Episode 75 — A Champion for Truth and Community



Writer, podcaster, and Spoken Women founder Samantha Stephenson with her husband and children.

About the episode | Listen to the episode | Meet Samantha Stephenson | Episode transcript


About the episode:

"Religion, and the especially the Catholic faith, has been talking about these things - who the human person is, why we're here - for thousands of years! So we should be part of the discussion." Samantha Stephenson has always been curious and drawn to the truth. As a convert to the Catholic faith, her journey consisted of a two-fold conversion: one of the intellect, and then of the heart. Being drawn to the intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church led her to pursue a variety of projects and work in different positions, including teaching theology, hosting a podcast on bioethics, and working as a writer. Now as a mother, Samantha continues to encourage other women to follow the passions God has given them as the founder of the community Spoken Women while also nurturing her own passions and encouraging those of her children.. In this episode, Samantha and I talk about her conversion to the Catholic faith, her love for the intellectual tradition in the Catholic faith, and the power of having women present at the table when important conversations take place.

Listen to the episode:

Meet Samantha Stephenson:

Samantha Stephenson is a Catholic mom of 3, writer, and host of Brave New Us, a podcast exploring bioethics in the light of faith. She is also the founder of Spoken Women, a community for Catholic women to nourish their creative callings. You can connect with her or sign up for her “Mama Prays” newsletter at snstephenson.com.





Episode transcript:

00:00 MUSIC


00:10 RACHEL WONG: This is The Feminine Genius Podcast, a podcast that celebrates all women of God and their unique genius. I'm your host, Rachel Wong.


00:20 MUSIC


00:31 RACHEL: Samantha Stephenson has always been curious and drawn to the truth. As a convert to the Catholic faith, her journey consisted of a two-fold conversion: one of the intellect, and one of the heart. Being drawn to the intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church led her to pursue work in a variety of areas, including teaching theology, hosting a podcast on bioethics, and working as a writer. Now Samantha encourages women to follow their God-given passions as the founder of the community Spoken Women – while also nurturing her own passions and encouraging those of her children.


In this episode, Samantha and I talk about her conversion story, her love for the intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church, and the power of having women present when important conversations take place.


01:21 MUSIC


01:28 RACHEL: Hi Samantha!


01:30 SAMANTHA STEPHENSON: Hi!


01:30 RACHEL: How are you?


01:31 SAMANTHA: I am good! How are you doing?


01:34 RACHEL: I'm doing well, thank you! Thank you for being here on The Feminine Genius Podcast!


01:39 SAMANTHA: Oh yeah, I'm so excited!


01:41 RACHEL: It's my pleasure! I'm so glad to hear it, and also just as a I guess a little surprise that you had shared with me earlier is that we actually have our very first male guests on the podcast, if you hear him in the background. Did you want to quickly introduce him?


01:55 SAMANTHA: Oh yeah, this is Noah. Noah is seven months old. He just started babbling for the first time yesterday, so a little bit noisier than it used to be!


02:08 RACHEL: So if we do hear a little male voice in the background, listeners, that is why! And Noah, it's a pleasure to have you on the podcast and it's great honour to have a wonderful young man on as well! But yeah, Samantha, thank you so much. I know we connected earlier on in the summer and there are so many things I want to talk to you about, of course, but maybe first and foremost, if you could introduce yourself to our listeners and share a little bit about what you do right now.


02:33 SAMANTHA: Sure. So I am a Catholic convert. I am a wife, mom of three kids, [ages] four and under. And so most of my days and energy and everything is spent with them, concentrating on our home. But then, as for a creative outlet, I run a podcast, I am writing a book, and I am founder of Spoken Women. It's a community for Catholic women to nourish their creative callings.


03:05 RACHEL: So many things and like you said, know that on top of, of course, you're a wife and you have three young kids under the age of four, it's incredible and I don't know how you do it! But just God bless you for all the work that you do. And you mentioned that you're a Catholic convert so I was wondering if you could share a little bit of your faith journey and if you were a convert from another denomination or just no faith at all. So yeah, if you don't mind sharing that story.


