“In fact, woman has a genius all her own, which is vitally essential to both society and the Church. It is certainly not a question of comparing woman to man, since it is obvious that they have fundamental dimensions and values in common. However, in man and in woman these acquire different strengths, interests and emphases and it is this very diversity which becomes a source of enrichment.”
“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.”
– St. Pope John Paul II
In 1995, 17 years into his papacy, Pope John Paul II wrote and published a pastoral letter, which he called Mulieris Dignitatem, and was addressed to “women throughout the world.” It was written before the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, in September of that year.
In a post-Cold war era of gender fluidity and new feminism, a pastoral letter was much needed. It speaks to all women — working women, mothers, wives, sisters, religious — to affirm them of their dignity and vocation in the very place they are now, and why their unique contribution is so needed in the modern Church and world. Just as God trusted His only son to be born by an ordinary woman on Earth, the women of today are entrusted by God… simply for being themselves.
In the letter, John Paul II not only thanks women, he straight up apologizes to them for failing — for misrepresentation, not being recognized; for enduring abuse, exploitation, and violence throughout history. And he calls out both the modern Church and society to uphold the dignity of women; by respecting them, honoring them, recognizing them, and integrating them socially, politically, and economically, letting them be a part of the conversation — for women “reveal the gift of their womanhood, by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives.”
And he cites Mary, the handmaid of the Lord and Mother of Jesus, as the “highest expression of the feminine genius” — her unique mark on history. She gives her wholehearted yes, putting herself in the service of God and humanity, and the world was forever changed.
(To read the Letter to Women in full text, please visit: https://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2wom.htm.)
For in giving themselves to others each day, women fulfill their deepest vocation.
The Feminine Genius is a gift of self. What gifts can a woman share?
- Her receptivity and interior focus
- Her intelligent, intuitive, relational nature
- Her kindness, sacrifice, service, creativity, gifts and talents)
- Her beautiful body, mind and soul — the feminine body — that which reveals God (and the beauty of God) to the world.
- Her beauty, strength, courage, and life-giving — her God-given motherhood — nurturing the emotional, moral, cultural, and spiritual life of others, whether as a bride, a mother, or a sister — so that others too can become a fuller gift of self, both to God and to others
Don’t you see? It’s a cycle of gifting and giving. The feminine genius matters because it is innately who women are, as women. With all of our complexities, beauty, talents, hardships, and mystique. Through this unveiling of the feminine genius, we discover our unique, God-given vocation as women, and we use that to give back in service of others… so that they too can discover their own.
It is the ultimate ticket to love, freedom and happiness in the service of others: because women were made for more.
For more resources on the feminine genius, please check out:
– Discovering the Feminine Genius: Every Woman’s Journey, by Katrina Zeno
– The Chastity Project on The Feminine Genius
– FOCUS “Feminine Genius” booklet
– FemCatholic: Can you be Catholic and a feminist?
– Abiding Together podcast series on feminine genius
– The Catholic Woman‘s letters to women
– Aleteia: How the Feminine Genius Can Save the World