These heroic figures in salvation history will change how you understand women’s vocation.
The phrase “feminine genius” appears frequently in popular Catholic writings, especially since St. John Paul II used it in his 1995 Letter to Women. But what does it actually mean? Perhaps the best way to understand the feminine genius is to see it put into practice.
At first glance, “feminine genius” might seem to connote a flowery and superficial idea of womanhood. But nothing could be further from the truth. The phrase describes women’s real and vital ability to cooperate with God in his plan of salvation, using their specifically womanly gifts to battle evil and work for good.
An engaging new book, The Supreme Vocation of Women According to St. John Paul II, wonderfully illustrates what the feminine genius looks like in action. The author, Melissa Maleski, succinctly lays out the Catholic Church’s consistent and profound vision of women.
Drawing not only on the writings of St. John Paul II but also on the examples of holy women in Scripture and female saints, The Supreme Vocation of Women reveals that the feminine genius is a source of power and strength. The stories of many biblical women are compelling examples. Maleski writes,
The Old Testament Scriptures offer fascinating insights into God’s gradual restoration of womanhood through the cooperation of a number of memorable women. In fact, some of the more crucial moments in Israel’s history were decided in their favor because of the cooperative intervention of God and a woman. The precise nature of this cooperation is both wholly human and distinctly feminine; the preservation of their stories in Scripture marks these women as those who lead us closer to the full meaning of womanhood.
Let’s take a closer look at 10 heroic women from Scripture. Their stories can help us better understand the feminine genius.
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