Scripture and Science Reveal a Masculine Genius

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem defines a feminine genius as four innate qualities of the dignity and nature of woman: receptivity, sensitivity, generosity, and maternity. Though self-reflection is a powerful tool for growing in intimacy with God, self, and others, reflecting on the origin of man may also yield a stronger union between the masculine and feminine in a spousal relationship. 

Saint John Paul II did not write an apostolic letter defining a masculine genius; however, Scripture and science help us understand what it means to be a man and identifies qualities which are undeniably masculine. 

Recognizing the innate qualities of man may help us see, know and love our spouses as they live with courage according to God’s call for their lives. 

Creation in the Garden of Eden 

On the sixth day of the creation story, God created man and told him: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” Eventually we hear, “The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.” This story depicts the vocation of man, as a man. 

Man is expected to live in harmony with God and his creation while having dominion over the Earth. After the fall to sin and throughout human history, this original good can be twisted into an ego-driven dominion and self-seeking control. Yet we must recall man in his origin: created as good, in the image of God, with an inborn yearning for holy authority. 

Man is also told to cultivate and care for creation. Man is equipped with the responsibility of managing and protecting all of God’s creation. After woman joins him in the garden, Adam maintains his role as leader and protector in their relationship and their environment, their home. 

Adam falls to the temptation of sin and the same will be true for the men in our lives. Our responsibility, as women, is to see and love the essence of their goodness in an effort to inspire him towards sanctification. 

Man’s Body Tells a Story 

The physical, anatomical structure of man’s body in relation to his responsibility to “be fertile and multiply” reveals even more about the masculine genius. 

In regards to physical intimacy and procreation, man’s body is created to initiate and offer a gift of himself. Where woman is created ready to receive, man is created ready to give. 

This physical reality is not only relevant to the physical intimacy, however. Man is designed to initiate and to be the head of the household—the domestic church of the family. 

Man’s means for physical union is outside of his body. From the beginning and throughout time, he is naturally more attuned to external reality than internal emotions. In a group of men and women, how often do men congregate and discuss work, sports or hobbies—the external world—while women come together and discuss matters related to personal relationships and the heart? 

Men and women are invited to experience perfect complementarity in their union of external and internal, head and heart, realistic and emotional. 

Several secular-looking traditions may have deeper roots in this spiritual reality. Consider how “old-fashioned” it is for a man to ask for a woman’s number, to pay for dinner on a date, to go one one knee and propose marriage. These gender norms are not meant to stifle women in an inferior way; rather, these practices echo the desires of the hearts of men and women in the most appropriate and empowering way. 

Marriage between man and woman mirrors the union between Christ and the Church. In these spousal unions, we recognize the parallel call for man, Christ, to become a total self-offering and for woman, the Church, to be wholly receptive to the gift. 

Science and the Brain 

Brain development and scientific fact supports the reasoning behind the masculine genius. Dr. Greg Bottaro, founder and director of the CatholicPsych Institute, writes, “There is less connectivity between the right and left hemispheres in the male brain. This allows for greater compartmentalization. At the same time, there is actually more connection between the front and back of each hemisphere in the male brain… Men are better at spatial organization and abstract thinking… These qualities dispose a man to make decisions and solve problems that are related to the external environment.” 

The scientific evidence related to brain development, hormones, physical development, procreation and child-bearing radically support the traits of the masculine genius discussed above. 

In his origin, man is very good. By original sin, man falls from his goodness and into temptation. We, women, have a beautiful opportunity in our call to see the heart of a man, love him for who God created him to be, and empower him to fulfill his vocation as man on the journey toward sanctification. 

For additional reading about the feminine genius, previous posts on Spoken Bride highlight what it means to be a woman in the context of Bridesmaid’s Dresses, Friendship, Last Names and more.


About the Author: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Associate Editor. Stephanie’s perfect day would include a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

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Prayer Intentions for Women Called to Marriage

Whether you’re currently single, dating, engaged, or married, every woman prays to live out her vocation faithfully and well. What does that look like in the everyday?

Photography: Aberrazioni Cromatiche Studio, seen in    Fabiola + Cole | Vatican City Basilica Wedding

Photography: Aberrazioni Cromatiche Studio, seen in Fabiola + Cole | Vatican City Basilica Wedding

For those called to marriage, the desire to be a strong, holy wife might feel so...abstract. And that’s understandable! Depending on your relationship situation and whether you’ve met your spouse, your ability to will the good of a specific man and ask the Father for grace with specific matters can be limited. 

