Does being feminine mean you have to be sporting florals and be a delicate wallflower doing crafts? Nope. But what does being feminine mean? It’s hard to define since the technical definition just vaguely references “qualities specific to women”. Does the Catholic Church actually value women? Absolutely. I think my fellow contributors have made good points about femininity this month that help clarify.
Anni shared how we can all bring our unique point of view to the discussion at hand and live out The Power of Femininity.
Caitlyn shared how she feels most feminine wearing her power suit of a t-shirt, blue jeans, and red Converse shoes in Put on Femininity with Every Outfit.
Jessica shared how femininity is pure love, and our Blessed Mother is our model in The Quintessential Model of Femininity.
And Kirby shared how we can celebrate our unique attributes as feminine by nature since we ourselves are women in Does a Woman Have to be Feminine to be a Good Catholic?
These are excellent points, and touch on the “feminine genius” Saint John Paul the Great popularized. His writings on the nature and dignity of women are profoundly beautiful, and a reflection of the reverence the Catholic Church demands women be treated with. Take these excerpts, for example.
From Mulieris Dignitatem:
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 favours some, it pushes others to the edges 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 sensitivity for human beings in every circumstance: because they are human! – and because “the greatest of these is love” (cf. 1 Cor 13:13).
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Therefore the Church gives thanks for each and every woman: for mothers, for sisters, for wives; for women consecrated to God in virginity; for women dedicated to the many human beings who await the gratuitous love of another person; for women who watch over the human persons in the family, which is the fundamental sign of the human community; for women who work professionally, and who at times are burdened by a great social responsibility; for “perfect” women and for “weak” women – for all women as they have come forth from the heart of God in all the beauty and richness of their femininity; as they have been embraced by his eternal love; as, together with men, they are pilgrims on this earth, which is the temporal “homeland” of all people and is transformed sometimes into a “valley of tears”; as they assume, together with men, a common responsibility for the destiny of humanity according to daily necessities and according to that definitive destiny which the human family has in God himself, in the bosom of the ineffable Trinity.
The Church gives thanks for all the manifestations of the feminine “genius” which have appeared in the course of history, in the midst of all peoples and nations; she gives thanks for all the charisms which the Holy Spirit distributes to women in the history of the People of God, for all the victories which she owes to their faith, hope and charity: she gives thanks for all the fruits of feminine holiness.
From his Letter to Women:
It is thus my hope, dear sisters, that you will reflect carefully on what it means to speak of the “genius of women”, not only in order to be able to see in this phrase a specific part of God’s plan which needs to be accepted and appreciated, but also in order to let this genius be more fully expressed in the life of society as a whole, as well as in the life of the Church.
. . .
In this vast domain of service, the Church’s two-thousand-year history, for all its historical conditioning, has truly experienced the “genius of woman”; from the heart of the Church there have emerged women of the highest calibre who have left an impressive and beneficial mark in history. I think of the great line of woman martyrs, saints and famous mystics. In a particular way I think of Saint Catherine of Siena and of Saint Teresa of Avila, whom Pope Paul VI of happy memory granted the title of Doctors of the Church. And how can we overlook the many women, inspired by faith, who were responsible for initiatives of extraordinary social importance, especially in serving the poorest of the poor? The life of the Church in the Third Millennium will certainly not be lacking in new and surprising manifestations of “the feminine genius”. . .
Necessary emphasis should be placed on the “genius of women”, not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives. For in giving themselves to others each day women fulfill their deepest vocation. Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them. In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty-not merely physical, but above all spiritual-which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women.
I am so glad to be a woman, and even more to be a Catholic woman, where I know my gifts as a woman are seen and valued. JPII wrote extensively on the gift women are in the Catholic Church, especially with the four aspects of the feminine genius: receptivity, sensitivity, generosity, and maternity (which might not be exactly what you think).
Interested in learning more? I highly recommend reading the above two documents by JPII, a true champion of femininity, and listening to the four-part Abiding Together podcast series on the Feminine Genius. You can find the episodes in their archives from March and April 2017. There are so many ways we can live out of gifts as Catholic women!