Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Reclaiming "Feminism"

Ignorance may be bliss.  In some cases, yes.
Ignorance is not bliss, however, and may well be dangerous when it comes to women's rights. While doing research on another topic, I stumbled across a webpage advocating "herstory" (do we forget the roots of language? Are men fighting about 'heritage'?).  In the same breath, the author crassly lumped "The Family, the Church and the Law" as three obstacles to women's rights, and which the early pioneers of the movement, eg Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, were 'brave' enough to confront.  

"The Family, the Church and the Law" are three of the most positive realities that exist.  All three preserve and protect human flourishing and freedom.  Since when are these, taken individually or together, 'negatives'?  

Something to think about.  Why are they erroneously seen as 'negatives'?  What can we do to enlighten, to show the world the beauty, truth, and goodness of those three realities?  So much to do, so many to reach.  What am I doing, today, now, to bring this work forward?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The New Woman

To her [Mary] I entrust you,that the New Woman, Mother of the Church and of the New Humanity,may be your inspiration in the discovery of a new feminine identity in the Gospel perspective.

- John Paul II, Sept. 4, 1988

John Paul II's "Genius of Woman," the True 'Sacred Feminine'

While many people seem to be taken up with a current 'sacred feminine' hulla-balloo, it's a good thing to remember that it's all happened before, and will all happen again (to paraphrase from Disney's version of Peter Pan). We have a treasure-trove of answers at our fingertips. Literally. Just a mouse-click away are the writings of John Paul II on the matter of the 'genius of woman' (some links provided here).

More later... this is the theme of a talk exposing the Da Vinci Code's false view of women via John Paul II's On the Dignity and Vocation of Woman, June 17 in Edison, NJ.

John Paul II's "Genius of Woman," the True 'Sacred Feminine':
Trying to clarify the confusion of the Da Vinci Code's notion of the feminine

  • Men and women: to complement and complete, not compete
  • Woman's role in the Church: apostles and leaders from the beginning
  • Woman's role in the world ('women at large'): "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world" is a true saying.
  • "To know, love, serve," in that order (the importance of studying, reading, taking to heart, passing it on)
  • "Those who can, do...and teach": the dignity of woman via living it out in our lives

Photo (c) 2006 M. Datiles

Awareness of a Mission

A woman's dignity is closely connected with the love which she receives by the very reason of her femininity; it is likeness connected with the love which she gives in return.

Man, who is the only creature on earth that God willed for its own sake, cannot fully find himself except through the sincere gift of self" (Vatican Council II). This applies to every human being, as a person created in God's image, whether man or woman (...).

~ On the Dignity and Vocation of Women
Photo © M. Datiles 2006

"That flame burns again"

...a prayer, an ancient, newly-learned form of words, and left, turning towards the camp; and as I walked back (...) I thought: The builders did not know the uses to which their work would descend; they made a new house with the stones of the old castle; year by year, generation after generation, they enriched and extended it; year by year the great harvest of timber in the park grew to ripeness; until, in sudden frost, came the age of Hooper; the place was desolate and the work all brought to nothing; Quomodo sedet sola civitas. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. And yet... that is not the last word; it is not even an apt word; it is a dead word from ten years back. Something quite remote from anything the builders intended, has come out of their work, and out of the fierce little human tragedy in which I played; something none of us thought about at the time; a small red flame--a beaten-copper lamp of deplorable design relit before the beaten-copper doors of a tabernacle; the flame which the old knights saw from their tombs, which they saw put out; that flame burns again for other soldiers, far from home, farther, in heart, than Acre or Jerusalem. It could not have been lit but for the builders and the tragedians, and there I found it this morning, burning anew among the old stones. (Excerpt from Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

St. Thomas More's daughter, Meg

A propos of today's feast (martyrs, Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher), here's an excerpt and link to a bit about Thomas More's beloved daughter, Meg... truly 'her father's daughter' in both blood and spirit.

(Excerpt from "Sir Thomas More's Daughter." by Charlotte M. Yonge (1823-1901) From: A Book of Golden Deeds (1864) by Charlotte M. Yonge. London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., n.d.)

But nearer home, our own country shows a truly Christian Antigone, resembling the Greek lady, both in her dutifulness to the living, and in her tender care for the dead. This was Margaret, the favourite daughter of sir Thomas More, the true-hearted, faithful statesman of King Henry VIII.

