"In fact, woman has a genius all her own,
which is vitally essential to both society and the Church." --John Paul II

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Take Up Your Cross -- A Lenten Reflection

My life is hard, I'll be honest. I have six children, one with significant special needs and five others with their own chronic health issues. I have had my own serious health issues and other trials over the years that have made living my vocation challenging. I have a heavy cross to bear, so shouldn't I be whining about taking on another penance during Lent? Don't I already suffer enough?

"If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Lk 9:23)

This passage reminds me of an email I received a couple of years ago that spoke about a man who wished to trade in his cross because it was too big. He went into a large hall to examine other crosses and chose one that was small and easy to carry. He journeyed through out his life contented with the small cross until it was time to pass over into heaven, he found that he needed to bridge a large chasm between this world and the next. His new, self-appointed cross was too small to help him get to heaven. Of course it was, that was not his cross to bear -- he had rejected the cross that was meant for him by God.

The Lord Jesus also tells us that we should take on the yoke of obedience, His yoke, and he will provide rest for our weary and burdened souls. (Cf. Mt 11:28-30) So, to find rest in Christ Jesus, we need to follow Him, offer ourselves in service and do penance to make up for offenses that we have committed against the Body of Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers this: "Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance." (CCC 1435)
Penance is a burden of love. It is a chance to offer back just that little bit more; to show Christ that, not only will I carry the cross He has given me, but I will add a little weight to it by choice. It doesn't have to be anything substantial, just a small act of love that deprives the senses of some pleasure. In this way we atone for those sins that harm the honor of God and add to Christ's Passion.

I want to come after Jesus. I want to be obedient and take up my cross. The weight of my cross is perfect for me because it was chosen for me by God. I don't despair over the cross that I have, because I do not carry it alone. I have the aid of my guardian angel who is there to protect and guide me; the holy saints in the Church triumphant, whose Queen is the Blessed Virgin, who bolster me on this journey with their prayers; the Lord Himself, Who in His mercy desires that I should be with Him for eternity.

So, no whining or lamenting -- I will take up my cross this Lent, adding just a little extra burden of love. I will do it because it is my hope to be with Jesus in heaven. I will do it with joy knowing that each little effort lessens the pain of Christ Crucified, who takes our sins upon Himself so that we may be saved.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kennedy & Bayh Resignations -- Political Climate Change?

For the past week or so, Patrick Kennedy's announcement not to seek re-election for his congressional seat in Rhode Island has been on my mind. I have crafted a couple of blog posts that just seemed inadequate to the matter at hand, so I deleted them. Then the other day, I was driving along with my husband and we were listening to the news on the radio. The report was about Senator Bayh, Democrat from Indiana, deciding not to seek re-election in 2010.

"What could be going on here?" I wondered.

Ted Kennedy dies and a republican, Scott Brown, wins his seat in a special election -- in Massachusetts! Did Patrick Kennedy truly have higher motives than just poll numbers to cause him to step away from the campaign trail in 2010? Or, did he just see the writing on the wall?

I read a few blogs that gave Mr. Kennedy the spiritual benefit of the doubt, recognizing that he was still mourning the loss of his father, Sen. Ted Kennedy from Massachusetts. But, I have to admit, my cynical nature lead me to think that was probably just the spin -- a leopard from Camelot is highly unlikely to change his spots, and those spots spin. It's a pride thing, I think; he's not a sure bet for re-election, so exit looking noble and find a new Kennedy-esque thing to do. Cousin Joe's got Venezuelan oil all wrapped up, but Patrick did mention wanting to be more like Aunt Eunice in her work with the Special Olympics. Perhaps, he could judge the bowling competition?

Seriously, this announcement by Sen. Bayh speaks volumes, in my estimation, about the change in trend of American political thought. American's do not seem to be tracking with the hope and change platform any longer. It is less than what they hoped for and changing in a dangerously wrong direction.

More specifically, as Catholic Americans, we need to understand the principle of subsidiarity and the principle of solidarity with regard to our expectations of our government, and what our duty is toward others. It seems that perhaps these principles have been shelved by some politicians -- they are not a unique brand of Catholic doctrine, but universal in nature to all mankind. And now, innately, they are emerging as a battle cry from a collective American conscience, both Catholic and non-Catholic.

