by Angela M Jendro
|A summary from my talk last night with the amazing women of Devoted at St. John the Baptist Church. These women are so impressive and their prayerful, thoughtful ministry shows it! What a privilege to spend the evening with them!|
Expressions of Feminine Self-Gift: Part II – Finding Beatitude
Paradoxically, we find self-fulfillment and happiness through self-gift (a theme often taught by Pope St. John Paul II)
The culture frames the questions of happiness around self assertion and individualism in pursuit of pleasure and status. Possessions and positions are limited so we must compete for them – against men and even against each other.
In contrast, when we open the Bible we find that God frames the questions completely differently. Creation began with self-gift: God’s gift of self – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to one another, and out of that love came creation. God made man and woman in relationship to one another and to God – one of free gift of self, in which they found fulfillment and joy.
Men and Women together image God. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).
Although equal in dignity and sharing a human nature, men and women are also different and each has unique gifts that complement one another. Therefore, their self-gift will proceed from their masculinity or femininity.
|“The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the resources of masculinity: they are merely different. Hence a woman, as well as a man, must understand her ‘fulfillment’ as a person, her dignity and vocation, on the basis of these resources, according to the richness of the femininity which she received on the day of creation and which she inherits as an expression of the ‘image and likeness of God’ that is specifically hers”
John Paul II. On the Dignity and Vocation of Women Art.10
|“In the Spirit of Christ, in fact, women can discover the entire meaning of their femininity and thus be disposed to making a ‘sincere gift of self’ to others, thereby finding themselves.”
John Paul II. On the Dignity and Vocation of Women Art.31
So how do we find happiness? Real happiness – the lasting kind, the beatitude kind. The kind that goes deep, is rich with meaning and honor, the legacy kind that makes you proud of who you are and who God made you to be?
The Beatitudes. In these we find the way of happiness.
They proceed one after another as the steps of conversion so we may, as St. Therese put it, ascend the mountain of God by descending the valley of humility. Which Jesus confirmed when He said that “whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humble himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12)
Let’s not be afraid of words like self-gift and humility. In Christ we can be assured of the protection of our dignity, to never be taken advantage of, and only to be lifted up to the fullness of our individual personalities and calling.
|Christ’s way of acting, the Gospel of His words and deeds, is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women. Consequently, the women who are close to Christ discover themselves in the truth which he ‘teaches’ and ‘does,’ even when this truth concerns their ‘sinfulness.’ They felt ‘liberated’ by this truth, restored to themselves they feel loved with ‘eternal love,’ with a love which finds direct expression in Christ himself.”
John Paul II. On the Dignity and Vocation of Women Art.15
St. Edith Stein asserted that women’s gifts include concern for the person and their development. This applies to every sphere and vocation.
So, to better guide and nurture others’ development, we need to first give some attention to our own by examining the steps of the beatitudes as they apply to us.
|She craves for an unhampered development of her personality just as much as she does to help another toward that same goal.
St. Edith Stein. Woman.
The Beatitudes Step by Step
- Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
- Poverty includes dependence and vulnerability: Awareness of our need for God as His creatures and as His Children
- Acknowledging our limitations: physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc. Asking for God’s help and asking for the help of others
- Allowing God to work in His own time according to His Wisdom as our Father
|“God’s response is certain, but it can’t be foreseen or programmed. Patience and sorrow have their place, but in the end even they are positive in that they perform a hidden work, create a desire, prepare an interior space for embracing the compensatory reward when it finally comes… God’s response will be so much more beautiful and rich when the wait has been long and trying. Among other things, interior poverty leads us to consent to the experience of not being masters of our time, unable to manipulate God or oblige Him to enter into our expectations or plans. His intervention remains free and sovereign, unforeseen. Having mastery of a time frame carries with it enormous human security and makes waiting easier. But there is no time frame into which God can be forced…The poverty of not being masters of our own time is hard to bear, but it calls us to a purer hope, one without human support. Little by little it engenders patience, humility, meekness, creating the desire that one day will bring fulfillment beyond all expectations.”
Jacques Philippe The Eight Doors of the Kingdom: Meditations on the Beatitudes
- Instead of trying to be super-women, allowing ourselves to be daughters of God. This will then free us to become the best version of ourselves.
- Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted
- Realizing our limitations and gaining self-knowledge through poverty of spirit, we mourn over our own sinfulness but in a way that motivates change
- Example: Friend telling me about how she hated family trips because her mom was so stressed out packing up – realizing that was me!
(go back to poverty of spirit – needed to acknowledge my limitations and ask for grace)
- Seeing more of God’s blessings in my life, and mourning my sins as foolish or ungrateful
- Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the land
- Trust in God during difficulties and trials
- The more we surrender our weakness to God, the more He conquers in us and it grows loyalty and Holy Confidence.
- Meekness is not weakness. It’s a brave, fierce, strength founded on the proven character of God. Confident that Christ will walk with you and His grace will transform you.
|St. Paul: But [the Lord] said to Me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9|
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied
- It gets exciting! Here’s the joy of the Gospel, the zeal to witness Christ’s deeds, to battle for His kingdom
- Begin with prayer because you want to. Going to Mass because it’s a source of strength and peace. Reading the lives of saints because they inspire you and you want to be the best version of yourself.
- Choose to be silent when tempted to detract; refrain from gossip
- St Therese, “though I am little, I can still hope to be a saint”
- Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.
- Having received mercy, you want to pay it forward
- Forgiving others and bearing wrongs patiently – because God has done the same for you
- Works of mercy because you realize your own dependence on God’s blessings and the help of others.
- I know what it’s like to be a perfectionist, so I want to help students overcome that slavery too
- I know how easy it is to be overwhelmed as a mom, so I want to encourage other moms too
- I appreciate the spiritual authors who have encouraged me, so I want to write what I can as well
- My parents and teachers were patient with me while I was maturing, so I want to be patient with my kids and students as they mature
- My husband is compassionate with my faults and quirks, so I want to cut him slack when I have the opportunity
- Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God
- Love God above all things
- The pure of heart aren’t distracted by illusions, they have come to recognize God in His works and they begin to see Him everywhere and in everything and every situation.
- Purity of Heart à Sight of God à essence of Heaven’s joy
- Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.
- Deep peace from union with God
- Extend that peace to others
- How to be Peacemakers: Insights from St. Edith Stein
|“Many of the best women are almost overwhelmed by the double burden of family duties and professional life – or often simply of only gainful employment. Always on the go, they are harassed, nervous, and irritable. Where are they to get the needed inner peace and cheerfulness in order to offer stability, support, and guidance to others?”
“Only by the power of grace… Whoever wants to preserve [divine]life continually within herself must nourish it constantly from the source whence it flows without end – from the holy sacraments, above all from the sacrament of love.”
“When we entrust all the troubles of our earthly existence confidently to the divine heart, we are relieved of them. Then our souls if free to participate in the divine life…it has a liberating power in itself; it lessens the weight of our earthly concerns and grants us a bit of eternity even in this finitude, a reflection of beatitude, a transformation into light.”
- Blessed are you when you are persecuted on my account, your reward is great in heaven.
- Enduring criticism or exclusion because of living out your faith
- Making sacrifices for your faith
- It’s verification that you are living an authentically Christian life! You are a true disciple! Congrats!!!
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own.” (Jn 15: 18)
- Examples/Sounds like this:
- “Mom, you are the ONLY parent that…
- C’mon, we’re just socializing. If you don’t participate in these jokes and gossip you’ll seem antisocial and won’t get ahead at work
- G.K. Chesterton: “The Catholic Church hasn’t been tried and found wanting, it’s been found hard and left untried.” Living in Christ, He shines through you. You become a witness of the reality of grace. No one can say that the Church’s teachings are unrealistic, because you show that they can be done with grace. The lies of the world are exposed in your joy contrasted with their sadness.
Jesus steps for conversion lead to an experience of beatitude: the child-like freedom that comes from depending on God our loving Father, mourning our sins and surrendering them to His Son for redemption, the strength of conviction in our trust that the Holy Spirit will enable us to fulfill our mission, the mercy and peace we extend in our homes and workplaces which spur us on with zeal. Then we will be free for the total self-gift that results in self-fulfillment.
Links to the books referenced in this talk:
- Edith Stein: Woman
- Pope St. John Paul II: On the Dignity and Vocation of Women
- Jacques Philippe: The Eight Doors of the Kingdom: Meditations on the Beatitudes
- Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition
©Angela M Jendro 2019