Sometimes, when I hear spiritual advice that takes a very active approach (work on this, keep at that, practice this) there comes a whisper of worry, longing to do what is required but wondering if my soul will really respond in growth to that or if it will be futile. Even in the daily aspects of life, I’ve longed for God’s powerful yet gentle intervention and my response in a natural – and perhaps feminine way. Colleen Carroll Campbell, author of “My Sisters the Saints” hit the nail on the head for me when she relayed some of Edith Stein’s reflections on women. Here are a ton of those quotes from chapter 4:
The structure of a woman’s body… is designed to be receptive to both a man and a child. Edith believes this physical receptivity reveals a spiritual openness to the human person imprinted on a woman’s soul.
Women possess a more holistic outlook on life than men, partly because they are bound more closely to their bodies through their menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and the physical demands of motherhood, which make them less likely to lose themselves in abstraction.
A woman’s tendency toward openness to others also inclines her toward intense and loving union with God. Edith sees women as natural contemplatives in the world because they have a knack for blending attentiveness to concrete tasks with a capacity for cultivating silence and peace.
Prayerful surrender to God amid daily life suits a woman’s soul, Edith says, and this surrender “represents the highest fulfillment of all feminine aspirations…Correctly speaking, it is the highest fulfillment of our human vocation.”
What God values above all is receptivity to his will.
(a woman’s) desire to serve others can tempt her to take on too much and fail to meet her primary responsibilities or distinguish her own identify from those she serves.
The natural unity between body and soul that orients her toward a holistic faith and awareness of what’s happening insider her can lapse into a fixation on creature comforts.
(in some cases) a woman’s longing for God’s infinite love has been misdirected to human beings, with disastrous results.
Thoroughly objective work, which consists of anything from sweeping the kitchen floor to balancing a budget or researching a term paper…forces a woman to submit to laws outside herself, helps her escape her obsessive focus on herself and her own emotions, and encourages her to develop self-control, an important discipline for the spiritual life.
Fidelity to Christ and to the demands of one’s vocation requires “intense spiritual stamina,”… (Edith) believes that a woman should tap into that wellspring through frequent sacramental confession, regular reception of Holy Communion and quiet prayer throughout the day, preferably in the presence of the Eucharist.
If possible, attend Mass in the morning and ask Jesus after receiving him in the Eucharist how he wants her to spend her day.
As the day progresses and new worries and problems accumulate, she should take a noontime break to reconnect with God….She should take a moment to “seal herself off inwardly against all other things and take refuge in the Lord. He is indeed there and can give us in a single moment what we need.”
“And when night comes and retrospect shows that everything was patchwork and much which one had planned left undone, when so many things rouse shame and regret, then take all as it is, lay it in God’s hands, and offer it up to him. In this way we will be able to rest in him, actually to rest, and to begin the new day like a new life.”
A woman’s craving for God’s love is not a weakness, Edith says. It is her greatest strength: “The intrinsic value of woman consists essentially in exceptional receptivity for God’s work in the soul.”