• Faith Downing

The feminine genius

I remember one evening as a college freshman, slipping into the back of a quiet adoration chapel after a particularly rough day. My heart was aching and the only place that felt remotely consoling was the arms of Christ. I knelt in front of Him, humbled, confused and frustrated. As I held out my hurting heart, I heard His whisper: “Be still and know that I am God.” The words that could always bring me back from myself washed over me like a familiar song. And then, there was more: “Be still and know that you are lovely.”



With make-up running in trails down my face and my nose soggy from crying, I certainly felt anything but lovely. Quietly, I began to complain to God. “Why am I so complex? Why do I feel so many things, so deeply? What is wrong with my heart?” In the tender tone only a loving father could impart, I heard the words “Little one, your tender heart is the crown of my creation.” At the time, I was reading Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge, in which the authors described God’s work in woman as “the crown of creation” - the finishing touch, the piece without which the rest of creation just wasn’t perfectly complete. And in all of Eve’s beauty, the finishing crown of her being was her tender, vulnerable heart.


The heart with which women have been endowed is a gift not only unique to each woman, but a gift to the world and the Church at large. This was recognized in a special way by St. Pope John Paul II in his “Letter to Women”, published in 1995 preceding the United Nations’ 4th World Conference on Women, in which this great saint coined the phrase that is now widely used within the Church to describe the gift of femininity, namely, “the feminine genius”. He says: “Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more authentic and honest.” He also points out the beautiful truth that “God entrusts the human being to her in a special way.


What does this mean? Every woman, regardless of her vocation, has the capacity and call to love others with a feminine heart in the way only a woman can. I’ve recognized and been uplifted by the feminine genius abundantly alive in the women around me. They are all so very different from one another, in different seasons of life, bearing different wounds, titles and responsibilities. And yet in every single one I’ve witnessed the fruit of femininity: that ability to be vulnerable and to draw vulnerability, to uniquely recognize and create beauty, and to nurture and grow hope, virtue and goodness in the world around them.


In a society in which femininity is so often under attack from every angle, it is a breath of fresh air to have a lens through which to recognize and celebrate womanhood and the feminine genius which exists in every woman, simply by nature of her being. In woman, God has placed a most tender, vulnerable and beautiful piece of Himself - indeed the containment of a great and worthy mystery, which, when rightly offered up and pursued, can lead others so intimately close to the heart of Christ.


In particular, for any sisters reading this from beneath the heavy weight of infertility, be assured that the great fervor with which you desire motherhood and relationship in those most vulnerable places of your heart are not indicative of woundedness, but mirror the truth about the way in which God so desperately desires us. The genius of femininity is in no way bound by fertility. On the contrary, it is at the heart of your identity as beloved, an identity which is yours regardless of your vocation, season or struggles. Your heart, in whatever way you are called to give it, is a GIFT, a crowning piece to the rest of creation.


In celebration of this feminine genius, I invite you to take a moment in stillness with the Lord and to bask in the glorious truth: be still and know that you are lovely and so very, deeply loved.


September 5-11, 2021 is #FeminineGeniusWeek


"Whether or not we have children, we reflect these aspects of femininity every day- because we're women. We would like to invite you to participate with us as we work to bring Catholic social media together to celebrate the true meaning of feminity and the myraid ways we live it out. If you would like to participate, please share content this week using the hashtags #FeminineGeniusWeek and #FruitfulAndFeminine. We're looking forward to seeing you there." @springsinthedesert_


Springs In the Desert, a ministry who accompanies couples in their struggle with infertility and loss, has created the first ever feminine genius week. The Fruitful Hollow is so excited to participate in the celebration.