With this household he lived in a beautiful large house at Chelsea, with well-trimmed gardens sloping down to the Thames; and this was the resort of the most learned and able men, both English and visitors from abroad, who delighted in pacing the shady walks, listening to the wit and wisdom of Sir Thomas, or conversing with the daughters, who had been highly educated, and had much of their father's humour and sprightliness. Even Henry VIII himself, then one of the most brilliant and graceful gentlemen of his time, would sometimes arrive in his royal barge, and talk theology or astronomy with Sir Thomas; or, it might be, crack jests with him and his daughters, or listen to the music in which all were skilled, even Lady More having been persuaded in her old age to learn to play on various instruments, including the flute.

On the 13th of April of 1534, arrived the real pursuivant to summon him to Lambeth, there to take the oath of supremacy, declaring that the King was the head of the Church of England, and that the Pope had no authority there. He knew what the refusal would bring on him. He went first to church, and then, not trusting himself to be unmanned by his love for his children and grandchildren, instead of letting them, as usual, come down to the water side, with tender kisses and merry farewells, he shut the wicket gate of the garden upon them all, and only allowed his son-in-law Roper to accompany him, whispering into his ear, "I thank our Lord, the field is won." Conscience had triumphed over affection, and he was thankful, though for the last time he looked on the trees he had planted, and the happy home he had loved. Before the council, he undertook to swear to some clauses in the oath which were connected with the safety of the realm; but he refused to take that part of the oath which related to the King's power over the Church. It is said that the King would thus have been satisfied, but that the Queen urged him further. At any rate, after being four days under the charge of the Abbot of Westminister, Sir Thomas was sent to the Tower of London.

His chief comfort was, however, in visits and letters from his daughter Margaret, who was fully able to enter into the spirit that preferred death to transgression. He was tried in Westminster Hall, on the 1st of July, and, as he had fully expected, sentenced to death. He was taken back along the river to the Tower. On the wharf his loving Margaret was waiting for her last look. She broke through the guard of soldiers with bills and halberds, threw her arms round his neck, and kissed him, unable to say any word but "Oh, my father!–oh, my father!" He blessed her, and told her that whatsoever she might suffer, it was not without the will of God, and she must therefore be patient. After having once parted with him, she suddenly turned back again, ran to him, and, clinging round his neck, kissed him over and over again–a sight at which the guards themselves wept. She never saw him again; but the night before his execution he wrote to her a letter with a piece of charcoal, with tender remembrances to all the family, and saying to her, "I never liked your manner better than when you kissed me last; for I am most pleased when daughterly love and dear charity have no leisure to look to worldly courtesy." He likewise made it his especial request that she might be permitted to be present at his burial.
His hope was sure and steadfast, and his heart so firm that he did not even cease from humorous sayings. When he mounted the crazy ladder of the scaffold he said, "Master Lieutenant, I pray you see me safe up; and for my coming down let me shift for myself." And he desired the executioner to give him time to put his beard out of the way of the stroke, "since that had never offended his Highness".
His body was given to his family, and laid in the tomb he had already prepared in Chelsea Church; but the head was set up on a pole on London Bridge. The calm, sweet features were little changed, and the loving daughter gathered courage as she looked up at them. How she contrived the deed, is not known; but before many days had passed, the head was no longer there, and Mrs. Roper was said to have taken it away. She was sent for to the Council, and accused of the stealing of her father's head. She shrank not from avowing that thus it had been, and that the head was in her own possession. One story says that, as she was passing under the bridge in a boat, she looked up, and said, "That head has often lain in my lap; I would that it would now fall into it." And at that moment it actually fell, and she received it. It is far more likely that she went by design, at the same time as some faithful friend on the bridge, who detached the precious head, and dropped it down to her in her boat beneath. Be this as it may, she owned before the cruel-hearted Council that she had taken away and cherished the head of the man whom they had slain as a traitor. However, Henry VIII. was not a Creon, and our Christian Antigone was dismissed unhurt by the Council, and allowed to retain possession of her treasure. She caused it to be embalmed, kept it with her wherever she went, and when, nine years afterwards, she died (in the year 1544), it was laid in her coffin in the "Roper aisle" of St. Dunstan's Church, at Canterbury.

(Image: Sir Thomas More, by Hans Holbein the Younger. The portrait hangs in the Frick Collection, New York)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Edith Stein: Philosopher, Convert, Saint

For those interested, there is a relatively recent book out about Edith Stein (St. Theresa Benedicta) by none other than Alasdair MacIntyre. Title: Edith Stein: The Origin and Development of Her Thought (Dec. 2005).

