‘The soul of woman must . . . be expansive and open to all human beings,” said Edith Stein, the Jewish philosophy professor who converted to Catholicism and died as a Carmelite nun at Auschwitz. The soul of a woman, she continued, “must be quiet so that no small weak flame will be extinguished by stormy winds; warm so as not to benumb fragile buds; clear, so that no vermin will settle in dark corners and recesses; self-contained, so that no invasions from without can imperil the inner life; empty of itself, in order that extraneous life may have room in it; finally, it is mistress of itself and also of its body, so that the entire person is readily at the disposal of every call.”
Stein’s words are quoted by Pat Gohn in her new book, Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood. As the title suggests, it spells out just exactly what it is Catholics believe about women and motherhood. In addition to being an accessible and spirited primer on that topic, it offers a more healthy outlook than others in our culture on what it is that makes woman unique.
Gohn talks to National Review Online about women, men, complementarity, and moving forward.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: “A woman needs to know she is blessed, that she is a treasure, and the reasons why.” Don’t men need to know they are blessed, too? What’s so special about women?
PAT GOHN: A good point! This book was written with a women’s audience in mind, and without any malice toward men. Of course, all human persons have need of knowing the sources of their goodness and blessing! This helps us live our lives to the fullest.
It’s been my experience that many women I meet cannot articulate what is true, good, and beautiful about themselves. I’d like to change that by applying the beautiful message that the Church articulates about women today.
To begin to describe the specific feminine genius that each woman has, I start with a foundation that looks at us from the inside out. I begin with the very basics of who we are and how we are made, that we are destined for eternity. One of the important bricks in that foundation is learning to treasure our own human dignity — and that of others. A Christian perspective of this dignity comes from knowing and trusting that we come from a loving Creator. This means that we reflect the goodness of God in our very being. Furthermore, Christians also believe in the blessing that is our baptism, whereby we become beloved children of God. So we see human life as sacred in its origins, and it becomes even more through the sacraments of the Church.
LOPEZ: Surely this isn’t true of every woman. We’re not all Kate Middleton.
GOHN: Kate Middleton is as unique a treasure as you and I or any other woman. Our human dignity is not based on one’s status or fame or power or any other narrow criteria. It is based on being created in the image of God. Every human person shares that, even if they disagree with a Christian worldview. In short, every single human life is of incalculable, inviolable, and enduring value.
LOPEZ: Why is it that “too many women doubt” that they are, as you say, “blessed, beautiful, and bodacious”?
GOHN: That’s a great question. After raising a family and working with women over the years, I’ve witnessed some great joys. But honestly, I’ve probably seen way more heartaches, depression, fears and anxieties, broken relationships, problems, and fill-in-the-blank pain and suffering than I’d care to mention. Any kind of suffering — physical, emotional, spiritual — can beat us down, and rob us of the knowledge of being blessed and beautiful unless our idea of who we are is informed by something that is unchanging and eternal.