Are you in a season of discerning the Father’s will for your life? Read tips for determining the vocation he might be calling you to. 

There are, however, particular intentions you might consider bringing to prayer as you anticipate, prepare for, or live out your married life. Here, prayer suggestions for brides.

Strengthen me in sacrifice.

Ask the Lord for a greater sense of perception and attention to opportunities for sacrifice and service, as well as a willing disposition to do so with a joyful heart. Is he prompting you to fast from or give up particular habits? Are there daily activities in which you can ease the load of someone in your life (chores, quality time, or otherwise)? No matter your current state in life, you can actively strengthen your marriage--starting now--by developing a heart of sacrifice.

Grant me the gift of understanding.

Seek growth in active listening, healthy conflict resolution, and empathy. Embrace others’ honesty and vulnerability as a gift to be treated with mercy and care. Cultivating communication skills amplifies and enriches all of your relationships.

Read 5 Tips for Active Listening.

Help me to know your peace, Lord.

Do you find yourself doubting you’ll ever meet the man you’re intended to marry? Are you anxious to determine if the man you’re currently dating is The One? Are you and your spouse facing a major life decision like children, career changes, or a move?

The Lord desires our hearts to be at peace. In times of restlessness for answers, approach discernment with a spirit of openness, trusting that he responds to our prayers--sometimes with a whisper, and sometimes with a shout--in the most loving, fruitful ways, even when his call is wildly different from our expectations.

May I revere my sexuality and fertility.

Our identity as human persons, male and female and invited to join God in bringing forth life, speaks the truth of who we are. Pray for the graces of reverence, joy, freedom, and self-discipline as they relate to your sexuality, and if you feel the pull, seek out theological resources that further illuminate.

Pray, also, for trust: the knowledge and appropriate resources to learn about your fertility and your body’s particular rhythms, the faith and confidence to embrace children and grow your family as you feel called. And perhaps most painfully, the trust that should infertility and complications arise, you are not abandoned and the Lord will reveal, in time, his plans for your particular marriage to be fruitful.

May I make of myself a gift to my husband, and may he make of himself a gift to me.

Authentic love is free, faithful, total, and fruitful; a complete gift of self. This love takes on a particularly intimate, personal dimension in marriage, yet there are ways to embody self-gift even before marriage.

Pray about ways to communicate love through every part of your life, not just your romantic relationship: live with a spirit of encounter. Make efforts to make others feel seen, heard, and known. Be a witness to joy and to confidence in your identity as a daughter, sister, and bride. 

For that, ultimately, is who you are: a woman, equipped with unique gifts only you can confer on the world--not only on your wedding day or as a new wife, but before and after you enter into your vocation. May your prayers inspire your gifts and your worth.

Have you experienced this desire to be a “good” wife? What other intentions have you prayed for in this pursuit? Share your thoughts in the comments and on Spoken Bride’s social media.

Is There a Definition of a "Catholic Wife?" How I Found My Identity in the Feminine Genius.

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

So many of us pray throughout engagement and marriage to be good and holy wives. What does that actually mean, and how does it look in each woman’s life? For several years, I struggled to define who a holy, truly “Catholic” girlfriend, fiancee, and wife actually was.

I first heard the term “feminine genius,” as coined by Saint John Paul II in his apostolic letter on the dignity and vocation of women, on a summer retreat. The retreat introduced me to the letter and to Love and Responsibility, John Paul’s work illuminating the dignity and purpose of the human person, particularly as it relates to sexual ethics, the complementarity of men and women, and the real-life implications of how men and women relate to one another. 

These texts wrecked me, in the best way. My simpler, more youthful deas of love as feelings and gestures were torn down, replaced with the principles that love is an act of the will. Self-gift.

I attended the retreat with my college boyfriend. To be in a serious dating relationship, while reading a book about dating and all the potential obstacles to authentic love, struck me with insecurity. All of these ideas--love over utility, sincerity, honesty, chastity--grabbed my heart and made so much sense, yet they seemed like impossible standards. 

As a result, for several months I overanalyzed the nature of complementarity: I wondered if my actions communicated a sense of receptivity that the Pope said was integral to womanhood,while letting my boyfriend take a more initiating, leadership-focused role. I frequently questioned if I was living in a way that was truly “feminine.” 