It will not surprise me in the least if a new sense of moral fortitude emerges from pruning away these branches from the political vine. As spring emerges, I envision a new shoot stretching out with a different perspective on hope; an ethic based on the Constitution will push up from under the fertilizer that has been shoveled thick above it. From beneath the muck and mire, the voice of the people, like a burgeoning crocus, will arise to see the sun. All this is possible because of our country's freedoms mandated in the Constitution and its Bill of Rights.

The American people appear to be loudly and clearly expressing their desire to have control over their own health care decisions; their disgust with government takeovers in the private sector; their impatience with the continual bashing of past administrations for frivolous spending sprees when both this administration and the last had some serious issues with spending. Americans simply want their money to belong to them. They wish to control how to spend and give as they see fit, and they want for their grandchildren to be able to live without shouldering a debt that will soon be into the quadrillions of dollars. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that the people who do the living and breathing and working and dying in this town, Mr. Potter... -- Oh, wait...I seem to have channeled George Bailey --the average American, wishes to live in a secure country in which the rights of the citizenry are respected and their concerns are heard and represented in Washington, DC by their elected officials.

Did Mr. Kennedy really bail because of his commitment to family and the desire to actually have one of his own? Did the words of admonishment from Bishop Tobin make him take stock of what is truly important in life? Or, like Sen. Bayh, did Patrick Kennedy just realize that his brand of politics is losing ground with his constituents and it was time to investigate other prospects? I pray that our elected officials will stop and assess the political climate change (pun completely intended) in our country and resist thinking they know what is best for the American people without first listening to what the people want from their elected officials -- respect and sincere consideration regarding matters that concern them.

Attende, Domine

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"The Catholic Girl's Guide" (1906)

Advice from Father F.X. Lasance to young ladies (married and unmarried) and wives. Read it online

Hat tip: Vivificat, who has a treasure trove of links to spiritual books.

5 Do-It-Yourself Skills Every Woman Should Have

Lefty-loosey, righty-tighty! So, which of these five have you taken on?

I've tried #1 but was defeated and had to get a plumber's help. #2? Way too proficient at it (those toddler wipes may be flushable but not a box at a time. #3 I want to try.

Fat Tuesday!

It's Mardi Gras!  Any big plans?  Mary's posted a pancake recipe!

Our previous plans were scuttled due to the weather, so I'm musing on how best to mark the day.  Pancakes sound good, with plenty of bacon; maybe I'll even rummage around and find the molds to make dinosaur pancakes.

I'm also thinking about making a pan of brownies -- an au revoir to the pleasures of dessert before tomorrow.  So, that takes care of the fasting; in the prayer department I plan to use my Magnificat regularly....

How about you?  Any plans for this day?  How about the next forty?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

You don't have to be a genius to have a genius

Feminine genius?  Yes, you, Mary!   And -- cooler yet -- you not only are a feminine genius, you HAVE a feminine genius!

If we hop in to our Etymological Time Machine and steer it to ancient Rome, we'll see the word "genius" referring to a kind of local or familial spirit.  Towns and gates had their own genius; so did clans, families, and individuals. 

The concept lives on in the idea of personification (for example, "The Spirit of St Louis", the "Spirit of Christmas", Uncle Sam, the Statue of Liberty, and so on.)  
The Genius of America, Adolphe Yvon, 1858

As for the word itself, it didn't begin to take on its contemporary meaning of "super-smart individual" until almost the 1700's, and even now I don't know if it carries this meaning in languages other than English.  Its older meaning carries the idea of an essential spirit or character.  It comes from the same root as "generate" and "genial", and is a cousin to the word "nature."

*    *    *   

The idea of  "the feminine genius" takes my mind in so many different directions, I hardly know where to start.  Certainly it involves giving proper respect to the vocations of mothering and childrearing.  But how does the feminine spirit manifest in the lives of women who are married but struggle with infertility -- and may not be called to adopt children?  For women who are single, who aren't mothers, who don't see Mr Right on the horizon but who don't feel called to religious life?  How does that spirit play out for them?  What about when the children grow up?

