The sixth annual Women of Grace Advent Reflection took place on Sunday, November 19 in picturesque Coopersburg, which is about 50 miles north of the city of Philadelphia. The event gave women of all ages the chance to take the afternoon off from the pre-Thanksgiving hustle and bustle to enjoy one another’s company, reflect upon what Our Lady of Guadalupe teaches us about Advent and the gifts of our feminine genius and, of course, to enjoy some delicious home-made goodies.
“For the past six years there has been a collaborative effort at my parish between Women of Grace and the Altar and Rosary Society,” said Women of Grace regional coordinator, Rose Newcomer, who headed up the event. “Each year I enjoy bringing the women together in a spirit of sisterhood through prayer, music, food and spiritual learning from a guest speaker.”
There was definitely a woman’s touch present in the church hall that afternoon with each of the nine tables uniquely decorated. The woman in charge of each table chose the décor and each one was a holiday masterpiece that quickly put everyone in the mood for Christmas.
Susan Brinkmann, Women of Grace staff journalist offered the day’s reflection which was based on the story of the appearance of Our Lady to St. Juan Diego at Guadalupe and what it teaches us about our feminine genius.
“Advent is made for women – it’s our time!” Brinkmann said, “but not because we’re the ones who bake the cookies and buy all the presents. Advent is the season of THE woman – Our Lady.”
As Pope Benedict XVI explained, “To celebrate Advent means to become Marian, to enter into that communion with Mary’s ‘yes’ which, ever anew, is room for God’s birth, for fullness of time.”
To be in communion with Mary means we need to say “yes” to who we truly are – not who the world says we are.
“And in saying that yes, we say yes to God’s plan for us, to be the bearers of life into this world,” Brinkmann said. “And not just physical and spiritual life. To be the bearers of life is an attitude, an attitude of willingness to be who we are, daughters of God.”
The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which falls on December 12, isn’t placed in the middle of Advent out of coincidence, she went on to say.
“Mary was made for this season – and her mission at Guadalupe is almost eerily similar to our own.”
At the time of the apparitions in 1531, Mexico was a seriously conflicted, religiously confused country, much like the US is today. And yet it was into this mess that God sent not only a woman, but a pregnant woman, to proclaim the One True God.
“Look what confidence God has in women!” Brinkmann said. "No wonder the Fathers of the Vatican Council entrusted women of today with the task of 'saving the peace of the world'.”
Mary’s appearance at Guadalupe shows us how to use the four aspects of our feminine genius – maternity, sensitivity, receptivity and generosity - to fulfill that lofty mandate, Brinkmann continued.
For example, we see how Mary used the gift of sensitivity in her dealings with the humble Juan Diego, a poor peasant who had little confidence in himself. In spite of his pleadings that she send someone of more distinction to ask the bishop to build a shrine on Mount Tepeyac, she insists that he is the one for the job.
“There are many other servants who could do this, but I chose you for this. You are the one who is to deliver this message,” she tells the distraught seer.
Regardless of how many times he failed to convince the bishop, she never gave up on him, thus displaying the generosity which is so much a part of the feminine genius.
“Our generosity enables us to go to heroic lengths for the people and causes we love,” Brinkmann said. “If it’s someone or something we believe in, we’re all in. And we don't back down!"
When Juan was frightened about the impending death of his uncle, Mary showed her exquisite maternal orientation, rushing to his side even while he was trying to avoid her.
And it was into this dark hour in Juan Diego’s life that Mary uttered the words that would echo through the centuries, “Listen, and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little son . . . Am I not here who am your Mother?”
“How many times have we uttered those words to our little loved ones when were frightened of the dark or injured by the storms of life?” Brinkmann asked. “This is the most striking of all of the aspects of our feminine genius, our maternity . . . . This orientation is what enables women to build cohesive, life-affirming communities, beginning with the family, which in turn spreads to the parish to the community to the country and to the world. This is why the Vatican Fathers charged women with saving the peace of the world. Because we have what it takes to do it.”
In conclusion, Brinkmann asked the women to do what Mary asked Juan to do at Guadalupe – build a shrine from which would come the seeds of conversion.
“But this shrine must be built in our hearts, built from the fabric of our everyday lives – the meals, the laundry, the job, the school work, the children. He’s not asking us to anything more spectacular than this – to just be who we are, daughters of God, and the bringers of our feminine genius into a culture that is dying for it.”
At the end of the talk, the women enjoyed one another’s company along with home-baked goodies and music provided by two talented teens, Margaret and Mark Krafcyzk, whose proud mother, Jill, was also present.
“It is such a labor of love for me to see the effect that this lovely afternoon has upon these amazing women,” Newcomer said. “It is filling a hunger for learning about our faith as well as forming a stronger bond of sisterhood.”
And it’s a great way to kick off a new holiday season!
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