Edith Stein, otherwise known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, is a ROCKSTAR woman! She is someone who both worked, while understanding and acting on her feminine dignity and beauty.
As a phenomenologist, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, was most interested in the essence of a phenomena. To find the essence meant that this phenomenon was found at the very core of its existence. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross both studied and wrote about the experience of women.
Not only was Edith Stein a phenomenologist, she studied under Edmund Husserl, considered the father of the movement. She also studied under Mr. Husserl when she was one of the only women attending German universities. COUNTERCULTURAL INDEED!
Once a professed atheist, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross began her conversion journey when she ran across St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography while vacationing with friends. God certainly works in mysterious ways, and uses an individual’s talents, skills, and abilities to bring forth truth. Through St. Teresa’s inquisitive nature, her search for the essence of phenomenon, and her academic prowess, she was led to the Holy Catholic Church. Since that time, St. Teresa has been bringing others to that same truth since that moment.
St. Teresa wrote about the dignity of women, and particularly, she called to professional women – those of us in the work place, no matter the reason. She calls to each of us “working Catholic moms.” YES, I said “moms,” and it does not really matter if you have children or not. The type of motherhood I am speaking of is both/either physical/spiritual motherhood!
St. Teresa’s challenge to those of us who work outside of the home calls to our feminine vocation of motherhood. She teaches us to re-unite with our feminine gifts, including self-giving sacrifice, humility, loving others purely, the ability to love and be loved, bringing out the best in others, and our propensity to companionship.
What does that look like in the work place? That’s a great question! As women, we have been cultured in recent times to turn away from these great gifts and qualities because in the work world, these qualities are judged weak. Wait, what? Let’s examine this list a little closer, and distinguish each of them in the work world.
1. Self-giving and sacrificial: Women are the self-givers of the world. Think of the way women give of themselves in both big and small ways each day. For example, a woman gives her body as an incubator to nurture human life for 9 months (10, if you are counting by weeks!)…this is an ultimate example of self-gift. Think of the work world. Think of the countless numbers of women, married and single, who give of themselves each day – sacrificing for families, children, or even other women themselves. Every woman I know has a different reason for working, but every woman I know has an element of self-gift in that reason.
I think of the women I have worked with over the years who are single mothers. Their total gift of self is a testament to their love for a child or children. I am in awe of several of these women, as they traverse the obstacles of their lives, and at the end of the day, thank God above for the work that blesses their homes financially.
2. Humility: For me, this is the most difficult virtue of my feminine dignity to nurture. I have been in the work place now for over 20 years, and it is difficult to remember at times that at the end of the day, I’m just Mary Wallace, home girl from Brusly, LA (small Cajun town).
When you start praying for humility to Jesus, and to Jesus, through His holy mother, The Blessed Virgin Mary, you begin to suddenly experience little lessons in humility. Our Lord is never at a loss for anything, and I find that is particularly true when I think of His lessons in humility. Humility is really a way for us to remember who is really in charge (hint: GOD). God has definitely led me to positions of authority, only to teach me who the real authority is in life. This helps me to have perspective when supervising employees, working with a team, and answering to others at work.
3. Love: As women, this is a natural gift for us. In the work place, I see it definitely at work. I think of the many times my female supervisors worked with my work place absences, and inquired about my situation upon my return. This love is a two-way street with women: we can both love and receive love.
Recently, I gave a talk about women at my church. I asked, “How many of you had your wedding planned when you were 12 years old?” About 75% of the women raised their hands. Why? I would like to suggest it is because our hearts are made for love. When planning our weddings, the fashion and look of the day paled in comparison to what we thought about our “happily ever after.” I gave all the “details” of my WEDDING to my mother because all I cared about was marrying my best friend, and our life full of love after that day!
It is similar in the work place. As women, we both reach out in love, and are also able to receive love. When making any multitude of decisions I have to make a day as a working Catholic mom, the number one decision that comes naturally to me is to love and be loved. It is natural for me to show others I love them through recognition cards, small tokens of thanks for jobs well done, and words of praise. We are also able to receive love in these ways and others as well.
4. Bringing out the best in others: I think of the individuals I have supervised over the years, and how I have developed a supervision style. At the heart of that supervision style is my feminine dignity. Most of all, I bring my receptivity to the supervision equation. Because I am open to others, I try to find ways to enhance their strengths. Recently, our office has adopted Strengths Based Leadership. I am constantly trying to focus on the strengths of the team and individuals, rather than dwelling on what we do wrong. This approach speaks to my female heart.
5. Companionship: As a woman, I feel out-of-sync when any of my relationships are off-kilter. This is because of the call I have to companionship. I want to journey with others, and to have an intimate connection with them. This is very true at work. I often tell my staff, “We have to work with each other at least 8 hours each day. I want to know you.” I have heard the messages of the work place of, “Get your love at home,” “We don’t have to be friends, we just have to work together.” For many years, I bought into this. After all, the main goal of work is a common purpose to get something done.
I now subscribe to a very different philosophy. I realize that not everyone is going to be a friend, but we can all be companions on the journey. This is a call from my femininity. In order to complete my tasks, I need to know my colleagues, team, and employees. I cannot move forward until I understand who I am working with on a project. I want to know how I can support their success, and where I can help them on their journeys.
How do you bring your feminine gifts to the work place? I know this is not an exhaustive list. I am thankful for St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross…one of the saints who influenced Blessed John Paul II when he was teaching the precepts of the Theology of the Body. I am thankful for her intellect. I am blessed by her writings on feminine dignity. And I am in awe of her journey to sainthood. Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Pray for us.
In addition, join me at http://www.patgohn.net/2013/04/02/among-women-159-faith-filled-women-in-the-workplace/ for a chat with Pat Gohn with Among Women podcast, as we talk about feminine dignity and the gift of our femininity in the work place. It truly was a blessing to speak with Pat, and to figuratively have a cup of coffee with her as we chatted about life, femininity, and Blessed Mother Teresa!
Blessings to you and yours!
Copyright 2013 Mary Wallace
About the Author
Mary Wallace, PhD, is a devout Catholic wife, mother of 4 daughters, and college administrator. She is co-host of a Catholic radio show: Faith and Good Counsel, on Baton Rouge Catholic Community Radio. Mary is also a contributing writer at the Integrated Catholic Life. Follow Mary on Facebook.