“Wait—Are you saying that there’s no difference between men and women?
“That the sole difference between the sexes is anatomic and biologic?”
The air was suddenly charged. And the easy energy between us gone.
Startled and confused, I said, “Well, yes, of course…” But my words faded as I tried to process what was happening, And why the warmth between us had chilled. My obliteration of the distinctly separate natures of women and men had been learned years before. The belief had served me well, I thought.
Late that same night, I took my young Dobie out for a walk in the wintry New England air. Reeling from the fact that this man I liked more than a little, had said good-bye.
Addressing both the dog and the brilliant stars, I ranted and fumed. Full of moral outrage fueld by humiliation. The distinctly separate natures of women and men. Had I not swallowed my pride and called the following day, we’d never have seen one another again.
Relecting back on that night, I understand why a devout Catholic like John would react with such vehemence to my casual recitation of a lie. Intuitively, he understood the grave, diabolical, disorder of erasing the male and female identities. Of celebrating anti-creation.
“And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, He created them as male and female. And God blessed them and said: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth But mutually they are given the threefold vocation: they are to be the image of God, bring forth posterity, and be masters over the earth.”
I figure something out. A thing that’s bugged me because I don’t understand. Researching and writing this piece has answered a question I’ve asked myself for decades.
“Why are women so angry at men?”
Often at men who break their backs either figuratively or literally, so the wives can take care of the children and home. Until a trip to Greece, alone, I thought the anger was specific to Americans. But upon visitng the home of a Greek hospital administrator and his family, I learned differently. Although I spoke no Greek and most people did not speak English it became surprisingly easy to communicate through reading expression, body language and intonation while on that ten- day trip.
Once the Greek wife learned through her daughter who spoke English, and sign language that I’d been with someone but was now alone, her rage erupted. Amidst the lovely furnishings of her spacious home, it was evident that she was furious at her husband. Anger’s a universal language. Often, though, we use anger to cover up our fear.
Two reasons. The first is my opinion, the second, the answer to everything.
Because that initial flush of “I’ve found the answer to everything.” Or “This man will be my everlasting happiness, all I’ll ever need or want,” disappeared years ago. Leaving feelings of regret and sadness.
Ever wondered why you sometimes perceive the behaviours of others totally differently from your husband?
Or the glory of a sunset can make your wife cry?
Or why he loves the facts of a thing but she’s far more interested in its practical use?
But the answer to it all: The distinctly separate natures of women and men and the problem of evil lie in the first three chapters of Genesis.
on the distinctly different natures of women and men.
“Only the person blinded by the passion of controversy (italics mine) could deny that woman in soul and body is formed for a particular purpose. The clear and irrevocable word of Scripture declares what daily experience teaches from the beginning of the world: woman is destined to be wife and mother. Both physically and spiritually she is endowed for this purpose, as is seen clearly from practical experience. However, it follows also from the Thomistic principle of anima forma corporis that such a spiritual characteristic does exist. Of course, woman shares a basic human nature, but basically her faculties are different from men; therefore, a differing type of soul must exist as well.”Edith Stein: Essays on Women
“Blinded by the passion of controversy.” It’s a perfectly splendid phrase, isn’t it?
And applies to each one of us who lose the sense of his or her identity. Which is precisely what happens when we walk away from God. Even partially. As in, “I agree with these laws but X, Y, and Z are outmoded and cruel. “You need to understand God, we’re different in this twenty-first-century. We’re not wandering aimlessly in a desert.”
In her essay on the Ethos of Women’s Professions, Edith Stein descibes the female flaw emanating from original sin. “Usually, the personal outlook appears to be exaggerated unwholesomely; in the first place, her inclination to center both her activities and those of others about her own person is expressed by vanity, desire for praise and recognition…”
That description sums up the early part of my life, consumed by an obsession to live a different life from the one my unhappy mother and older sisters had chosen. It was only when I became a Catholic Christian that I discovered- or more accurately, was willing to see women who seemed not just content with their vocation as wives and mothers. But were joyous. Secure and confident of their place in their world as wife, mother and helpmate.
It felt to me as if I’d landed on a far different universe from the one I’d been living on during my secular years. These women personified wife as Stein describes her. “…companion. It is her gift and happiness to share the life of another human being and, indeed, to take part in all things which come his way, in the greatest and smallest things, in joy as well as in suffering, in work, and in problems. Man is consumed by “his enterprise,” and he expects others will be interested and helpful; generally, it is difficult for him to become involved in other beings and their concerns….”
Sound like John Gray’s “Men are from Mars and Women from Venus?”
The youngest of eleven children of Jewish parents, Edith was born on the Feast of Atonement (Yom Kippur) in 1891. Her birth on the most important day of the Jewish year foreshadowed her brief life as a discalced Carmelite, Teresa Benedicta, and execution at Auschwitz on August 9, 1942.
This saint has attracted and intimidated me ever since I learned of her existence.
The attractions? This statement in her biography: “I consciously decided to give up praying.”
There’s a natural connection, maybe even supernatural, between those of us who deliberately walked away from God. And then returned, not just to religion but to Catholic Christianity.
And her bold, almost aggressive explication of women, the reality of us as persons. In fact, it was Edith Stein’s writings on women that formed much of St. John Paul’s expression of the feminine genius in his 1995 Letter to Women.
The intimidation? A gigantic intellect and authenticity that both draws and scares me to death.
Her understanding of the feminine belies the unsatisfactory “romance” we women seek. And slices through the contemporary, diabolical rhetoric to Truth.
“… The deepest longing of woman’s heart is to give herself lovingly, to belong to another, and to possess this other being completely. But this surrender becomes a perverted self-abandon and a form of slavery when it is given to another person and not to God; it is an unjustified demand which no human being can fulfill. Only God can welcome a person’s total surrender in such a way that one does not lose one’s soul in the process but wins it. And only God can bestow Himself upon a person so that He fulfills this being completely and loses nothing of Himself in so doing…. Whether she is a mother in the home, or occupies a place in the limelight of public life, or lives behind quiet cloister walls, she must be a handmaid of the Lord everywhere”
Mary Ellen Stanford provides a brief but comprehensive look at the saint’s Understanding the Feminine here.
As in Satanic?
Think about what’s happened in the world of women over the last several decades.
These times have been predicted.
In a letter to Cardinal Caffara, Sister, now saint, Lucia wrote, “‘Father, a time will come when the decisive battle between the kingdom of Christ and Satan will be over marriage and the family. And those who will work for the good of the family will experience persecution and tribulation. But do not be afraid, because Our Lady has already crushed his head.'”
The wars rage all about us. They appear different but when we look a little closer, we see the tell-tale sgns of the diabolical-Satan: disorder, hatred, and worse, indifference. We know that people don’t change their minds, but grace, always His grace, rains down on each of the seven and a half billion souls on this earth..
St. Edith Stein knew this well, writing these astonishing words about beloved family and friends who could not understand her conversion to Catholicism.