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genevieve kinekeThe Feminine Genius
by Genevieve Kineke


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Feminine Genius



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Shared Beginnings, Happy Endings
by Genevieve S. Kineke

Listen to our Catholic Moments Podcast with Genevieve Kineke, Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Mulieris Dignitatem

Sarah, Plain and Tall is a lovely nineteenth-century tale of a woman from Maine who answers an advertisement in her local paper for a mail-order bride. After exchanging a series of letters with a widower in Kansas, she goes by train to meet him and his two young children.

That basic story-line echoed a common refrain: men traveling west in the rapidly expanding American continent, working hard to make a living, and then looking about for women with whom to share their lives. All the satisfaction attached to industry and success meant little without the companionship of an equal—a soul-mate.

Such collaboration between men and women is foundational to the anthropology in John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem. Far from the canard of viewing women as inferior to men, the Church has always recognized that there is a fundamental equality between the sexes based on several points, which are elucidated in this apostolic letter.

It is clear in the first Genesis account of creation to which John Paul refers that both men and women share a likeness with their Creator. Together, they are the crowning glory of God’s work—not simply the man, not the woman apart from him. It doesn’t follow that they are identical, but within the beauty of authentic masculinity and femininity they mutually bear the stamp of God, which confers equal dignity. The challenge of our day is to find how that dignity manifests itself uniquely in each without losing sight of the equality. What a gauntlet!

Sharing a common beginning likewise indicates that man and woman are equally human and bear the same potential to live, to love and to pursue holiness. Their relationship is strengthened by the gifts each brings to the union, and by virtue of their collaborative mission each would be diminished without the other.

Finally, the shared creation and the likeness of God is manifest in the rational nature of both man and women, which is a tremendous gift to the world. This rational nature allows them to receive inspiration from their Creator, to navigate His world safely, and to find joy in the generosity of so beneficent a God.

The second creation account in Genesis doesn’t contradict the first, but simply adds resonance, depth, and a glimmer of charm because of the personal expression of delight that leaps over the millennia to all readers who have known the surprise of love. “‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’” (Gen 2:23).

In every time and setting, we witness the constancy of human emotions, reminding us that man and woman are created for communion. Adam’s cry of recognition has been repeated countless time—on train platforms bearing shy brides, on dance floors where awkward courtships have begun, in countless venues where hearts have leapt at the prospect of finding the one to share life’s joys, sorrows and most treasured secrets. As Mulieris Dignitatem states, “In the ‘unity of the two,’ man and woman are called from the beginning not only to exist ‘side by side’ or ‘together,’ but they are also called to exist mutually ‘one for the other’” (MD, 7).

God created men and women as helpmates, which means that together they can live up to their potential, manifest the breadth of God’s image, and ultimately find love. The truths of God, such as these, are something to rejoice in, and we should be eternally grateful for the energy expended by the Church all these centuries in order to get it right. Anthropology is essential, and good foundations lead to the very best outcomes.


© Genevieve Kineke 2008

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