03:29 SAMANTHA: Sure, yeah, I have always had faith in Jesus. I can't really remember a time when that wasn't a part of my life I was raised in the Lutheran church than other kind of Christianity, and I was also in Catholic school for years and years since I was 11 years old. And I was always very passionate about religion and ready to spar with anybody who wanted to give me apologetics. I didn't know the word apologetics at the time, but that's what it was. But there wasn't anybody else my age who was interested in doing that at schoo. So, I was just a little know-it-all!


And then for college, I went to a Catholic college, Loyola Marymount [University] in Los Angeles. And it was there, my freshman year, that I found people who were very smart, much smarter than me. Able to articulate that oh there actually, there was something to this Catholic faith, and I found actually that a lot of the questions that I had had, even as a teenager, there were better answers and there was something more in the Catholic faith. So I started exploring that freshman year asking questions from these really intelligent people who, let me ask all my questions and badger them and it was sort of, kind of an intellectual conversion at first, and then through prayer, a faith conversion followed that. It was interesting to think about all of these different questions and the answers, and the truth that was in the church. And to say "yes" to the truth, and then wait on God in prayer for Him to tell me. "Okay, now is the time." So it was kind of something we did together. And I remember the moment that I accepted it, just being filled with so much joy. The moment that I finally said "yes", took the plunge and from there it's been a beautiful journey!


05:26 RACHEL: A lot of things that I do hear from other people's stories, who talk about the conversion from one denomination to Catholicism, it's like you said, it's that turn intellectually at first but then to go even deeper into this relationship with God. And I love what you said there about how you were able to do that with Him. I can only imagine what that must have been like just because like you said, you had all these questions and you were ready and willing, I think, maybe more so than... you know, I know that for myself, I sometimes just kind of take things, like "this is my Catholic faith and I don't know too much about it but that's what it is and I'll just accept it." But it sounds like you had a real sense of ownership, desiring to know truth and knowledge and going deeper into that.


06:12 SAMANTHA: Yeah. One of the things we did on campus we did XLT, which is adoration, music and it's really beautiful. And I went, because it was the only place on campus to hear praise and worship music and that's a really important part of my prayer growing up. And I had to wrestle with, "Is this okay? Because either what they're doing is real and that's really God on the altar, or this is like super idolatrous and very strange!" It was strange anyway but [laughs], like, it can't be, it can't be both. And so I think it was powerful witness of faith of the community and just being drawn there. And so, yeah, I mean it's, it's all on God, right? He initiate and calls, and then we choose if we want to respond to that.


07:02 RACHEL: Right. And do you remember that moment when you kind of had that, you know, you already had the return intellectually but that turn of heart to really welcome God in, and then embrace the Catholic Church and embrace that. Do you remember that moment for you?


07:16 SAMANTHA: I do, yeah. It was Tuesday of Holy Week...


07:20 RACHEL: Oh, very specific, okay!


07:21 SAMANTHA: Yes I was... we had our...I was part of a small faith sharing group, and we met in the basement of the chapel. And so, afterwards, I would like go outside and they would leave the windows open to the chapel. So sometimes I would just let myself into the chapel, and other people did that too. Now, I think they're a little bit better security [laughs] But, so I went up there after our faith sharing group and I was feeling invited by whatever we had discussed there that night and I don't remember the content of that specifically. But I was just feeling invited to pray with the idea of saying "yes". And somebody else was in there, a friend of mine actually. She's playing the piano and singing and praying, and that's when I said "yes"! And I had all of that joy and I wanted, I was like, "Oh, can I do it, can I do it on Saturday? I know it's Easter Vigil!" And obviously no. there's a very good reason that there's a time of preparation and I'm really grateful for that time that I had actually.


But I had showed up late because I was singing at a friend's grandmother's funeral, so then I ended up late to the Easter Vigil, and I couldn't sing, and that was actually really beautiful because since I was late, I wasn't singing in the choir. But just to sit in the back– and they do the liturgy really well at Loyola Marymount–so they had, you know, some other artistic details going on to help people really enter into this space. So they have the candles and the fire, of course, but I was just sitting in the back row and they have all the lights off and then they did lighting to make it look like sunrise and that kind of felt like that was an image of the new day that I was invited into, and that certainly has been the case.


