Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Feminine Genius


You gotta love a pope who talks about "feminine genius."

Recently, I had the pleasure to facilitate an Endow study group for women at my parish on Pope Saint John Paul II's Letter to Women: An Introduction to the New Feminism.

The feminine genius he talks about in this letter, written in 1995, is the innate, capacity that women have to make room for 'the other,' in receptivity, sensitivity, generosity and maternity.  Our model for the feminine genius is Mary, who was receptive to the Angel and gave her 'fiat' to become the mother of our Savior.  She was sensitive to the couple at Cana, interceding with her Son to help them when they ran out of wine.  She shared her Son with us all, and became our model as woman.

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Pope Saint John Paul II's "Letter to Women" is a love letter to all women on behalf of the Church, recognizing our dignity and value, our complementarity to men, and the many gifts we bring to the Church and society.  It does not dismiss our femininity, nor does it ask us to deny it, but shows how true feminism appreciates and  honors the uniqueness of woman.  It also addresses the role of women in the Church, and while it provides clear teaching on the subject of ordination for women, it lauds the contributions of women who embody the feminine genius.

As we finished this study group, two events occurred which really made me appreciate the Pope's letter even more.  The Church lost a great champion of evangelization in the death of Mother Mary Angelica, foundress of EWTN.  Around the same time, the date of canonization of the late Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was announced.  These two women, along with the Pauline family's own  Mother Thecla Merlo,  demonstrate just how much women can accomplish when they are receptive to the Holy Spirit, and trust the Lord to lead them to do His work in ways they never imagined.


I think of Mother Angelica, who happened to tour a television station and was inspired to create what has become a worldwide Catholic television and radio network, despite resistance from within and outside the Church.  Her trust in the Lord to provide what was needed when she had no idea where the money would come from is a lesson for us all in His divine providence.

I look at Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who had a pretty comfortable teaching position in India when she went on retreat and received a very clear message from God to work with the "poorest of the poor."  She, too, met resistance from her own community and was patient and obedient as God opened the doors for her to establish the Missionaries of Charity.

Mother Thecla Merlo was not even a religious at the time Father James Alberione asked her about joining him in evangelization.  At a time when it was unheard of for women to be in publishing, Mother Thecla and the Daughters of Saint Paul embarked on a new path to provide evangelization through the media and bring the word of God to the whole world.


These three women, and so many more, while not mothers in the biological sense, were spiritual mothers to countless numbers of those searching for the only food that can truly feed us, the Bread of Life.  Their ability to be receptive, to give their own 'fiat' to where God was leading them, and to generously share with others the Gospel through not only their accomplishments but also their own examples of self-sacrifice and trust, and their maternity to a world so in need of mothering, are exactly what Saint John Paul II so beautifully described as the "feminine genius."

As we approach Mother's Day and the month where we celebrate Mary, the model of feminine genius, may you give thanks for the all the mothers in your life, biological, spiritual, and otherwise, and appreciate the many gifts that faithful women bring to our life, our Church, and our world.

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Bernadette Boguski has been a Pauline Cooperator for over 20 years. She is a member of St. Columbkille Parish in Parma, OH, where she serves as a Eucharistic Minister, cantor, and member of the music ministry. Bernadette holds a degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and currently serves as the development director for Womankind, a nonprofit agency providing free prenatal care and support services for pregnant women in need. 

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