Reconciling femininity and Jeanne

Joan of ArcIt’s been bothering me for some time — as I read more and more about femininity and the genius of woman, I grapple with my patroness.

If you read John Paul II’s Letter to Women, it’s clear that the Church’s idea of femininity isn’t wearing skirts and pearls and spending the day cooking and cleaning.  But there is a large part of femininity that does mean embracing feminine roles and allowing men to embrace masculine ones.  An embrace of femininity means we accept that we’re not men and that’s okay.  In fact, it’s better than okay.  It’s right.

As I thought about the dangers of translating “equality” to mean “identical,” I kept returning in my mind to Joan of Arc.  How could someone who led an army into battle wearing men’s clothing (highly scandalous at the time), be feminine?  I love St. Joan of Arc, don’t get me wrong.  But do I see her as feminine?

Sure, she was told by God to do what she did, including the wearing of men’s clothing.  So I’m not disagreeing with her actions by any means.  But it was hard to reconcile her with femininity.

Until I came across this in a book a few years ago, and everything clicked: “…the desires of a man’s heart and the desires of a woman’s heart [are] at least meant to fit beautifully together … A woman in the presence of a good man, a real man, loves being a woman.  His strength allows her feminine heart to flourish.  His pursuit draws out her beauty.  And a man in the presence of a real woman loves being a man.  Her beauty arouses him to play the man, it draws out his strength.  She inspires him to be a hero.  Would that we all were so fortunate.” (Captivating, emphasis mine)

Something in that paragraph made it all click for me.  Joan of Arc, like St. Catherine of Siena before her, was called by God to raise up a weak man.  In Joan of Arc’s case, the Dauphin failed.  But she, as a feminine woman, called him to the heights.  Her mission was to raise men to fight for truth and beauty.  Not in a seductive way, but in a holy, virtuous feminine way.  And while the Dauphin was a weak loser, you only have to read about the way her armies responded to her to know that she inspired men to be heroes.

So, ladies, now you know.  Raise your men up.  Help them to be men.

And if you’re ever shot in the chest with an arrow, pull it out yourself and leap back into the fray.  It’s the feminine thing to do.

Glory 2014

I just finished a weekend of beautiful liturgies, new friendships, messages and music that ignited once again the embers of a passion for truth, beauty, and goodness.  I was one of the speakers for the annual Glory Conference, which brings together young adults for four days in Nashville, TN.

My talk was Saturday morning, so while I had blocked the whole weekend out on my calendar, I wasn’t really expecting to stay around all four days.  My plan was to check out the conference on Friday night to hear my friend Mike Aquilina, then come back for my talk Saturday morning, stay for Mass, and then play the rest of the weekend by ear.   I ended up spending the entire weekend there, soaking up the beauty.

As one of the speakers, I suppose I was the one who was expected to build the participants up, give them truth, energize and encourage them before everyone returned home to Wisconsin, Georgia, Michigan, Florida, Kentucky…   I hope I did that, but as is so often the case, the opposite happened too.  They energized me.  They reminded me of the hope of the New Evangelization, the joy of the Gospel, and the beauty of living this radically Catholic life.  I didn’t want the weekend to end- I didn’t want everyone to leave my city.  To witness their joy, their love, their excitement, their holiness… as I reluctantly waved goodbye this afternoon, I marveled at the gift the conference had been for me.  While the four days flew by, Friday also seems like a long time ago.  Holy joy does that – expands time as it expands your heart, so that minutes fly by but can feel like hours.

Thank you to everyone who made the experience possible.  See you next Memorial Day weekend!

My talk on Pope Benedict, Beauty, and the New Evangelization is posted on the audio page.  Enjoy!