This Women’s History Month, Sr. Clare reminds us of the “genius of women.”
By: Sr. Clare Hunter, F.S.E.., Director of the Respect Life Office
Quick, what is your reaction to the statement: The genius of women is the capacity to be a mother?
I knew there was a problem when my own reaction was “that’s it?” As I was preparing a talk entitled “The Genius of Men and Women,” I was well aware that most women were not going to be at ease with St. John Paul II’s words in the Theology of the Body: “The mystery of femininity manifests and reveals itself in its full depth through motherhood,” as well as his statement that “woman has a genius all her own, which is vitally essential to both society and the Church…[She] is endowed with a particular capacity for accepting the human being in his concrete form” (Angelus Reflection, July 23, 1995).
Certainly I believe in the extraordinary gift of children, and motherhood, but it just seems like our genius should be something we do, something powerful and, well, lucrative. (You know things are bad when this is the instinctual reaction of a celibate woman religious who has a vow of poverty. What can I say; I’m a product of the culture!)
I don’t think I need to prove to anyone that motherhood is rarely upheld as the greatest “genius” or gift of being a woman. Yes, there are men and women who embrace this fact, and live it fully, but for most of society, motherhood is not only undervalued, it is considered a disease. Why else would women take artificial hormones to stop their reproductive organs from working properly? Just think, our society convinces women that the most “empowering” and best “choice” she can make is to control her fertility through hormones or surgery, or worse, ending the life of her child through abortion. I actually believe that women who announce that they will be giving up their career to stay home and raise their children get less support than if they announced they were going to start selling drugs. Good money, just don’t get caught.
“The serpent made me do it!” That is exactly where it all starts. We can never underestimate the persuasive power of the Evil One, whose existence is spent trying to destroy God’s greatest creation, the human being. Opening the first pages of the Bible, we learn that our God’s first actions are one of love and creation. He is in fact, pro-creation. Once Adam and Eve are created and given to each other as husband and wife, God blesses them saying, “be fruitful and multiply, filling the earth and subdue it” (Gn 1:28). In this way, they will image God, participating in creating new human life.
As we know, Satan’s fall from heaven was rooted in his pride, his rejection of God’s creation and His plan to become man in the person of Jesus Christ. The hatred of Satan, and the fallen angels is specifically directed to tempting us to turn away from God, to reject the essence of our creation, to reject our genius. Knowing that human life will come about in the body of woman, it makes sense that Satan seduce Eve first, she is more dangerous to him, as are all women. The more he can convince us that the most logical and responsible thing we can do is to reject the “burden” of motherhood, the more he wins.
But Satan did not win because a woman said “yes” to her genius. The Blessed Mother said “yes” to allow God to bring forth new life in her, even in unusual and unexpected circumstances. Mary’s trust in God, and embrace of her genius of motherhood is the model for women as we listen to the voices of the world, the whispers of Satan, telling us that the feminine genius, the capacity to receive and nurture new human life, is just not good enough for us.