As a little girl, I remember wanting to pursue a number of different career paths: actress, singer, author, lawyer, and politician, to name a few. My father in particular encouraged my many professional dreams and was my chief cheerleader as I negotiated my way through the world of work.
But as I collected awards and garnered promotions, I found something important was missing. I longed to nurture a family of my own.
What an incredible, awe-inspiring joy it was, then, to welcome my baby daughter into the world. Full of promise and potential, she brought to my life a sense of purpose and fulfillment that had been missing before.
That little girl became my inspiration—not only for what I could accomplish on the home front, but for what I could still contribute to the outside world of ideas.
Moms on the Move
I have found myself inspired by homeschooling moms who also write books. There are mothers who lead vocal groups. One mother is trying her hand at stand-up comedy. This has led me to the conclusion that we are experiencing a “feminine genius movement.”
“Feminine genius” was the phrase popularized by Pope Saint John Paul II to describe the special capabilities of women.
Through feminine genius, families can flourish, workplaces can become a bit kinder and gentler, and public affairs can be more personable. The 21st century matriarch can make her mark in an assortment of exciting ways.
Women do not need to be boxed in by certain career expectations. Neither do we need to give up all of our personal interests once babies arrive on the scene. The creativity inherent in the feminine genius can lead us to use our unique talents to bless both our family and the larger community.
Pope Saint John Paul II’s Letter to Women
In his groundbreaking letter to women, Pope John Paul II expressed profound gratitude to women serving many different roles in our society:
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.
And for those days when you feel overwhelmed, consider this encouraging quote from the future saint:
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.
The Feminine Genius and Spiritual Fuel
The feminine genius can be fed by spiritual fuel. In other words, we can become the women we are called to be by growing closer to the awesome God who made us. Dedicating our day to God, doing at least 15 minutes of spiritual reading, and making a spiritual communion (asking Jesus into our hearts at least once a day) can keep us from running on empty.
I have found daily Mass to be incredibly helpful in my spiritual journey. But at times, my schedule does not permit it. On those days, I try to catch the Mass on a Catholic website or “tune in” to a live steam of an adoration chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. The miracle of modern technology can enable us to encounter the Lord in new ways.
God knows our time is limited—He will bless us for whatever precious moments we can devote to Him.
Gratitude and Reflection
It’s also incredibly helpful to take a few minutes at the end of the day to reflect. This can be done while you’re doing the dishes, taking a shower, or winding down with an evening walk. Think of the five things you are most grateful for this day. Ponder when you were at your best during the last 24 hours, along with those times when you fell short of your ideal.
Thank God for the blessings and ask his forgiveness for the failures. Then, say a prayer that brings you comfort, for instance, the Our Father or Hail Mary. And rest in the knowledge that you are deeply and profoundly loved by God.
How are you exercising your feminine genius today?
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Maria V. Gallagher is an advocate for women and children. Prior to her work in advocacy, Maria worked as a radio reporter and television news producer. You can find out more about her here.