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Apostolic Movement

A woman’s “plus” according to Father Joseph Kentenich.

By: Ana Christina Melquiades- Institute Ladies of Schoenstatt

The role and mission of women today, their importance for society and for the redemption of mankind was a topic highly valued by our founder, Father Joseph Kentenich. He invested a considerable amount of time in his work and supported many initiatives within the women’s communities. A significant statement, essential and vital for him, was “Non erigitur vir, nisi per feminam” – Man will not be redeemed if not through woman”, mentioning Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, to whom this phrase is attributed.

Joseph Kentenich remained firm in his conviction of the unique essence of women, even though there was already a growing tendency in his time to see the differences between men and women as insignificant, i.e., only as biological differences, leaving the rest to education and external influences.

Father Kentenich says that “the concept that women should be made equivalent and valued in their essence, according to a man’s way of being, is erroneous. It is not correct to imagine that masculinity is the standard by which the femininity and originality of women should be judged. This false concept has often been upheld over the centuries.” (Father Joseph Kentenich, Marian Education, Pedagogical Journey 1934)

As a basic rule, Father Kentenich describes the mutual relationship between man and woman: they are equal in dignity and value and different in their way of being.

“The originality of a woman is the strong tendency towards the personal, the spiritual and the maternal. She is strongly inclined to the personal, man is more inclined to the objective. She is more drawn to matters of the soul, man more to the world of ideas. The woman, to the maternal, the man to the practical. Thus, we can see the contrast. But we can also say that the dividing lines are blurred.  It is not easy to say one line goes this far and from here there is another one that goes that way. That is why we often see a strong tendency towards one point of view and sometimes towards the other. For a clearer view, instead of saying ‘male and female’, we should say ‘feminine principle and masculine principle’. This subject is thus presented from the point of view of the philosophy of culture”. (Father Joseph Kentenich, Pedagogical Journey, 1934).

According to Father Kentenich, the so-called masculine and feminine characteristics do not apply exclusively to man or woman respectively. In other words, it is not a question of “stereotypes and gender roles”. Rather, Father Kentenich speaks of a plus of the feminine in the woman and a plus of the masculine in the man.

“At the moment, I can only speak of a plus or an ‘advantage.’ Because whatever values the woman possesses, the man possesses as well, and vice versa. It is only a matter of it being a plus.   (Father Joseph Kentenich, Pedagogical Conference 1934)

 A plus in maternal tendencies

In a woman there is a fundamental tendency, a greater dedication to life in a broader sense. This is manifested, for example, in the plus of her soul’s creative strength, in her disposition to sacrifice, in her ability to bear suffering; a greater readiness to tolerate pain (physical or psychological); a greater endurance.

A plus in vital relationships

A woman possesses an acute sensitivity to life’s processes; an acute openness to life’s rhythms; a greater insight into the mysteries of nature and human life. This also applies to the realm of the spirit and the soul. The woman’s domain is to serve life, physically, spiritually and in her soul, and to be protector and companion throughout life.

A plus in matters of love and spiritual bonds

Whenever a woman dedicates herself to a person or a thing, she will accompany it with a piece of her heart.  It is within her spiritual realm, not in her intellectual realm, that the impulse to orient herself towards a person or a task originates. What she does not only has an outwardly perceptible value, a practical value, but also a symbolic nature. For a woman, in whatever form of love, the spiritual aspect is always emphasized.

“A woman wants to and must infuse everything she does with her spirit. She has a special role in daily life, in personal life, in social life, in industrial and cultural life. She has the great task of infusing with a soul, of permeating with a spirit all vital processes, within herself and in her surroundings.”  (Father Kentenich, Conference in Rome, December 18, 1965).

Her dedication is deep and personal. In everything and in everyone she seeks the “you” and needs to be given a personal self-surrender. Thus, the woman can create and foster multiple personal attachments, she can become a nucleus of attachments.

A plus of intuition

Father Kentenich contrasts feminine intuitive thinking with masculine reflexive thinking.

“The masculine logic is a pyramidal logic. A typical man has before him a circle of truths. He slices it into pieces and, block upon block, builds a pyramid. These laws of logistics have existed since Aristotle. Feminine logic is known as circular logic or the logic of the infinite.  (Father Joseph Kentenich, pedagogical journey 1934)

A woman grasps things in a broad and integral manner. She understands and values things through intuition without being able to state her reasons in a clear and comprehensible way. Only later can she clarify in a reflexive way what she had spontaneously understood.

A plus for excellence

For our founder, the great plus of feminine greatness and of the eternal feminine, as he used to say, has its ultimate expression in our beloved Virgin Mary. Through her all nations are redeemed, she stands as a model of the order of being a woman for all women today and forever.

Bibliographical reference:

Nisi per feminam – Selected Texts, Institute of Our Lady of Schoenstatt, 2019.



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