My heart lived in a tension: I desired to be what I mistakenly perceived as the holiest type of Catholic woman, while also resisting passivity or weakness. When I was so concerned with whether I was being feminine in the right way, I wasn’t free.

Have you ever had a similar experience, wishing to be a prayerful, feminine, holy wife who is also a woman of strength and conviction? I found freedom in looking to Our Lady.

As I returned to school after the retreat and began attending a Marian prayer group, I delved into the mysteries of the Rosary for the first time. As I grew in devotion to Our Lady, I realized there is no single “type” of feminine genius, nor type of Catholic spouse, I needed to live by or fit into, because it is already there, integral to who we are. 

Within the term feminine genius there are as many ways to express femininity as there are unique, unrepeatable women in this world. Each of us is loved and willed into existence so specifically, with our own particular gifts.

If you find yourself looking for your purpose, particularly in preparations for marriage, I invite you to contemplate Mary as our ultimate womanly example. In her Magnificat at the Visitation, she joyfully proclaims, “my soul magnifies the Lord.” 

As women, we deeply desire to be seen. We can also help others to see the presence of the Lord. Mary proclaimed God’s love--magnified it--with her life. A prayer to do just that--to reveal God’s love to your husband, in body and spirit--radiates the Lord’s love. 

Where I used to mistakenly believe femininity meant a singularly calm, pious womanhood, I now know, through Mary’s making visible God’s love, that in reality the Father wants and needs women of all temperaments, spiritualities, hobbies, and strengths to make known his kingdom through their vocations. Only you can tell your story and share the love of God in a particular way; can love and sanctify your husband and future family in the ways they most deeply need.

The only true definition of a “Catholic wife” is the one specific to who you alone were created to be.

When I met and began dating my husband, there was an immediate ease. I saw “...that femininity doesn’t mean one thing only: it’s not always being the asked, never the asker; always the pursued, never the pursuer; always the comforted, never the comforter. It doesn’t mean being afraid to argue or voice strong opinions. It means loving my husband, in his uniqueness, and every person I encounter, in the specific way only I can.” 

My favorite Adoration chapel has a monstrance in the form of a wooden sculpture of Our Lady, holding out her arms. In her arms is the space for the Eucharist. We see how a woman is both holding--receiving--and magnifying her for all to behold. If we look to her, we can constantly revisit what it means to reveal him to others and bear his face, not our own, to the world.

In our identity as brides, the feminine genius calls women to be like a monstrance: only a vessel--a beautiful one, in soul and body--for revealing the Lord to our beloved, magnifying his love and presence to others. 


About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more

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What is a Culture of Encounter? Creating One on Your Wedding Day + Beyond

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

What can 21st century brides learn from a priest and sister who lived one hundred years ago?

Encounter is a gift women uniquely are able to give.

Blessed James Alberione and Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo, two founding members of the Daughters of Saint Paul, recognized the mediums of film, music, radio, and literature as goods that can share with the world what is true, good, and beautiful. Against the odds of transatlantic travel, the Great Depression, limited resources, and simply fear, Father Alberione and Mother Thecla’s conviction in the Father’s call ultimately led to the establishment and development of a thriving, faithful order of sisters.

The Daughters of Saint Paul travel the U.S. and worldwide using media to evangelize, and have hubs in several cities across the country. In these cities, the order’s materials and publications are sold in stores known as Books & Media Centers.

On a recent visit to the sisters’ Provincial House in Boston, I was struck by one of Father Alberione’s thoughts on his mission and took a picture of a plaque expressing them: the order’s book centers, he said, “are not places of business, but centers of light and warmth in Jesus Christ. The book center is not like any other book store. It is a ‘church’ where the Word of God is distributed...it is sacred...Light, holiness, and joy are the goals sought. The counter is a pulpit.”

The counter is a pulpit. This idea echoed a deep desire I feel to help those I encounter throughout the day--however briefly or extensively--to feel seen and heard.

Making meaningful eye contact with someone, conveying sincere interest in him or her even in the answer to the simple question how are you?, wishing them a good day; all these actions reveal a Christ-like love and tap into something essential: the human heart’s longing to be known.

In the nature of femininity and womanhood, I see a particular ability to help others (even including strangers) feel valued and known. To create a culture of encounter--one that seeks to acknowledge and respect another’s dignity, to push past surface-level interaction, to look up from our phones. The word encounter conveys a true seeing and a dissolving of walls. That’s a dynamic--a culture--I want to help create.

