Sunday, June 13, 2010

The call Christians have to right the concept of the feminine person

I have been posting my thoughts on Life, Truth and the Feminine Genius, a view of the New Feminism, where feminism came from and the face it shows when moderated by a faith in Jesus Christ and the Church He founded.

Part I of this disquisition was posted on December 6, 2009, Part II on February 1, 2010, and this final part, today, June 13, our daughter's 16th birthday!

The February 1 posting concerns love. [I have also posted a reflection on love in my January posting, which you can access through clicking on the link in the left hand column] As a way of reconnecting let us review the sentence that is the main theme of the whole article: 

 Christ is truth and Christ gives us life and through our feminine genius we have the possibility to bring others to life, through truth. 

In the previous postings we considered the beginnings of feminism and what a secular feminist understands when talking about feminism. The goal of the present exercise is to help women understand where the Truth lies, and to make peace with it in their own minds. We propose our understanding of feminism based on the Truth of Jesus Christ.
Pope John Paul II wrote beautifully and compellingly on who a woman is. He says that the culture flows through women and in order to remedy the culture we must educate women as to who they are and who they are meant to be. God began to guide our little group and we cobbled together a plan of action late in 2004. We adopted our name – the California Catholic Women's Forum and had our first forum February 26, 2005, True Feminism for Real Women. We still use this tag line. The listing of the various forums that deconstruct authentic feminism are available from our website, The final forum in the series will be on Edith Stein, aka St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She did so much to form our understanding of the being of woman and her work is seminal to John Paul's Theology of the Body.
Those of you acquainted with the subject will note traces of the work of one of the invited speakers to True Feminism for Real Women, Rebecca Teti, as well as the eloquent words of speaker/writer Mary Jo Anderson in the following remarks.
Women have a uniqueness to their nature that must be preserved and nourished in order for woman to reach her full potential as a human being. This is in our genetic code and discoverable through reason, wherein we discover the inalienable truths about who we are.
Vatican II states "the human race is undergoing a deep transformation and women imbued with a deep spirit of the Gospel can aid humanity from not falling." It is not a stretch to note that since Vatican II the human experience has undergone a transformation as the moral underpinnings of society have been eroded.
But though much has changed, nothing really changes in human nature. To recap:
Looking at feminism through the lens of faith, we see that equality is not sameness. We are different though equal by virtue of our femininity.
We see that reproductive capability is a gift not a burden.
We see that men are not like women.

 JP II wrote, "Woman is made on the order of love". Authentic feminism introduces the truth that woman is the vessel into which love is poured. She has the unique capability to know God in a particular and beautiful way. She transmits that love through the generosity of her giving nature. This is the feminine genius. It is part of every woman's nature. It is the attribute that allows women to become the builders of the culture of life and the means of transferring the culture from one generation to the next.
Every football star who has ever hammed in front of a camera to say, "Hi, Mom!" understands this. It does not need to be taught but it does need to be supported.
The four aspects of the feminine genius that aid humanity in not falling are receptivity, sensitivity, generosity and maternity.
Women are receptive. The model is Mary who when called upon to bear the child of God, was open to the message asking only how it could be so, as she had never been with a man. This receptivity is biological of course, but it is also emotional and spiritual. Our wombs are open to life but so should be our hearts and spirits if we are to be fully feminine. The path to resolving the conflict between career and the desire to bring life into the world is resolved by understanding that the order of love stems from Christ who is the originator of love and who is love and this love is then extended to others.
Man's nature is generative – he is called upon to create. But his gift of himself is stunted if there is not a receptive one to receive his gift. This is why Adam, even though he was surrounded by animals, even though he was able to walk in the cool of the evening with God HIMSELF! could not rest at peace – he knew in his heart that he was not fulfilled. His unrest is called the original solitude. So he naps and Eve is drawn forth from his rib.  Eve gives him the deep sense of fulfillment that he yearns for in his heart – a receptive vehicle for his gifts.  "At last! Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh". Man and woman are made for each other in an equal yet different way. Like two pieces in a puzzle, they fit together perfectly in God's image, and the bounty that pours forth from their union are children, just as the fruit of the union of God and His Beloved Son Jesus results in the the Holy Spirit. We are created to love. Our bodily existence bears testament to that.

