Expressions of Feminine Self-Gift Part III: Setting the World on Fire (Highlights and quotations from my talk at “Devoted” at St. John the Baptist.)

What a gift to speak at St. John the Baptist tonight with the women of “Devoted”!  I was privileged to spend the evening with such remarkable ladies at such a beautiful event. Below are some highlights and the quotations I referenced.   

Red heart shaped tree

St. Catherine of Siena “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire”

God can and DOES do INCREDIBLE things through His children. The life of every saint testifies to God’s mighty work through their little “yes”.

 Who does God mean for your to be? – First: a Woman

Women have particular gifts from God to set the world ablaze with His transformative Truth and Love.

Examples of Women in the Gospels:

  • Mothers: Mary, Elizabeth
  • Prophetess: Anna
  • Some accompanied him on His journey Some provided for them out of their means (Luke 8:1-3) Joanna, Susanna
  • Mary, Martha – friends of Jesus
  • Jesus holds up the poor widow as a model of generosity “This poor widow has put in more than all of them”
  • Most profound teachings given to women
    • Woman at the well
    • Martha about resurrection from the dead
      • “This conversation with Martha is one of the most important in the Gospel” John Paul II On the Dignity of Women 15
    • Mary Magdalene – the first to see the risen Christ; Thomas Aquinas calls her the “apostle to the apostles”

 The Feminine Genius is needed now more than ever

The Second Vatican Council proclaimed:

“The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved.   That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women imbued with a spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling.”

The Council’s Message to Women as quoted in John Paul II’s On the Dignity and Vocation of Women

Special Genius of Women 

  • Theological insights from feminine perspective
    • Pope Francis remarked that we need more women theologians
    • Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)  English anchorite; Her work is based on a series of 16 visions she received in 1373
      • Meditates on Jesus’ motherly care for us
        • Compares His passion to pregnancy and birth
        • The Eucharist to nursing a baby (“He feeds us with Himself”)
        • The tenderness of a mother holding her child to Christ bringing us close to Him through His Church
      • 4 women doctors of the Church
        • Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, mystic;
        • Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)
        • Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
        • Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897)
      • Contemporary Catholic theologian – Edith Stein, a.k.a. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (1891-1942)
  • Gift for Acknowledging the Person
“Woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal, and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural maternal yearning.” Edith SteinWoman
  • Building relationships and society – humanizing vs. technocratic and efficiency only
“Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.” John Paul II Letter to Women 1995
  • Antidote to individualism – motherhood as a white martyrdom
Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centered individualism. “Individual” means “what cannot be divided”. Mothers, instead, “divide” themselves, from the moment they bear a child to give him to the world and help him grow… Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero said that mothers experience a “maternal martyrdom”. In the homily for the funeral of a priest assassinated by death squads, he said, recalling the Second Vatican Council: “We must be ready to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not grant us this honor…. Giving one’s life does not only mean being killed; giving one’s life, having the spirit of a martyr, it is in giving in duty, in silence, in prayer, in honest fulfilment of his duty; in that silence of daily life; giving one’s life little by little. Yes, like it is given by a mother, who without fear and with the simplicity of the maternal martyrdom, conceives a child in her womb, gives birth to him, nurses him, helps them grow and cares for them with affection. She gives her life. That’s martyrdom”.

Pope Francis Wednesday Audience January 2015

Obstacles

 Edith Stein noted that our gifts can also become distorted by sin.

  • Concern for the person can get out of control and turn into meddling and gossip
  • The desire to integrate everything can also lead to getting spread too thin and dabbling in too many things
  • A heart of service that sees the needs of others can turn into a dominating or controlling “help” – the “nagging wife” or “helicopter mom”

There is hope in our struggles!

  • Romans 8:28
    • “God works all things together for good for those that love Him”
  • Philippians 1:6
    • “I am sure that He Who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

 Your expression of self gift will also include your PERSONAL circumstances, vocation, temperament, talents, opportunities

Family Life

  • Innate wisdom to guide the family – including the husband and wife
    • “She craves for an unhampered development of her personality just as much as she does to help another toward that same goal.   And thus the husband will find that she can give him invaluable advice in guiding the lives of the children as well as of themselves.” Edith Stein Woman

Making a house a home

  • “Part of her natural feminine concern for the right development of the beings surrounding her involves the creation of an ambience, of order and beauty conducive to their development.” Edith Stein Woman

Spiritual Motherhood 

  • Example of Elisabeth LeSeur 1866-1914
    • Her husband Felix remarking on the days approaching her death (after which he converted to Catholicism and later became a priest!):
“She did indeed uplift all who surrounded or approached her, and it was a strange thing to see this woman, so modest, so humble of heart, condemned to practical immobility, shedding around her far and wide the light of her great influence.”

An atheist friend after her passing:

“Some beings are a light toward which all turn who need light to live by!”

Work Life

Edith Stein notes that some jobs naturally align with feminine genius more than others.  However, women have something unique to offer every kind of work and in every case they bring their interpersonal gifts to the culture of the workplace.

“Thus the participation of women in the most diverse professional disciplines could be a blessing for the entire society, private or public, precisely if the specifically feminine ethos would be preserved.” Edith Stein Woman

Work-life balance

“Her professional activity counterbalances the risk of submerging herself all too intimately in another’s life and thereby sacrificing her own; however, an exclusive preoccupation with her professional activity would bring the opposite danger of infidelity toward her feminine vocation. Only those who surrender themselves completely into the Lord’s hand can trust that they will avoid disaster between Scylla and Charybdis.   Whatever is surrendered to Him is not lost but saved, chastened, exalted and proportioned out in true measure.”

Edith Stein Woman

Public Life

“In our own time, the successes of science and technology make it possible to attain material well being to a degree hitherto unknown. While this favors some, it pushes others to the margines of society. In this way, unilateral progress can also lead to a gradual loss of sensitivity for man, that is, for what is essentially human.   In this sense, our time in particular awaits the manifestation of that ‘genius’ which belongs to women, and which can ensure sensititivty for human beings in every circumstance: because they are human! – and because ‘the greatest of these is love’ (cf. 1 Cor 13:13)”

John Paul II On the Dignity and Vocation of Woman

 

Progress usually tends to be measured according to the criteria of science and technology. Nor from this point of view has the contribution of women been negligible. Even so, this is not the only measure of progress, nor in fact is it the principal one. Much more important is the social and ethical dimension, which deals with human relations and spiritual values. In this area, which often develops in an inconspicuous way beginning with the daily relationships between people, especially within the family, society certainly owes much to the “genius of women”.

John Paul II Letter to Women 1995

Closing:

Jeremiah 29:11

“Yes, I know what plans I have in mind for you, the LORD declares, plans for peace, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

MUSTARD SEED

Matthew 13:31-32

“He put another parable before them, ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air can come and shelter in its branches”

The greatest example of feminine genius is Mary. Her yes brought about the incarnation of God and our salvation!

Mary models perfect discipleship. Each of us are being called by God.  We need only be our true selves to set the world on fire with His love!

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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