How does the feminine genius manifest itself in the workplace -- especially in a workplace that isn't part of the traditional teacher-nurse-housekeeper realm of women?  (And how did some work come to be considered "women's work" anyway?)   And are there ways that we should be taught to develop and express that spirit?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

who me? a feminine genius?

Good Afternoon Blogging World,
Hello from the snow capped mountains of Northern Virginia. Oh that's just my car buried in the recent and ongoing blizzard.

Anyway, if your new to this lovely site, welcome. If your wondering who we are, well some days we wonder as well. This site was started over coffee one morning. Good friends, wonderful encouraging conversation, lots of formation in who God made us to be as woman and wahllah...a blog is born.

So I am surrounded by intellectual giants here, woman who study God's word and the church doctors, devouring their genius like I do Doritios. How can I possibly keep up with them? I don't. I can't. God said it was OK to just be me with my obsessions for modest fashion, good inspirational fiction, being a wife and mother, baking - lots of baking and living the life of a domestic goddess. These are the things I will write about here. I am that woman who strives to learn and become a better version of herself each and every day...while eating Doritos of course.

My name is Mary. I am a Roman Catholic wife, mother, sister and friend. I strive to be less like Martha and more like Mary. One day I know I will succeed...by God's grace alone.

Feminine Genius? A work in progress...how about you?

Group read: "Why is this woman's work anyway?!"

I'm one of those women who would much rather read than do housework, so I got a kick out of Leila's post:

All I want is affirmation and love-bombs about every little thing I do -- Look, honey, I am presentable today! Look, I neatened up this corner! Look, we have dinner! Instead I get the smackdown from God Almighty: You're only doing what you are supposed to be doing -- don't be such a baby.

And you know, the truth is that all those things are simply background for the real business of loving each other and getting to heaven.
And since this is something that I've been mulling over myself, I was very excited to see her go on to say....

I want to talk about a serious question that comes up, and its answer underlies the whole purpose of what we do, blog-wise, family-wise, life-wise...

It's this: Why should *I* have to do all this? Why is all this the woman's lot to preside over? Am I not good enough for the world to recognize my work with something tangible, like a paycheck? How can I explain my home to someone else? To myself? What about someone who isn't Christian?

....to answer the question in an orderly, satisfying way, you might want to do some reading....

And Leila's recommended reading?

Woo hoo!  Leila will be discussing these books over Lent.  Mulieris Dignitatem is out of print but you can download it from the Vatican website (suggestion: copy the text and paste it into a text document to avoid that annoying parchment background.)  We have it linked here (click the book cover) and on our "What is the Feminine Genius" page.   I just read Mulieris Dignitatem and feel like I've alluded to Leisure about 150 times over the last four months, so I'm eager to follow along.

photo illustration by solcookie, used under a Creative Commons License

The Role of Mothers in a New Liturgical Movement

A short article by Deborah Molinari on the special opportunities that mothers enjoy to assist in the renewal of the liturgy:

Rooting the family in the liturgical year helps to produce lives which are God-centred and continues the formation and sanctification of the Catholic family that flows from the sacred liturgy. This in turn can then be more readily carried into one's adult life, whether as a priest, religious or as a layman, to be fostered yet further in ourselves and in others. Evidently, everyone has an important part to play in the new liturgical movement, but as it relates to the "domestic church," to bringing the liturgical life into the home, it seems to be the case that in most homes it is the mother who plans and organizes the special celebrations, foods, crafts, songs, stories and prayers, along with appropriate catechesis, for her family in accordance with the Church's liturgical calendar. This is why the Catholic mother's role can be understood as so important and vital for the new liturgical movement, for it is in the home that the formative seeds of the liturgical life can be planted and nurtured.

cross-posted to that other place I blog; HT: a Facebook friend

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Feminine Geniuses in the News: Dominican Sisters (and Sayuki the Geisha) on Oprah

Updated with more Oprah linkage

Today!  On Oprah!  Sex!  Geishas!  who are not sex workers!  And nuns!  Who don't have sex!  And live in hidden worlds!  And no sex!  Ever!  Sex!