Saint Edith Stein wrote, “the destiny of every woman is to be bride and mother.” Your personal pulpit might not be a store counter, but in the workplace, in your family, on your wedding day.

The sister hosting my visit described how the order’s centers are true their name; genuinely, she said, they are centers of conversation, trust, and faith. She described how passerby coming into the store quickly sense they’re in the presence of those who will truly listen to them. Frequently, these guests will share past or current struggles and pour out their stories.

When we, as women, receive another’s story with respect and attention, we give a gift of encounter. Every woman, no matter what her vocation, career, hobbies, or personal style, is called to receive love and let her love be received as a gift. She is called to be a shelter for others’ hearts, a refuge. She is called to a rich interior life--Our Lady herself, an ultimate example of womanhood, “kept all these things” at the birth of her son, “reflecting on them in her heart.” In moments of transcendence and of the ordinary alike, as women our gifts of receptivity and interiority allow us to communicate love and attention to all we encounter.

What does encounter look like on your wedding day? It looks like letting your love speak for itself, drawing your guests to enter into the Mass. It looks like a few moments to hug or shake hands with guests during your reception meal. It looks like showing attention and care to your bridal party and families. It looks like total receptivity.

All of it points to an encounter with the one is love himself. Like Our Lady in her joy at the Visitation, let your soul “magnify the Lord.

Not every encounter you engage in will be profound or lengthy, nor should it create a spirit of moral superiority or righteousness. Developing habits of attention and receptiveness to others, though, is an embodiment of who we are: brides, women, with a particular genius for interaction and encounter.

Consider what it is you desire to embody and reveal to others with your unique strengths. Aim to reveal the love of God: a love that is particular, unconditional, all-encompassing, abundantly merciful, and forever faithful.


About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more

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Our Origins Point us to our Destiny

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

The latin root of the word ‘origin’ is oriri, meaning, ‘to rise.’

We study our origin to know the root from which we rise. This truth is simplified in the common saying, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” The apple is precisely what it is and where it is because of what and where it came from. Though related to the origin, each fruit carries its own dimension of unique characteristics.

Reading and studying the beginnings of human nature help us more deeply understand our supernatural purpose and eternity in heaven. I imagine studying our origin is like firing a slingshot. The further back you pull the sling—or the deeper you explore your origin—the higher the shot will launch upon release.

Our shared identity as Christian women offers a common foundation. Each of us can say, “I am a human. I am a child of God. I am a woman.” We could explore the roots of our role as daughter or sister. Many of us can say, “I am a wife.” With each piece of our identity, we rise with a beautiful complexity of strengths, graces, skills, weaknesses, and experiences into a wide variety of individuals, called to glorify God in a variety of ways. Let’s begin exploring our shared identity together to strengthen our foundations of self-knowledge and communion with God.

I am a human.

We hear the fulfillment of the universal human heartache in Scripture, when Adam sees Eve and exclaims, “This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” He received her as his own, she was seen and loved in her pure existence; in that moment, Adam and Eve experienced the fullness of perfection, in unity, without shame. Following the fall of humanity to sin, our ability to achieve perfection on this side of heaven faded. Nonetheless, every person’s desire for pure companionship and reciprocal love with others remains a part of our human origin.

I am a child of God.

For an understanding of our supernatural destiny, we study the origin of creation by God. He creates every natural element on Earth as an overflow of his love. He is love. Every piece of creation is a fruitful act of love, made to reflect and share his glory throughout the world and to offer love back to him. As a child and image of God, our origin—and, thus, our destiny—is to love others, to receive love, and to be fruitful.

I am a woman.

Saint Pope John Paul II offers several beautiful texts on the origin of our identity as women. In his 1988 Apostolic Letter, Mulieris Dignitatem, he encourages women to explore the origin of their femininity in Christ in order to know their destiny, “In the spirit of Christ, in fact, women can discover the entire meaning of their femininity and thus be disposed to making a “sincere gift of self” to others, thereby finding themselves.”  

In summary of Mulieris Dignitatem, four qualities inherent to the feminine heart and soul are receptivity, sensitivity, generosity, and maternity. As we identify the specific roots of our womanhood in these feminine attributes, we rise with confidence in our vocations by nurturing these qualities in ourselves and the women around us. We grow in self-love and develop a greater ability to fruitfully share that love through our specialized feminine gifts.

I am a wife.

Marriage, as a social institution, is rooted in legal, structural and financial benefits to society. Through a historically secular approach, marriage functions to offer foundational assets to a community for the greater good of all.

