by Rebecca Wilson

The crisis of femininity in our modern world is full of various nuances and deceptions. At least every few weeks, the lack of clarity on what is beautiful about femininity or the beauty of what the female body is made for is further discolored in the media and beyond, leading to greater confusion. On this feast of St. Mary Magdalene, we seek her intercession to help us on this journey of rediscovering the gift and beauty of femininity.

St. Mary Magdalene is a beautiful example of redemption within the feminine genius. It is assumed that Mary Magdalene was the same woman caught in adultery, whom Jesus saved from being stoned to death in the Gospel of John. Whatever led her to this place, whether it was past wounds, trauma, or unworthiness, caused her to seek fulfillment of her desire for love in a way that could not fully satisfy. She was suffering, lost, and scared. When she encountered Christ and his compassionate gaze, all of this changed. He did not condemn her. In this moment of encounter, He looked on her with the love her heart was seeking, the love that she desired but could not otherwise attain. Importantly, He did not leave her there but called her to live in this truth.

He invited her into healing by giving her the one thing that would satisfy her heart, His love. She became aware of her dignity and her worthiness, and her life was radically transformed. When a woman knows her worth and knows she is loved, she is a beautiful force to behold. A force that transforms the world around her for the better.

The gift of one’s femininity, and specifically one’s maternal character, allows women to be convicted to nurture all who are in need of a mother’s love. This is what our world needs. With so much division, anger, and frustration, our world needs women who know their mission to love, because they have received Christ’s love. The love that satisfies the deepest desires of our hearts can only come from Our Lord Himself. Mary was able to support Our Lady, John, even Jesus on that path to Calvary and at the foot of the cross because of her relentless trust in this love. While scared at the empty tomb, it was this maternal love that brought her there first, and this maternal love the brought her to run to the apostles telling the news of Christ’s Resurrection.

This is the call of the modern woman: to be convicted to bring love into our broken world and spread the lifegiving news of the life found in Christ. To unite and cherish what has previously been divided and abandoned.  To love in the feminine genius, and bear new life into a world that is in dire need of a new light.

The Dobbs case has only heightened our awareness to the reality that most woman have no idea they are being called to so great a mission. Most woman accept or have simply relented to the fact that they must carry on through daily life, looking out for themselves and maybe those closest to them. They believe they are simply their own person, who may or may not choose to be in relationships with others. We all know life is difficult and even seemingly impossible at times, causing I’m sure many women to feel without hope. It is easy to point out the countless ways people have hurt us, abandoned us, and betrayed us, causing us to want to be on our own. All of these things only work to reinforce the lie that we must take care of ourselves and that the only person we can depend on is yourself. This, quite frankly, is exhausting and antithetical to the outpouring of self that is essential and beautiful of maternal love. This self-reliance, brought about by the wounds of women in our society, allows Satan to systematically damper the gift of the feminine heart to the world. We see women turn inward, instead of being able to give in the free and total way in which they are made, and which in turn gives them, and those most in need of maternal shelter, life.

Abandonment and isolation always bring about negative consequences. We are made in the image and likeness of God, a communion of persons. As such, we ourselves are made for community. As St. John Paul II constantly reminds us in the Theology of the Body, “Man cannot find himself except through the sincere gift of self.” When we expend all of our energy trying to protect ourselves, we lose sight of this truth and are unable to see the joy that comes in giving of ourselves. In Mulieris Dignitatem, St. John Paul II describes this mission to which women are particularly called saying,

“A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting, strong because of the fact that God ‘entrusts the human being to her’, always and in every way, even in the situations of social discrimination in which she may find herself. This awareness and this fundamental vocation speak to women of the dignity which they receive from God himself, and this makes them ‘strong’ and strengthens their vocation.”

Pope John Paul II in Mulieris Dignitatem n. 30

So how do we restore this understanding of femininity to our world in light of the crisis we find ourselves in?

  1. The female body is capable of bearing new life within it. We as women must appreciate what has been beautiful and unique about our bodies from the beginning of time, the reality that we and we alone can bear life within us. On top of this, there is much scientific evidence supporting the fact that our fertility is a 5th biomarker in evaluating the health of a woman. Pregnancy is difficult. Having a period every month is difficult. The hormonal changes we continually go through day after day, month after month can be difficult. Yet why does all of this occur? What is it telling us? Following the Dobb’s decision, it has been shocking to see the lack of awareness about what a healthy female body looks like. With growing use of the Pill, IUD’s, etc., many women have no idea what their body should be doing each month, or what their cycle looks like. If we don’t know these things, or if we cover up these symptoms, we could be covering up a myriad of health conditions including PCOS, endometriosis, and more. Is my entire health and person only about fertility? No. But fertility is so intimately connected to my physical reality that if I do not consider it or suppress it, my whole health, in spirit, mind, and body is at risk.
  2. All woman, no matter their vocational state, are called to be mothers. In his letter to woman, St. John Paul II says, “Motherhood is linked to the personal structure of the woman and to the personal dimension of the gift”. When reflecting on your past, it is likely you can recall a woman other than your own mother, perhaps a teacher, aunt, or neighbor, who took you under her wing. A woman who nurtured you, guided you, and made you feel loved and important. While this is not simply a feminine quality, there is a unique dimension of femininity to respond to those in need, and care for those who are forgotten. The beauty of this dimension is that in doing so, women more fully find themselves. The world was captivated by Mother Teresa. Why? Because she was so able to care for, nurture, and love individuals that others had deemed unworthy of love.  The world felt mothered by her, and she likewise displayed to those she encountered the joy of the gift of self in spiritual motherhood.

Our world needs the feminine genius. With division, uncertainty, and the rise in mental health problems that have accompanied society’s continual suppression of the fullness of the feminine gift, the presence of life giving, joyful witnesses is imperative. Today’s world needs women, and it needs women in the fullness of who they are. As St. John Paul II says in his Letter to Woman, “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.”