I recently read a good book review of it, but haven't read the book myself... if anyone wants to post a book review here, please send along an email (

(Photo from No copyright infringement intended.)

Raissa Maritain: A Woman in Search of Truth

Raissa and Jacques Maritain could well be called philosophers par excellence individually, yes, but even more perfectly as a couple. For the uninitiated, Raissa Maritain's book We Have Been Friends Together is highly be read...and re-read.

A brief bio is given here:

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Feminine Response and sincere gift of self

Excerpts from On the Dignity and Vocation of Women by John Paul II

Mary is the "new beginning" of the dignity and vocation of women, of each and every woman. (...) during her visit to Elizabeth: "He who is almighty has done great things for me" (Lk 1:49). These words certainly refer to the conception of her Son, who is the "Son of the Most High" (Lk 1:32), the "holy one" of God, but they can also signify the discovery of her own feminine humanity.

He "has done great things for me": this is the discovery of all the richness and personal resources of femininity, all the eternal originality of the "woman", just as God wanted her to be, a person for her own sake, who discovers herself "by means of a sincere gift of self."

In Mary, Eve discovers the nature of the true dignity of woman, of feminine humanity. This discovery must continually reach the heart of every woman and shape her vocation and her life (Pt. 11, 7-8).

Woman can only find herself by giving love to others.

Christ speaks to women about the things of God, and they understand them; there is a true resonance of mind and heart, a response to faith. Jesus expresses appreciation and admiration for this distinctly "feminine" response, as in the case of the Canannite woman (cf Mt 15:28).

He teaches, therefore, taking as his starting point this feminine response of mind and heart.

Photo © M. Datiles 2006

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Women and the Catholic Church

Article by Pia de Solenni, Ph.D.
Here's the link:

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

John Paul II's Letter to Women, 1995

... their beneficent influence can be felt as a force which has shaped the lives of successive generations, right up to our own. To this great, immense feminine "tradition" humanity owes a debt which can never be repaid. (...)

Women will increasingly play a part in the solution of the serious problems of the future: leisure time, the quality of life, migration, social services, euthanasia, drugs, health care, the ecology, etc. In all these areas a greater presence of women in society will prove most valuable, for it will help to manifest the contradictions present when society is organized solely according to the criteria of efficiency and productivity, and it will force systems to be redesigned in a way which favors the processes of humanization which mark the "civilization of love."

(Complete text via link to the right)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Words from Rome, 1995

John Paul II (Angelus, 23 July 1995)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. It is a "sign of the times" that woman's role is increasingly recognized, not only in the family circle, but also in the wider context of all social activities. Without the contribution of women, society is less alive, culture impoverished, and peace less stable. Situations where women are prevented from developing their full potential and from offering the wealth of their gifts should therefore be considered profoundly unjust, not only to women themselves but to society as a whole.

Of course, the employment of women outside the family, especially during the period when they are fulfilling the most delicate tasks of motherhood, must be done with respect for this fundamental duty. However, apart from this requirement, it is necessary to strive convincingly to ensure that the widest possible space is open to women in all areas of culture, economics, politics and ecclesial life itself, so that all human society is increasingly enriched by the gifts proper to masculinity and femininity.

2. 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.

In Mulieris Dignitatem I highlighted one aspect of feminine genius, that I would like to stress today: woman is endowed with a particular capacity for accepting the human being in his concrete form (cf. N. 18). Even this singular feature which prepares her for motherhood, not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually, is inherent in the plan of God who entrusted the human being to woman in an altogether special way (cf. Ibid., n. 30). The woman of course, as much as the man, must take care that her sensitivity does not succumb to the temptation to possessive selfishness, and must put it at the service of authentic love. On these conditions she gives of her best, everywhere adding a touch of generosity, tenderness, and joy of life.
3. Let us look at the Blessed Virgin's example. In the narrative of the wedding at Cana, John's Gospel offers us a vivid detail of her personality when it tells how, in the busy atmosphere of a wedding feast, she alone realized that the wine was about to run out. And to avoid the spouses' joy becoming embarrassment and awkwardness, she did not hesitate to ask Jesus for his first miracle. This is the "genius" of the woman! May Mary's thoughtful sensitivity, totally feminine and maternal, be the ideal mirror of all true femininity and motherhood!

L'Osservatore RomanoWeekly Edition in English26 July 1995, p. 1.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"The Notion of Beauty"

Keynote address for Women Transforming Culture 2005
(via link to the right)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

John Paul II and the Genius of Women

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese' short review of John Paul II and the Genius of Women