Endow, which is an acronym for Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women, calls women together to study important documents of the Catholic Church in small group communities. The apostolate is a response to Pope St. John Paul II’s call, in his 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), for a “new feminism.”
Here’s his call to action in context:
In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a “new feminism” which rejects the temptation of imitating models of “male domination”, in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation.
Unlike the key players in the first wave feminism of the 19th/early 20th century, who opposed abortion, promoted traditional marriage and motherhood, second (post World War II) and third wave feminists (late 1980s/90s) denied the good of marriage, supported contraception, abortion, promiscuity, and promoted ideologies that proposed gender as distinct from sex and therefore something “fluid” and “socially constructed.”
Therefore, in seeking to form modern Catholic women to be the cultural game changers of a “new feminism;” priority is given to the thought and writings of John Paul II as Endow’s touchstone texts. The recent hot button question, “What is a woman?” is a question Endow women have been grappling with for the last twenty years by studying the Holy Father’s 1988 Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women) and his 1995 Letter to Women.
John Paul II, in his treatment of what he referred to as the “genius of women”—a woman’s unique feminine spirit which civilizes and humanizes any environment where it is able to manifest—is in many ways the successor of another philosopher in the phenomenological tradition, namely, St. Edith Stein. Edith Stein was writing, lecturing and discussing gender differences as early as the 1930s. And both John Paul II and Edith Stein (although more formally for John Paul II) were grounded in the philosophy of the human person as articulated by St. Thomas Aquinas.
Now, more than ever it seems, the statement “there’s nothing more practical than good philosophy” rings true. Endow is prophetic because the Church is prophetic. She has something to say here and now to the heart and mind of every woman. Endow is merely a guardian of the tradition, especially on the concept of woman. For this reason the Endow curriculum includes not only John Paul II’s writings on the philosophy and theology of women, but Edith Stein and St. Thomas’ anthropology as well.
The Myth of Gender Dysphoria in Teenage Girls
An essential part of the Endow Program is the mentorship piece which includes the possibility to submit pastoral, spiritual or theological questions throughout one’s typically 8-12 week Endow Group experience.
Here’s the latest question I received:
How do we explain Jesus/Church’s teachings to our children (ages 21, 19, 16, 14, 12, and 9) in light of all the emphasis in schools, workplaces and our culture with gender theory, using pronouns etc? For example, our 16 year old daughter is taking an Honors English class called “Beyond Binary.” Here’s the class description: “From Catilyn Jenner’s public transition to Jaden Smith modeling women’s wear for Louis Vuitton, the news has been filled in recent years with stories that complicate our traditional assumption that “men are men” and “women are women,” that those two categories are biologically fixed, separate, and immutable. In this class we will explore and complicate the relationship between biological sex and gender identity; we will also examine the extent to which social expectations shape how we think about and perform gender identity. We will look at literature and film that question what it means to be “male” or “female” and examine potential spaces in between. Readings will include Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Puig’s Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Hwang’s M. Butterfly, and the poetry of Saeed Jones, as well a variety of shorter texts, theory, and events and artifacts from popular culture. Also, the first two chapters of “Fun House.”
This isn’t the first time a mother has reached out to Endow about the problem of gender ideology. Every day, more and more Middle School and High School groups are forming. Our children are suffering—especially our young girls. American teenagers, especially girls, have never been more depressed. There is a stunning rise of female adolescent pornography addiction. And as Abigail Shrier has recently pointed out to us, in the last decade the leading demographic claiming to have gender dysphoria is once again teenage girls.
However, this is not actually a problem of gender dysphoria. The root of this is social contagion. The “thing” is not actually about the thing, as some psychologists like to say. This social contagion is happening because of friend groups, social media trans influencers and a complicit school system. This is not primarily a problem of philosophy or a lack of being rooted in solid anthropology. This is a psychological struggle rooted in a problem of belonging. It is precisely here, in the need for belonging, where Endow becomes a remedy to this social contagion manifesting as alleged “gender dysphoria.”