Supernaturally, or from the perspective of the divine, we are taught that men and women who share life in a covenant are empowered to reflect the image of the creator in a special way. Beyond reflecting God who is love in their individual lives, married couples reflect the inextricable union between Christ and the Church. We look to Christ on the cross to begin understanding the calling of married couples.

As Jesus carried his cross in a journey of salvation for all, husbands and wives are called to carry the burdens and pains of their spouse in their journey towards sanctification. As Jesus died on the cross for the sins of humankind, husbands and wives are called to surrender themselves for the sake of love of another. As Jesus’ side poured out blood and water as a sign of his purifying mercy for the Church, husbands and wives are called to forgive and be strengthened through their marriage to become an overflowing of love and mercy to each other, and their community. As Jesus’ death bore the fruit of grace through the offering of his body and blood, celebrated bodily through the Eucharist, husbands and wives are called to be fruitful through the sharing and offering of their own body and blood in creating new life.

We study our origin to know the root from which we rise.

What is another piece of your identity? I invite you to trace back through your life’s journey of memories, experiences, and callings to solidify your origin in that role. How can a deeper understanding of your origin teach you about yourself, God’s presence in your life, or where God may be calling you? How do your passions, desires, and gifts enable you to love others, to be loved, or to be fruitful in the world?

Reflecting on the origin of your personality, joys, passions, fears, and experiences will undoubtedly pull you to a deeper understanding of your roots so you may rise to the highest heights of your destiny. Ultimately, the ways in which we fulfill our vocations point us to our desire for the ultimate and infinite union with God in heaven.


About the Author: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. Stephanie’s perfect day would consist of a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

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What's in a Name? | Married Names, Maiden Names, and the Decisions We Make

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

As the dust begins to settle around the whirlwind of wedding planning, a new journey begins to unfold. Together, and with time, you and your spouse will grow into your identity as a married couple. In the midst of this exciting season, there is a vital decision to confirm your new family’s identity in choosing your last name.

When it’s time to fill in that blank on the legal documents, couples generally have the option to take either the bride or the groom’s last name, hyphenate both last names, or create a new name. Although the decision surrounding a married couple’s last name is morally neutral, many women are convicted in their beliefs on a wide spectrum between keeping her maiden name and taking his. If you are curious why a woman would willingly abandon her own family name or if you desire to articulate the reasons why you did, understanding the physical and spiritual nature of men and women may help.

PHOTOGRAPHY:   OCULI CORDIS MEDIA

PHOTOGRAPHY: OCULI CORDIS MEDIA

The history of a bride taking her groom’s last name is rooted in English common law. The practice for creating a thread of surname lineage was centered around establishing both a legality of marriage and set boundaries for couples in regards to acquiring property or business. These standards were eventually adopted in practice in the United States. With the onset of “family names” passed from a father to his newborn child or from a groom to his bride, additional laws, norms, traditions, and opinions began to take root throughout growing cultures both nationwide and worldwide.

Of course, from a legalistic point of view, an immediate perspective assumes that the man claims dominance over the woman when she officially takes his last name. This misguided belief has been the origin of women’s oppression, including, for example, a woman’s right to vote. Because we are a world of imperfect humans, a tradition with the potential to celebrate the gift of marriage and family has been twisted into oppression and abuse.

As a reaction to oppression or because of shifts in the secular definition of marriage, women identify several reasons to keep her maiden name, such as convenience, preference, personal identity or equality of power. Other times, academic careers or professional publications are the cause for a woman to maintain her identity through her last name.

Regardless of the history of societal wedding traditions or the secular, modern approaches to marriage, our legal actions cannot be separated from our spiritual being. Because a human being is body and soul, our physical actions and decisions—including changing our name—proclaim what we understand to be true about being a human.

Therefore, when a woman accepts the last name of her new spouse, she emphasizes the dignity of her femininity as she reveals the legal, physical, emotional and spiritual union with her beloved.

This statement may sound like a surprising contrast to the general “feminist movement.” Many feminists through decades past—and present—would argue that a woman should keep her maiden name in order to claim equal rights, stand up for herself, and maintain her independence. But if we carefully define “what is feminine,” we will find empowering support for woman to fulfill part of her femininity by receiving her husband’s last name.

To understand what it means to be woman through a Christian anthropology, we go to the story when woman was created: in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. “So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The Lord God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman.”

