As the last of God’s creations, she was also, according to Jewish tradition, the most beautiful and the one endowed with the greatest understanding. Woman was God’s “masterpiece,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley, and “the crowning of His glorious work.” Pope Francis insisted that “she cannot be understood like all the other beings: she is something different,” even “the great gift of God” to “bring harmony to creation.”
“Feminine genius” is what Pope John Paul II called this unique quality as he expressed gratitude to all women on the eve of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. “Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life. Thank you, women who are wives! You irrevocably join your future to that of your husbands, in a relationship of mutual giving, at the service of love and life. Thank you, women who are daughters and women who are sisters! Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your sensitivity, your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity.”
Two decades later when Archbishop Bernardito Auza addressed the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York, he elaborated. “John Paul II referred to this special brilliance of women in caring for the intrinsic dignity of everyone and for nurturing others’ gifts as the ‘feminine genius.’ Today we are here to ponder that feminine genius, to celebrate it, to thank God for it, and to thank and praise women for it, especially our mothers and all those women who with it have nurtured us, raised us, educated us, loved us and… disciplined us!”
Clearly, this “feminine genius” to nurture and love is not limited to being a biological mother. “Are we not all mothers?” asked Sheri Dew. “All around us are those who need to be loved and led… As daughters of Eve, we are all mothers and we have always been mothers.” And on this unique genius of women for mothering, whether biologically or behaviorally, depends civilization itself. “Mothers play a critical role in the family,” stated Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. “The mother-child relationship is vital for the healthy development of children…. We face multiple challenges in our changing world, but one factor remains constant: the timeless importance of mothers and their invaluable contribution to raising the next generation.”
Certainly it is no exaggeration to say, as did Shelly Locke, “Mothers are the most powerful influence for good on the earth today. Within their hands lies the very future of the world!” In demonstration thereof, Shelly, a specialist in mother-child attachment, has produced a powerful film entitled The Power of Mothers: Their Influence on the World. Featured in IOF’s Worldwide Motherhood Initiative, the film is available for free online viewing and includes interviews with such notables as Janice Crouse, Christine Vollmer, and Julie Beck in a compelling witness to the truth of its title.
“Mighty is the power of mothers!” So said George Eliot, and the failure of our world to acknowledge it does not diminish its reality. “While history books sing the victories of valiant emperors and warriors,” noted Archbishop Auza, “all of civilization… owes an unpayable debt of gratitude to the less chronicled or even unknown contributions of women that have shaped civilizations, like the silent but constant flow of deep waters that shape rivers.”
No wonder Pope Francis warned that if “exploiting people is a crime harmful to humanity,” then “exploiting a woman is all the more so” because “it is destroying the harmony that God wanted to give the world.” In celebration of International Women’s Day, IOF honors the crown jewel of God’s creation and her feminine genius, and urges that she be universally accorded the respect, protection, and care she deserves. Only thus can harmony be restored to the world God created.