Endow as a Place of Belonging
The “Endow experience” has proven to be a revolutionary one, a true movement of the Holy Spirit, in the lives of Middle School, High School and adult women. The reason why Endow has proven fruitful is that it combines both essential aspects of the particular Christian experience: her teachings as prophetic (the Church’s voice is the voice of Jesus in your life here and now) as well as community, friendship, and belonging. As Pope Benedict wrote in his encyclical on Hope: No one lives alone, no one sins alone, no one is saved alone.
It has been said elsewhere, but I will say it again here for our own purposes. The community offered by the Church has to be stronger than the sense of belonging proposed by secular outlets. Obviously, this is something our parishes have struggled with in recent decades. The so-called epidemic of loneliness hasn’t left church untouched. But if we are going to truly transmit the Gospel while at the same time protecting our young girls from dangerous social contagions, than the life we share together must be more familial, more real and more joyful than the gay/trans/etc scene and we are nowhere near that.
Parents Must Be Educated
Here’s how I answered the woman who submitted the question (Recrafted here as a bullet point list for ease of reading):
- Pull your 16 year old out of that class immediately.
- As for the 21 and 19 year olds, if they are female, study Letter to Women with them or encourage them to start their own Endow Groups. There are lots of mother and daughter groups emerging.
- Endow educates girls and women at the root of the problem: feminine dignity. So, for the rest of the children, check out our Middle and High School studies.
- Remember your education in these matters is crucial so that you may witness to the truth with conviction, authority and charity (see the list of resources included below in the Appendix)
The reason the Endow method is effective is because not only are the Church’s teachings presented in a relevant and accessible way but the method is incarnational—real, in-person gatherings, reading the text aloud, and then a host who facilitates the discussion questions which, done well, lead to inner transformation and and lasting sororal bonds. The hosts of our Middle School and High School groups are the concrete answer, in the form of a spiritual mother, to what Pope Francis has called the modernity’s problem of “existential orphanhood.”
Last March I was speaking at a Diocesan women’s conference and the woman in charge of that diocese’s Vocations Office told me: I love what Endow is doing. Without too many people realizing it perhaps, it is the most powerful remedy to this gender crisis.
Since joining the Endow team, I have had this same exact thought. Education is always the most powerful tool in shaping a culture. Because education done rightly is not just a transfer of information, but an experience which forms (or deforms) the human soul. This is why those whose ideologies we reject plant their ideas in the school or university system. As Christians, sometimes, oftentimes, we get caught up in the political battles of our day. But politics is merely a reflection of culture, and the root of culture is religion—as Father John Richard Neuhaus so clearly elucidated for us many years ago.
Spiritual Warfare in the Gender Crisis
In John Chapter 10:10, our Lord Jesus tells us: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
This is a sobering reminder that despite the fact that our sins, wounds, and traumas originate in the effects of the Original Sin, the Enemy is adding affliction upon affliction to those points of weakness. And to that end, I recommend a wonderful resource to you from the St. Michael Center for Spiritual Renewal. Every month, Msgr. Stephen Rosetti hosts an Online Deliverance Prayer Session. Parents especially have great spiritual authority over their children. Register and pray for your spouses, children, and families for protection against the latest onslaught of the Enemy when the most basic, obvious and fundamental fact of our human existence is being confused.
If you would like the Endow team to pray for a young girl or woman who might be struggling with these issues, please do not hesitate to submit a prayer request here. We would be honored to pray for you.
If you are interested in learning more about Endow or becoming an Endow facilitator, please join us for our next monthly Why We Endow virtual event.
Appendix of Resources:
Endow Studies Middle School, High School and Adult Women
Abigail Shrier | Social Contagion and Gender Identity
Free Gender Resource Guide
USCCB’s Select Teaching Resources for Gender Theory/Gender Ideology
Created in the Image & Likeness of God: An Instruction on Some Aspects of the Pastoral Care of Persons with Same‐Sex Attraction and Gender Dysphoria
Pearl & Thistle (Body literacy for teens, adults, etc.)
Being Human Gender Fluidity or Complementarity Podcast Series: (Part 1 of 4 in the series)
The Endow Podcast Interview with Mary Eberstadt “The Place We Find Ourselves”
Theology of the Body in 1 Hour by Jason Evert
Theology of the Body for Middle School Teens
YOU: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body (Teens)
Talking to My Daughter About Gender
What I’ve Learned Rescuing My Daughter From Her Transgender Fantasy