Eve received life, physically and spiritually, by the rib of Adam and the hand of God. With her first breath, Adam received her as a gift to fulfill his desire for union with another. We hear Adam’s joyful relief when he says, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” And as he accepted her, Eve simultaneously received man as a gift for her own fulfillment of self-knowledge. Saint Pope John Paul II explains, ”The exchange is mutual. In it, the reciprocal effects of the sincere gift and of the finding oneself again are revealed and grow.” This cycle of giving of self and receiving the other between man and woman is the epitome of holy, joyful, spousal union as God intended.

Scripture shows us woman’s initial receptivity to life and the love that followed. Although both man and woman are called to give and receive in acts of love, our bodies help define receptivity as a naturally feminine quality. Consider the intimacy of the wedding night and the bride’s physical receptivity of the groom. Or at the moment of conception as the woman receives a child in her womb.

This is not a gender stereotype, but a celebration of what it means to be woman and how we are called to love man: by receiving every part of him as a cherished gift.

Yes, when a wife takes the last name of her husband, she surrenders her maiden name and, perhaps, part of her identity which was secured in that name. The emotional struggle of letting go of a maiden name emphasizes the reality that a name has value to a person’s identity.

For a husband to offer a meaningful gift of his identity—his name—is a beautiful and masculine act of love. When a woman accepts his last name, she is not practicing an outdated, man-driven tradition; she fulfills her femininity in a selfless act of receptive love. In the way only a woman can.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. Stephanie’s perfect day would consist of a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

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5 Ways to Highlight Your Bridesmaids' Feminine Genius, Inside and Out

Are you currently shopping for bridesmaids’ attire and planning events with the women who will stand by your side at the altar?

Photography:    Du Castel Photography

True sisterhood and virtuous friendship are a gift to your marriage, a source of support and intercession that enter into your joys and trials. In his Letter to Women, praising the unique gifts, dignity, and role of women in the world, Saint John Paul II directly thanked “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.”

In thanksgiving for the role of these precious female friendships in your life and in the years of marriage to come, here, suggestions for illuminating the feminine genius in your bridesmaids’ attire—and, above all, on the interior.

Look for dresses that flatter a range of feminine beauty.

When a woman feels confident in the clothes she wears, she projects a visible sense of inner contentment and confidence, as well. Radiance. Draw out this beauty in your bridesmaids by seeking out lines that offer a wide range of sizes--including maternity, if necessary--and universally flattering styles. Floor-length dresses, one-shoulder or wrap styles, and A-line silhouettes flatter women of any size and body type.

Mismatch.

The trend of mismatched bridesmaids’ looks, in color, style, or both, continues going strong; consider inviting your maids to pick their own dress within guidelines you’ve chosen, allowing each to wear a piece she feels best complements her skin tone, figure, and taste.

Choose accessories just for them.

The inner uniqueness and unrepeatability of every person is manifest, among other ways, in the way a person dresses and presents herself to the world--and that’s a beautiful and fascinating, revelatory thing! If you’ve opted to give jewelry as a wedding party gift, contemplate each bridesmaid’s personal style and consider picking out a different necklace, saint medal, pair of earrings, or other item that reflects who she is.

Commit to body positivity, together.

The prospect of being photographed, processing up the aisle, and giving speeches is enough to make any woman desire to look and feel her best. If you or any of your bridesmaids share the goal of getting in shape before the wedding day, strive for a healthy attitude and spirit of encouragement, not of self-criticism. If these women are your closest friends, you likely wouldn’t dream of speaking to them harshly about their bodies and self-image.

Yet when it comes to our own selves, we as women are so quick to perceive only flaws. Surround yourself with your friends, and build each other up. If fitness is important to you as the big day approaches, consider taking a workout class together, meeting for weekly hikes or runs, or even doing videos at home together. Focus not on weight loss, but on strength--both outer and inner.

Give of your time, and your heart.

If time allows, spending one-on-one time with each of your bridesmaids during your engagement wonderfully commemorates your relationship as the transition into marriage approaches. Have a coffee or dinner date, go to Adoration together, or visit a shared favorite spot.

The Scriptures and lives of the saints are rich with strong, compassionate women who stood by their friends, some even unto death: Ruth and Naomi, Felicity and Perpetua, Clare and Francis, Brigid and Patrick. Your wedding celebrations present a unique opportunity to celebrate the female friendships in your life, as well.

We love hearing your own rituals and ideas. How have you honored the women in your wedding party?