Did we mention sex?

Nobody -- nobody -- but Mother Assumpta Long and the Ann Arbor Dominicans could have gotten me to watch Oprah.  Some random notes and impressions from the sisters' segment:

  • "Not everybody who hits a crisis point in their life... is called to be a nun.  Especially if they're men!"  --Sister Mary Judith

  • Oprah:  But what about sex???

  • I am amused by Oprah agreeing that our culture bombards us with messages of materialism and sex.

  • "[Christ]" is a hard husband to be married to because if something goes wrong in the relationship I know that it's me!"  -- Sister Mary Judith, rocking the audience.
  • The sisters are completely rocking the show: they're ready for the awkward, salacious questions (what about sex?  what about breaking the vows?!) and are turning them around to focus on the joy and dignity of their vocations.

  • "Every women is called to be a mother."  --Mother Assumpta Long

  • "[The sisters' lives] are actually very liberating." -- Oprah's correspondent Lisa Ling

  • I wonder what the discussion boards on Oprah's website are going to be like?

  • Has Oprah always been this... coarse?  Not just in terms of titillating subject material (did we mention sex?) but just her tone of voice and her manner?  Or have I been watching too many Jane Austen movies lately?

  • "After the Show" footage of the Sisters of Mary

I'm glad I was able to stifle my impatience long enough to watch the show.  And there's fuel for reflection on the compare-and-contrast between the life of geisha and the life of religious.  There are the superficial similarities -- the dedication, the life apart, the apprenticeship, the special clothes -- but where the life of the geisha turns the feminine genius into a commodity, the life of the vowed religious turns it toward profound relationship and the utter gift of self.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Power of Feminine Genius

What a great gift we have been given! We can proclaim with pride that we are Catholic women and that Our Lord has created us with the greatest of all gifts, the opportunity to assist in the creation of new life. We can boast of God’s great model to all women, Mary His mother. She is our mother, too; the first and most excellent female example of how to best know, love and serve God. We have an opportunity to share the light of Christ’s love for us. But, our faith needs to be bolstered constantly through prayer and sacrifice against the ever-present temptations of our society. Pope John Paul II wrote specifically to women in the encyclical, Mulieres Dignitatem (On the Dignity of Women), 1988:

"If you knew the gift of God" (Jn 4:10), Jesus says to the Samaritan woman during one of those remarkable conversations which allow his great esteem for the dignity of women and for the vocation which enables them to share in his messianic mission.

The present reflections, now at an end, have sought to recognize, within the "gift of God," what he, as Creator and Redeemer, entrusts to women, to every woman. 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.

During the Marian Year the Church desires to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the "mystery of woman" and for every woman-for that which constitutes the eternal measure of her feminine dignity, for the "great works of God," which throughout human history have been accomplished in and through her. After all, was it not in and through her that the greatest event in human history-the incarnation of God himself-was accomplished?

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.

The Church asks at the same time that these invaluable "manifestations of the Spirit" (cf. 1 Cor 12:4ff.), which with great generosity are poured forth upon the "daughters" of the eternal Jerusalem, may be attentively recognized and appreciated so that they may return for the common good of the Church and of humanity, especially in our times. Meditating on the biblical mystery of the "woman," the Church prays that in this mystery all women may discover themselves and their "supreme vocation."

May Mary, who "is a model of the Church in the matter of faith, charity, and perfect union with Christ," (63) obtain for all of us this same race," in the Year which we have dedicated to her as we approach the third millennium from the coming of Christ.

With these sentiments, I impart the Apostolic Blessing to all the faithful, and in a special way to women, my sisters in Christ. (MD, 31)

After reading this, how can Catholic women feel anything but respected and embraced by the Church, and empowered to bring Christ to others through her. We are women on a mission; women who are called to enlighten ourselves, our families and our neighbors. We are meant, by virtue of our “supreme vocation,” to not only bring, but to be Christ to others. That mission starts with the undeniable truth that the root of our femininity is incontrovertibly linked to our maternity. We as Catholic women are the bearers of the next Catholic generation. It’s time to own that great gift and build up the Kingdom of God by means of our “feminine genius”.
Related Posts with Thumbnails