The Feminine Genius (July 23, 1995)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. It is a "sign of the times" that women's role is increasingly recognized, not only in the family circle, but also in the wider context of all social activities. Without the contribution of women, society is less alive, culture impoverished, and peace less stable. Situations where women are prevented from developing their full potential and from offering the wealth of their gifts should therefore be considered profoundly unjust, not only to women themselves but society as a whole.
Of course, the employment of women outside the family, especially during the period when they are fulfilling the most delicate tasks of motherhood, must be done with respect for this fundamental duty. However, apart from this requirement, it is necessary to strive convincingly to ensure that the widest possible space is open to women in all areas of culture, economics, politics, and ecclesial life itself, so that all human society is increasingly enriched by the gifts proper to masculinity and femininity.
2. In fact, woman has a genius all her own, which is vitally essential to both society and the Church. It is certainly not a question of comparing woman to man since it is obvious that they have fundamental dimensions and values in common. However, in man and in woman these acquire different strengths, interests, and emphases and it is this very diversity which becomes a source of enrichment.
In Mulieris Dignitatem, I highlighted one aspect of feminine genius, that I would like to stress today: woman is endowed with a particular capacity for accepting the human being in his concrete form (cf. no. 18). Even this singular feature which prepares her for motherhood, not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually, is inherent in the plan of God who entrusted the human being to woman in an altogether special way (cf. ibid., no. 30). The woman of course, as much as the man, must take care that her sensitivity does not succumb to the temptation to possessive selfishness, and must put it at the service of authentic love. On these conditions she gives of her best, everywhere adding a touch of generosity, tenderness, and joy of life.
3. Let us look at the Blessed Virgin's example. In the narrative of the wedding at Cana, John's Gospel offers us a vivid detail of her personality when it tells us how, in the busy atmosphere of a wedding feast, she alone realized that the wine was about to run out. And to avoid the spouses' joy becoming embarrassment and awkwardness, she did not hesitate to ask Jesus for his first miracle. This is the "genius" of the woman! May Mary's thoughtful sensitivity, totally feminine and maternal, be the ideal mirror of all true femininity and motherhood!
"...woman is endowed with a particular capacity for accepting the human being in his concrete form. Even this singular feature...is inherent in the plan of God who entrusted the human being to woman in an altogether special way."
John Paul has often in the past referred to the need to build a "civilization of love," and I think the feature of woman mentioned here is a very good way to begin. God has entrusted the human person to woman and she accepts the 'human being in his concrete form': as he is, in his weaknesses and strengths, wants and needs, challenges and triumphs. By this act of accepting, love is shown very concretely - a person feels loved and valued. In this acceptance then, a person is empowered to strive to be all that God has created him to be, so woman's acceptance isn't about enabling dysfunction or destructive attitudes, but helping a person realize their potential.