CHGD1 – Gertrud von Le Fort’s The Eternal Woman – Embarking on the Journey – Climbing Higher, Going Deeper w/ Kris McGregor – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Kris McGregor and Vivian Dudro

Episode 1 Embarking on the Journey – Gertrude von Le Fort’s The Eternal Woman –  Climbing Higher, Going Deeper w/Kris McGregor & Vivian Dudro

Kris McGregor and Vivian Dudro shine a light on the influential works of Gertrud von Le Fort, focusing particularly on her masterpiece, The Eternal Woman. They share a deep understanding of von Le Fort’s exploration of the feminine essence and its timeless relevance.

Born in 1876 to a French aristocratic family in Northern Germany, von Le Fort lived through the profound ideological shifts that shaped Europe in the 20th century. Her conversion to Catholicism at age 50 significantly influenced her literary and theological works. The Eternal Woman stands out as a pivotal text that addresses the changing roles of women during these tumultuous times.

The podcast emphasizes the importance of surrender and receptivity to God as key to realizing one’s true strength and potential. Von Le Fort’s writings extend beyond the realm of femininity, offering profound insights into human nature, including aspects of masculinity and femininity. Her perspectives intertwine with ongoing feminist discourse, adding historical and philosophical depth.

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McGregor and Dudro’s discussion promises more episodes delving into von Le Fort’s other works. They invite scholars and readers alike to immerse themselves in von Le Fort’s impactful and thought-provoking contributions to literature and theology.

Key Points to Ponder

    1. The Feminine Genius: Von Le Fort’s exploration of the role of women in “The Eternal Woman” echoes the Catholic Church’s teachings on the unique and invaluable contributions of women to the Church and the world. This concept, often referred to as the “feminine genius,” highlights the distinct way women reflect God’s image, particularly through nurturing, empathy, and receptivity to life and love.
    2. The Power of Surrender: The podcast touches on the paradoxical power found in surrender and receptivity, a theme central to Christian spirituality. This mirrors the Virgin Mary’s fiat—her “yes” to God—which is a model of surrender and obedience to God’s will. Mary’s example teaches that true strength and empowerment come from trusting in God and accepting His plan with an open heart.
    3. The Interplay of Masculinity and Femininity: Von Le Fort’s writings offer deep insights into the dynamics of masculinity and femininity, reflecting the Catholic understanding of complementarity. The Church teaches that men and women, while different, are equal in dignity and are meant to complement and enrich each other’s lives.
    4. The Role of Women in Salvation History: Von Le Fort’s work reaffirms the pivotal role women have played in salvation history, from Eve to Mary, and beyond. The podcast highlights how women, through their unique capacity for spiritual motherhood, contribute significantly to the spiritual life of the Church and society.
    5. The Challenges of Modern Ideologies: The discussion also addresses the impact of modern ideologies on the understanding of sexual differences and human nature. The Catholic Church advocates for a view of the human person that is rooted in Scripture and Tradition, providing a counter-narrative to contemporary ideologies that often contradict the Christian understanding of the human person.
    6. The Call to Holistic Education: Von Le Fort’s own extensive education and intellectual background underscore the Church’s call for holistic education, which includes not just intellectual formation, but also moral and spiritual development. Her works exemplify how a well-rounded education can lead to a deeper understanding of faith and reason.
    7. The Need for Cultural Engagement: Finally, the podcast exemplifies the need for Catholics to engage with culture and literature. By studying and reflecting on works such as von Le Fort’s, Catholics can better understand the challenges of the modern world and offer a reasoned, faith-filled response.
Gertrud von Le Fort

Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions:

Individual Reflection Questions:

    1. Personal Understanding of Femininity: How does Gertrud von Le Fort’s depiction of the ‘eternal woman’ challenge or enrich your understanding of femininity in the context of your faith?
    2. Surrender and Strength: Reflect on a time when surrendering to God’s will brought unexpected strength or insight into your life. How does this relate to the idea of ‘power in helplessness’ discussed in the podcast?
    3. Mary as a Model: How does Mary’s fiat (Luke 1:38) inspire you in your daily life? In what ways can you emulate Mary’s receptivity to God’s will?
    4. Balancing Faith and Modern Ideologies: In what ways do you find modern ideologies challenging your faith, particularly in understanding sexual differences and human nature?
    5. Spiritual Motherhood/Fatherhood: Regardless of your state in life, how can you live out the call to spiritual parenthood in your current circumstances?

Group Study Discussion Questions:

    1. Feminine Genius in the Church: Discuss how the concept of the ‘feminine genius’ is evident in your parish or community. How can the Church better utilize and honor the unique gifts of women?
    2. Complementarity of the Sexes: How does von Le Fort’s work enrich your understanding of the complementarity between men and women? Share examples from personal experiences.
    3. Impact of Cultural Shifts: As a group, discuss how cultural shifts in the understanding of sexual differences roles have impacted your faith community. What positive responses can be made in light of Catholic teaching?
    4. Role of Women in Salvation History: Share thoughts on the roles of various women in the Bible and Church history. How do their stories inspire your own spiritual journey?
    5. Engagement with Secular Culture: How can Catholics engage with secular literature and culture in a way that is both open-minded and faithful to Church teachings? Discuss the balance between being in the world but not of it.
    6. Practical Application of Surrender: Discuss practical ways to live out the virtue of surrender to God’s will in everyday life. Share experiences where letting go of control led to greater spiritual growth.

