my confirmation sponsor, and my cousin.
My mother utilized the gift of her fertility to bring three daughters into the world, furthering her own genius as well as bringing more of it to light! She constantly serves us, especially in her sacrifice with her job, which she has held for more than twenty years.
Her avocation was to provide for her family and she sacrificed some of her career happiness for us in that regard. On top of that, she offers each of us tailored emotional support and counsel.
My confirmation sponsor has been a family friend and true role model for me all of my life. My sisters and I are her spiritually adopted children, whom she serves with deep love and devotion, for whatever purpose we may need.
This woman is the one who cleans up the table when she’s a guest at your house, but will wrestle you to the ground to prevent you from doing the same at her house. She is a humble servant of God through the sacrifices she makes for others.
My cousin is only a few weeks younger than me and, likewise, is unmarried. When my grandmother died in April, she was at the starting gate with a tray of sandwich meats in one hand and a hug waiting on the other arm.
She didn’t share blood with my grandmother, but she had grown up with her always present at family events. Her selflessness, helpfulness, sacrifice, and servitude for us during that grieving period was poignantly impressive and a true show of her love for God through us.
As I mentioned in my “Month of the Dress” post, it doesn’t matter how feminine we look, whether or not we have borne children, or how good we look doing it. Our “dress” is our service.
It’s the consolation of a friend in a time when words won’t do the trick. It’s the casserole we made when our co-worker loses a family member. It’s the laughter we share in with those we love.
It’s the glance we posses as we look at the man we love in a way that communicates to him how important he is to our life. It’s the softness of our skin when we sit in a nursing home, 40 years beyond the hustle of motherhood.
Through Mary’s example, let us pray that we women gain the strength to recognize that which God has entrusted in us.