You are genius. By the very fact that God created you a woman, you embody the gift of femininity — a gift not possessed by a man. And it is genius!
What is more, whether you have biological children or not, the gift of your femininity extends far beyond your immediate, natural family. By virtue of the words of Jesus, you are a mother. That is not a platitude or a wish, it is a spiritual reality expressed in a physical way.
Simply by being created female, every woman possesses a feminine genius. Termed by Pope St. John Paul the Great, in his Letter to Women, the feminine genius speaks to the distinct qualities shared not exclusively, but predominantly by all women. Diverse as we all are, and different in the gifts and talents we possess, the work we do, and the vocations to which we are called, all women indeed have it.
One aspect of this genius is the gift of maternity. Whether you are single, consecrated, religious, or married; whether a physical mother or not, the feminine gift of maternity allows a woman to mother another. Through her body, in her thoughts, her words, and actions, women engender life in others.
It is the attention to detail, the noticing of needs, the desire, creativity, enthusiasm, and initiative to meet the needs of others, that uniquely distinguishes this life-giving love. It is the ability to receive others where they are and walk alongside them with compassion, encouragement, and practical help.
“But…” you say? “I don’t have children.” Or, “My kids are grown and they do not need me.” Or “My health is so poor, I have nothing to give.” Or “My son and I no longer speak.”
This could be true. And yet — you still have the feminine genius of maternity.
Nemo dat quod non habet (You cannot give what you do not have)
You have a mother. We all do. In the natural realm, look to your own mother and think of how she mothered you. If you have an amazing mother, thank God for that gift and imitate her virtues. If you have an estranged mother, thank God for her virtues and ask him to forgive her vices. Then, everyone, look to Mary.
Without denigrating the importance or immanence of the natural family, Jesus makes us look at its transcendence. His family is the man, woman, or child who hears the word of God and does it.
“Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him for the crowd. And he was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.’ But he said to them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’” Luke 8: 19-21
Our Lord elevates the spiritual reality of family even more directly when He gives us His Mother to be our mother.
“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour, the disciple took her into his home.” John 19:25-27
Jesus, hanging from the cross, directs Mary to take His beloved disciple John as her son, and John to take Mary as his mother. This is more than a practical, physical arrangement. It is that, but more. In calling Mary “woman,” He is speaking to her womanhood, her feminine genius, and her maternity. Jesus confers Mary upon us — His beloved disciples — as our mom in the most important way.
Living your maternity
You have people God placed in your life. While we are all called to be Christ to others, women can be mothers to others as well. There is no cookie-cutter recipe for this, just as there is no cookie-cutter mom. The diversity of moms is incredible, and so is the diversity of ways in which every woman, physical mother or not, will express a unique and particular concern for someone, or for many people, in her life. There are people in your life who will take joy and flourish because of you. The gift of your own feminine genius — your maternity — cannot be overstated.
When my Mom died at 57, it was like the sun in our universe had gone out. She held our family together in countless ways. It was not just her indefatigable energy to accomplish things, but the love she had, expressed in joy and humor, gratitude and giving, that drew us together. She loved my Dad and my three siblings, me and my family and her grandkids, her own siblings, nieces, nephews, friends and students. It started with God’s love for her and her love for God. It radiated out from there.
Men are wonderful. Men do incredible things. But women hold things together in the world and women set the standard in human relations. Women humanize and civilize. You, dear woman, have the power to keep others in orbit in the most beautiful way.
“Be who you are and you will set the world aflame,” said St. Catherine of Siena. To set the world aflame, take time today to talk to God, and to speak with His mother and your mother Mary, and figure out how to do this. Do that again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Grow your love, eliminate the obstacles of sin, and be who you are.
Woman, Happy Mother’s Day!
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