“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.”
Saint Pope John Paul II speaks of the “feminine genius” in his letter On the Dignity and Vocation of Women. What is the definition and origin of the word genius?
noun: genius; plural noun: geniuses
1. exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability.
"she was a teacher of genius"
late Middle English: from Latin, ‘attendant spirit present from one's birth, innate ability or inclination,’ from the root of gignere ‘beget.’ The original sense ‘tutelary spirit attendant on a person’ gave rise to a sense ‘a person's characteristic disposition’ (late 16th century), which led to a sense ‘a person's natural ability,’ and finally ‘exceptional natural ability’ (mid 17th century).
What is this genius that all women are endowed with? What does this genius allow us to be? What does this genius call us to or require of us?
Our Lord offered Mary, our Holy Mother, the opportunity to become the mother of our Savior.
In her free will she had a choice. Mary’s choice was a resounding and complete yes to all that bearing and raising Jesus would encompass.
This favor that our Holy Mother was offered and accepted was truly a gift beyond comprehension, one that required total self-sacrifice. Today we often equate a gift as something that brings pleasure or pampering and delight, and as wonderful as it is to receive such a gift there is no comparison to the gift of womanhood and motherhood, either physically or spiritually.
How difficult it can be at times to receive this entire gift from our Lord. Women are offered the complete package of ‘feminine genius’ with the pretty ribbons; the exquisite outer wrapping; the personal greeting; along with all that is enclosed within the package. At times, is it not what lies within that gift that can cause us to fear or perhaps accept just a portion of the gift while trying to lay aside the parts that may be a bit too, challenging, scary or require much effort?
The ‘feminine genius’ that Saint JPII highlights and honors in his mother in his Letter to Women reminds women of the profound gift and responsibilities we have been endowed with. We have an essential duty to fulfill the motherly call God has placed in us whether it be through consecrated, married or single life for as women we are all called to bear fruit.
Saint John Paul II expresses sincere gratitude to women for living their gift of ‘feminine genius’.
“As I wrote in my Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, the Church "desires to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the 'mystery of woman' and for every woman-for all that 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" (No. 31).
2. This word of thanks to the Lord for his mysterious plan regarding the vocation and mission of women in the world is at the same time a concrete and direct word of thanks to women, to every woman, for all that they represent in the life of humanity.
Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God's own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child's first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.
Thank you, women who are wives! You irrevocably join your future to that of your husbands, in a relationship of mutual giving, at the service of love and life.
Thank you, women who are daughters and women who are sisters! Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your sensitivity, your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity.
Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of "mystery", to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.
Thank you, consecrated women! Following the example of the greatest of women, the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, you open yourselves with obedience and fidelity to the gift of God's love. You help the Church and all mankind to experience a "spousal" relationship to God, one which magnificently expresses the fellowship which God wishes to establish with his creatures.
Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world's understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.”
In this month of May, we thank our Holy Mother for her faith-filled yes and we pray that women accept the entire gift of their ‘feminine genius’ and all that it calls them to with joy, gratitude, honor and magnanimity knowing that within this priceless gift from our Lord is the grace to accept and cherish the entire package in which we find the jewel, the gift beyond comparison, union with our God. Thank you, Lord.
More on the Feminine Genius