Suggested References for Further Study:

Pope St. John Paul II

    1. The Role of Women and the Feminine Genius:
      • Podcast Mention: Von Le Fort’s exploration of the feminine essence.
      • John Paul II’s Writing: In “Mulieris Dignitatem” (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women), John Paul II speaks extensively about the unique dignity and vocation of women, echoing von Le Fort’s themes. He particularly emphasizes the ‘feminine genius’ and women’s special capacity for empathy, receptivity, and nurturing (Mulieris Dignitatem, No. 30).
      • Reference: John Paul II. “Mulieris Dignitatem.” Vatican, 1988. Link to the document.
    2. Surrender and Strength:
      • Podcast Mention: Discussion on the power found in surrender and trust in God.
      • John Paul II’s Writing: In “Redemptoris Mater” (Mother of the Redeemer), he describes Mary’s fiat as the ultimate act of trust and surrender to God’s will, a central theme in von Le Fort’s work (Redemptoris Mater, No. 13).
      • Reference: John Paul II. “Redemptoris Mater.” Vatican, 1987. Link to the document.

Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)

    1. Understanding Femininity:
      • Podcast Mention: Von Le Fort’s examination of the essence of femininity.
      • Edith Stein’s Writing: In her essay “The Ethos of Women’s Professions,” Stein discusses the unique capacities and spiritual nature of women, paralleling von Le Fort’s exploration of the feminine essence. She speaks about the intrinsic value of women in both professional and personal spheres (Stein, Edith. “The Ethos of Women’s Professions.” 1930).
      • Reference: Stein, Edith. “Essays on Woman.” ICS Publications, 1996. Link to purchase the book.
    2. The Complementarity of Men and Women:
      • Podcast Mention: Discussion on the complementarity of sexes.
      • Edith Stein’s Writing: In her work “On the Problem of Empathy,” Stein delves into the psychological and spiritual differences between men and women, emphasizing their complementary nature, which echoes the podcast’s discussion on von Le Fort’s insights (Stein, Edith. “On the Problem of Empathy.” 1917).
      • Reference: Stein, Edith. “On the Problem of Empathy.” ICS Publications, 1989. Link to purchase the book

Dietrich von Hildebrand

    1. The Value of the Feminine:
      • Podcast Mention: Discussion of von Le Fort’s focus on the eternal essence of femininity.
      • Von Hildebrand’s Writing: In his book “Man and Woman: Love & the Meaning of Intimacy,” von Hildebrand explores the unique qualities of man and woman. He emphasizes the irreplaceable value and dignity of the feminine, much like von Le Fort (Dietrich von Hildebrand, “Man and Woman”).
      • Reference: Von Hildebrand, Dietrich. “Man and Woman: Love & the Meaning of Intimacy.” Sophia Institute Press, 1992. Link to purchase the book.
    2. Surrender and Spiritual Strength:
      • Podcast Mention: The theme of surrendering to God’s will and finding strength in this surrender, as presented in von Le Fort’s work.
      • Von Hildebrand’s Writing: In “Transformation in Christ,” von Hildebrand speaks about the transformative power of Christian surrender to God’s will. This aligns with the discussion of von Le Fort’s portrayal of feminine strength through surrender (Dietrich von Hildebrand, “Transformation in Christ”).
      • Reference: Von Hildebrand, Dietrich. “Transformation in Christ: On the Christian Attitude.” Ignatius Press, 2001 Link to purchase the book.
    3. The Beauty of the Feminine Soul:
      • Podcast Mention: Von Le Fort’s depiction of the beauty and depth of the feminine soul.
      • Von Hildebrand’s Writing: In his works, von Hildebrand discusses the beauty of the feminine soul and its capacity for receptivity, empathy, and sensitivity. He sees these qualities as reflective of a deep spiritual reality that von Le Fort also captures in her literature (Dietrich von Hildebrand, various writings).
      • Reference: For a collection of von Hildebrand’s writings, see the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project: Link to the project.
    4. Response to Modern Ideologies:
      • Podcast Mention: Von Le Fort’s literary response to the ideologies of her time.
      • Von Hildebrand’s Writing: Dietrich von Hildebrand was a vocal critic of the Nazi regime and other totalitarian ideologies. He emphasized the importance of standing firm in truth and Christian values in the face of destructive ideologies, a stance that resonates with von Le Fort’s thematic concerns (Dietrich von Hildebrand, “My Battle Against Hitler”).
      • Reference: Von Hildebrand, Dietrich. “My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich.” Image, 2014. Link to purchase the book.


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