We were sitting in a circle in my small living room, the scent of lilacs and vanilla filling the air. Five women, together to study the words of Blessed John Paul II, to grow in grace and fellowship with one another. All of us mothers, some with children here to hold, some with little ones in Heaven. Some of us old friends, some new and meeting for the first time. About ten years separates us in age from the youngest to the oldest, but that difference dissolved in laughter and learning. We are blondes, brunettes, and redheads. We are stay-at-home moms and career moms alike. By a turn of coincidence, we all have daughters. How much more important our study on the dignity and vocation of woman in light of the fact that our daughters are always watching us?
Of the women who gathered in my home last night to begin an Endow study on the Dignity and Vocation of Woman, the cord that binds us all the most tightly is our Catholic faith. We know what we are about. While three of the four women who came over are old friends, one is a new friend, who I met for the first time last night. I find that even with the differences in age, life experience, education, and occupation, that my Catholic girlfriends fill a place in my heart that is so very special, and so very needed. Even this new friend; she crossed the threshold to my home a stranger, and she left a friend. A friend whose daughter is the same age as Maggie, and who I am eager to get to know more as each week of our study passes.
This isn’t to say that I don’t love dearly my non-Catholic friends. I do love them, truly. I enjoy them for a variety of different reasons, and the friendships we share are fun, sweet, and inspiring. They are wonderful women.
But there is a difference. My faith is the most important thing in my life, and having friends who not only are accepting and welcoming of that, but who are also practicing it and laboring to live it, makes a difference. Their shared love for the Church and Eucharist, their desire to pass that on to their children and live it out in their families ties me more strongly to them than it does to others, even others in my own family.
One of the questions for discussion in the class was this:
“Why are women “imbued with a spirit of the Gospel” so important at this moment in history?”
As my beautiful friend S balanced her sweet 4 month old on her hip while talking, she remarked about the ways in which what it means to be a woman and to have a feminine soul are under attack in our current society. Women who embrace what it means to be feminine, and celebrate it, rather than try to hide or manipulate it, are often looked down on by others, both men and women, sometimes even by family or friends.
We all nodded along, and everyone had something insightful to contribute to our conversation. We spoke of our daughters and how to raise them as women proud to be women in a culture that wants them to think and act like the worst of men. In a point of further discussion, several of my friends shared how they deal with the trials of motherhood, like getting up in the night with a fussy baby, or dealing with a new toddler who refuses to nap. The ways in which my friends talked about prayers, rosaries, and other ways of offering those trials to God made me overflow with gratitude to God for putting these women in my life, and with humility as I realized my own lack of patience and my desperate need to offer my own struggles to God.
As the night was wrapping up, we read about the first disciples of Jesus, and how they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread, and prayer, to the sacraments, and to fellowship together. We reflected on how doing these things in our own lives will make us more fully alive, and more fully free.
During our closing prayer, I paused for a minute and looked up at each of my friends with her head bowed and eyes closed. We were in jeans, skirts, business wear, heels, and flip-flops. We are all from different backgrounds; some of us were born into the Church, some joined as adults. But we were there together because of our love for the Church and her teachings, our desire to meditate on them more; to learn and grow through connecting and talking with others.
This is the essence of the feminine genius: our desire as women to relate, to connect, to discuss, and then, to give of ourselves for our friends. We women do it all the time without even realizing it, but when we come together to do that which comes naturally, and offer it to God for increased understanding and holiness…well, watch out world! You never know where we might end up.