Jismy Juda-Thaddeus dwells on the four main charisms that make a woman unique.
It was during a young women’s road trip that I first came across this term- ‘Feminine genius’. We were having a picnic by York Cathedral, when an elder surprised us with roses she brought for each one of us. “I want to remind each one of you that you are beautiful, and you are valued for who you are. Your dignity as a woman is not defined by what you do but by just ‘being’”, she said. Deeply moved and amazed at the same time, I remember just sitting there looking at that rose she gave me.
“Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman”! St. John Paul II writes in his letter to women, written in 1995. He emphasizes the unique gifts and potential of womanhood, the ‘Feminine Genius!’. In today’s culture, true femininity is often misunderstood as being weak if it is not in competition with masculinity. A woman’s feminine genius is unique and indispensable to the society and to the church. Although there are various qualities to the feminine genius, the main four aspects are receptivity, sensitivity, generosity and maternity.
Receptivity is at the heart of feminine genius. It is not passive, but actively saying yes to the gifts of life and love. It is about receiving the love of God and understanding that our dignity as a woman is rooted in our identity as a daughter of God. Receiving this gift of love needs trust in the giver and belief that he is good. Our Blessed Mother, the woman who first received the son of God, is the perfect example that receptivity is not passive but an expression of cooperation with God.
Sensitivity is the ability to see and understand the needs of others. Women tend to be more intuitive and attentive. In the Gospels we find women who show a special sensitivity to Christ and his mission. Not only are they present at the foot of the cross, but they are also the first at the tomb at the dawn of the resurrection.
Sensitivity is not an emotional weakness, but comes from a heart that is willing to shift focus from oneself and is attentive to the deeper needs of others. St. John Paul II says that “our time 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” (1 Cor 13:13)”. A woman’s sensitivity results in a response of love and lends itself to generosity
In Mulierius Dignitatum St. John Paul II wrote, “A woman’s dignity is closely connected with the love which she receives by the very reason of her femininity; it is likewise connected with the love which she gives in return.” “Freely you have received, freely give” (Mathew 10:8). If we are able to receive the generosity of the Lord and acknowledge it in our life, we are able to give more freely. Generosity places great value and dignity on the human person, which is founded in the conviction of one’s own dignity in God. In giving themselves to others each day, making a gift of herself, women fulfil their deepest vocation.
Nothing demonstrates generosity more fully than maternity (both physical and spiritual). Women have the incredible gift of being life bearers, both in spirit and body. St. John Paul II writes, “God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. Of course, God entrusts every human being to each other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way – precisely by reason of their femininity.”
The other aspects of the Feminine Genius- Receptivity, sensitivity and generosity, all take tangible forms in the beauty of maternity. St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross expresses the beauty of spiritual motherhood- “The woman’s soul is fashioned to be shelter in which other souls may unfold.”. What an incredible gift!
Regardless of the vocation, each woman possesses the feminine genius and is called to live this out in her individual walk of life. “If you knew the gift of God” (John 4:10), says Jesus to the Samaritan woman at the well during one of the most remarkable conversations in the Gospels. Understanding the unique gifts of the feminine genius allows us to embrace authentic womanhood in its full potential.
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