By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
Members of the Catholic Women’s League hosted an afternoon tea Oct. 28 at Holy Spirit Parish in Saskatoon, partnering with the Catholic Pastoral Centre to repeat a presentation of a talk about the dignity and vocation of women in the Church and in the world.
Sr. Malou Tibayan of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity repeated the talk originally presented at a diocesan breakfast gathering for women in May, the month honouring Mary. It was appropriate that the second presentation fell in October, the month of the Rosary, which honours Our Lady, model of holiness and the qualities of “feminine genius,” she said.
She described the development of her talk as a response to her work as part of the diocesan Synod on Synodality process, which brought forth comments and reflections about the role of women in the Catholic Church.
Rather than focusing on questions around ordination of women, Tibayan looked at the wider reality of the dignity and vocation of women – and their “feminine genius” — particularly citing two documents written by Saint Pope John Paul II, namely:
- Mulieris Dignitatem – LINK an Apostolic Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of Women on the Occasion of the Marian Year, 1988.
- Letter to Women – LINK written for the occasion of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, 1995.
Popularized by Pope Saint John Paul II, the term “feminine genius” refers to “our unique and distinctive characteristics as women which are expressed in our way of understanding and perceiving things and realities, also in our relationships, in our way of living and facing life and solving conflicts,” summarized Tibayan.
She noted that every human being has an intrinsic worth that has nothing to do with sex, age, health, appearance, education, social status, employment, or choices we make. “We have dignity because God made us, loves us, and desires a relationship with us …the dignity of a human being rests above all on the fact that we are called in communion with God,” Tibayan said, referencing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes, and the biblical book of Genesis.
Characteristics of feminine genius
“As saint and martyr Edith Stein (Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) said: ‘The world doesn’t need what women have, it needs what we are.’ So, what are the characteristics of feminine wisdom and the feminine genius that we can contribute to the Church and to the world?”
Tibayan listed characteristics of feminine genius, citing saints and biblical women who demonstrated each trait:
- Practical knowledge – St. Edith Stein who wrote: “Women comprehend not merely with the intellect but also with the heart”;
- Intuition – St. Teresa of Avila, mystic, writer and reformer of the Carmelite order, well known for her wisdom and understanding of the interior life;
- Feminine wisdom – St. Catherine of Siena, a mystic and illiterate woman whose outstanding wisdom is described as “an infused gift of the Holy Spirit”;
- Sensitivity – The Blessed Virgin Mary, whose “far-seeing eyes” saw the difficulty at the Wedding at Cana, and brought it to her Son;
- Resilience – St. Josephine Bakhita, kidnapped, tortured and enslaved as a young child in Sudan: “When speaking of her enslavement, she often professed she would thank her kidnappers, for had she not been kidnapped, she might never have come to know Jesus Christ and entered His Church”;
- Hospitality and Generosity – A range of examples, including the widow in scripture who gave her last pennies, and the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet;
- Motherhood – Both physical and spiritual – lived by St. Monica, the persevering mother who devoted many years of her life praying unceasingly for the conversion of her son St Augustine and by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who through her life of holiness, “helps us understand that our greatest beauty is our love.”
Tibayan concluded by honouring Jesus’ mother Mary and other women in the Gospel. “The Church sees in Mary as the highest expression of the ‘feminine genius’ and finds in her a source of constant inspiration…. Her ‘fiat’ and her being the ‘handmaid of the Lord’ shows us the royal dignity of service,” she said also citing other women in the Gospel such as Martha and Mary, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene.
“A friend of mine shared her reflection on the presence of women in Jesus’ time. She said: ‘They supported Jesus in his three years of public ministry. They were also the ones at the foot of the Cross. They never abandoned Jesus. And she said: Where would the Church be if all the women quit serving?”
Save the date for Feminine Genius Breakfast Talk II – May 15, 2024
Kiply Lukan Yaworski is the communications coordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon – rcdos.ca