God entrusted the future of humanity to woman and her ability to love unconditionally and sacrificially so that the dignity of every woman is enhanced when she loves mankind in her capacity as an image of God. The gift of self is foundational for the human experience. The gift of self is a gift of life for all mankind. This can be seen not only biologically but in the manner in which women interact in the workplace and in every other realm where human interaction occurs.
A woman is sensitive. Her receptive nature lies at the heart of her sensitivity. Having the capacity to know new life growing within her makes her alert to the inner life of others. Though often seen as a detriment, sensitivity, when channeled properly, sees beyond the exterior into the heart, to bring out the best in the person's contribution, be it in the home or the workplace. Examples of this abound. In the early days of feminism, child labor laws were enacted through the efforts of women and the changes in voting laws go straight to the heart of the dignity of each person. Several years ago a teen took on the fashion world and was able to affect the kind of clothes being purveyed by the fashion industry to include more modest styles. Women have been in the forefront of the movement to protect sex workers where possible. The Church, which has its own variant of the feminine genius as the bride of Christ, will never condone reducing any person to a commodity to be bought and sold, as was recounted in our forum Our Bodies Our Souls.
Women can show society how to be open; receptive and sensitive to the deepest human needs.
A woman is generous. Generosity is closely tied with a woman's receptive nature. The primary way we are generous is with human life. Women welcome new life, and one of the grossest distortions of the modern age is the idea that women can easily dispose of what they see as unwanted life (because society tells them so). The full impact of the holocaust that has gone on since 1973 is beginning to be seen and events like the West Coast Walk for Life tie into the need for healing in so many women and men.
John Paul states in the Letter to Women (1995) that natural generosity is a weapon against dehumanizing scientism, manifested when women emphasize the social and ethical dimensions that balance the scientific and technological achievements of mankind. In this sense the relational aspects of a woman's psyche can help temper the catapulting of technology towards destruction. She is more apt to focus not just on the advancement of the problem at hand but how the effects of resolving the problem might affect mankind, especially if that result is to the detriment of human life.

Many women approaching retirement feel in their hearts that they misspent their youth – they don't know why, for they seemed to do everything right, they got the education, the job, the man, the house, the baby. It was all planned but it does not satisfy, for they did not allow themselves to be generous in using the gift God gave them in his name.
The last facet of the feminine genius is maternity. This is the part of the feminine genius that is the most obvious and that has been hit hardest by the rules of living laid out in the modern world. We are sneered at if we have more than 2.4 children. We believe that the security of the household comes before the children. Everything must be just right if we make leap into marriage, for the comfort of the self is so often seemed to be more important than the natural giving of life as a reflection of the Trinitarian love of God. 
The human person is entrusted to us women in a special way, not only in the maternal sense but spiritually as well. Our nature is made to nurture in so many ways. We can listen and we forgive. We cook and clean for others happily, we want to make the home a welcoming place. We suffer – sometimes a lot, for because of our nature we often do not know when to say no and the natural desire to help others requires us to carry much responsibility.
It is in this maternity that all the other aspects of the feminine genius come together. A mother must first and foremost be receptive. A woman must be sensitive to those around her so that the growing life is cared for in the proper way. She must be generous for a mother cannot care for herself nor her family without sacrificial generosity.
The greatest examplar of motherhood is Mary. She has a unique role and it can be intimidating to compare ourselves with her. Yet God, in all his power, asks Mary to bear the God-man. He sends an angel who bows before her perfection before putting the question to her. Because of her perfect human dignity and her perfect freedom she can respond "yes" totally and in peace. Her YES is powerful. This same mission is what the Church asks of every woman – to participate in something beautiful and radical – the participation in salvation history. What a gift we have to bring to the world! Just as Mary gave flesh to Christ, so too the future of humanity passes by way of us women in a physical way. We are called to share our maternity - to give Christ - to a yearning world. God be praised.
These three combined together allow maternity to be a glorious thing and what the female body, heart and soul is made for. These characteristics, when used in society as a whole are what are going to keep our culture from falling. But the time is now. We have to inform women as to who they are. So many women have been chasing false idols and they do not know it. They just know something is wrong.
Alice von Hildebrand remarked "when piety dies out in women society is threatened in its very fabric, for a woman's relationship to the sacred keeps the Church and society on an even keel, and when this link is severed, both are threatened by total moral chaos."
In sum, the culture of life cannot be built without the pioneering participation of women, using the gifts they were endowed with at their birth. Women occupy positions of prestige and power nowadays so the "feminine genius" is at center stage. Allowing that genius to flow through all of society at every level will bring about a change for good, and for the common good.

To end, I would like to quote the inestimable Pope Benedict XVI, in his talk to young people in Yonkers, New York, 2008:        
"Have you noticed how often the call for freedom is made without ever referring to the truth of the human person?  Some today argue that respect for freedom of the individual makes it wrong to seek truth, including the truth about what is good.  And in truth's place – or better said its absence – an idea has spread which, in giving value to everything indiscriminately, claims to assure freedom and to liberate conscience.  This we call relativism.  But what purpose has a "freedom" which, in disregarding truth, pursues what is false or wrong. . Dear friends, truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules. . That is why authentic freedom is not opting out.  It is an opting in." 
Christ is truth and Christ gives us life and through our feminine genius we have the possibility to bring others to life, through truth.

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