09:03 RACHEL: Wow. Well thank you for sharing that and I mean, it just goes to show how, when God calls, we literally are ready to do absolutely anything and everything. Like you said, if you had that call on a Tuesday, and Easter Vigil was a couple days away, like you know, "Can I join the church right now?" And by the wisdom of the church, there is like you said, that preparation period. But I find that witness to be extraordinarily beautiful, so I'm very appreciative of that and it's just wonderful witness and it's a wonderful story, so thank you.


09:35 SAMANTHA: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share it with people!


09:38 RACHEL: Oh of course! So, like I said and like you've introduced so well, you are involved in a number of things. And maybe they kind of parse it out and talk through some of these major projects that you've been a part of. I wanted to start by asking what you studied at Loyola Marymount and how that might have informed some of the things. Because like you said, you write and you have this podcast which we'll talk about, "Brave New Us", and I know that it touches on bioethics. So of course you know I think of like bioethics and that's in the realm of health and science, and obviously writing is a creative outlet and you find different ways to tie all these things together! But yeah if you don't mind me talking about that educational background and how that formed your career and professional background and the things that came next.


10:24 SAMANTHA: Sure, yeah. So as an undergraduate I went in with a major of psychology and was so drawn to the intellectual tradition and there's so much richness in Catholic faith that I added theology as a major. And then throughout my time there, I ended up wanting to focus mostly on theology. So I graduated with a major in theology, and then minors in psychology and philosophy. And then I went LMU [Loyola Marymount University] for a master's in theology, and I went back for a master's in bioethics!


10:54 RACHEL: Wow!


10:55 SAMANTHA: I'm like a learning addict! I like to learn how to do things, and I like to just dive into the this tradition. And it also was part of my professional development–I was teaching theology at the time–and that is how you grow in your career, in your profession as a teacher, is you get even more education, and you have more to bring back to the students. So I was really blessed to have support from high school I worked at, which is definitely not always the case, to be able to go back to school and also some scholarships from the department at Loyola Marymount who really were very supportive of me furthering that journey. And I received an amazing education there, really loved it.


11:34 RACHEL: Now, with bioethics, what was the, maybe the interest or where did that interest come from?


11:39 SAMANTHA: It definitely started when I was an undergraduate. My philosophy, minor, I took many classes with one amazing thinker in particular. He's definitely one of my mentors, my dearest mentors, Dr. Chris Kaczor in the philosophy department. And I think I took a class with him almost every semester that I could! And my last semester my senior year, he offered a course called "Contemporary Bioethics." I don't even think it's been offered since then, but I tried to push him to offer it again because he took essays from topics that were contemporary in the last three years of that course. We talked about them, we pulled them apart. Issues of abortion, issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide, but also organ donation. You know when, when do you call death, because if, if somebody dies when their heart dies, and they're not dead until their heart dies, then you can't really do any heart transplants, because you're taking the heart of somebody who's alive. So when do we call that? Is it brain death or is it heart death? Things like that.

So I was really drawn into it, and it just kind of stuck with me.


And when I was getting my master's in theology, I took some courses with one of my other mentors, Roberto Dell'Oro. And he's now the, he's the head of The Bioethics Institute at Loyola Marymount. Just this amazing mind, really able to articulate sort of the philosophical understanding of the human person, and how that influences every single decision about, you know, what we do and who we are because if you want to think about our lives as having a trajectory of going towards some kind of a purpose. That purpose isn't something that we manifest for ourselves, that is something God's created for us all as human beings, and then for each one of us individually. So you have to know where you're going in order to make all these decisions about how to get there.


So sometimes, secular bioethics can get really stuck in this like, "We just want to talk about how to get there," but we have to be able to talk about where we're going so that we can talk about how to get there. And I think that's one of the ways that religion in general and Catholicism in particular is really important for these kinds of conversations because religion, and especially the Catholic faith, has been talking about these things–who the human person is and why we're here–for thousands of years. So we shouldn't be a part of the discussion.


14:20 RACHEL: Absolutely! And it just makes me think of how there are so many times, I mean, whether it's election time or there is some kind of advancement in science or technology, many times there's that dichotomy that is drawn, where people say that, "Yeah, faith should have no part in politics" or "Faith should have no place in medicine and talking about these types of advancements." But like you're saying, the whole Catholic faith is really built upon like who we are and who we're meant to be, you know, there's so much scholarship on like the human body and the fact that we're made in God's image and just the beauty that comes with that. And again, thinking of the whole person and not just a certain part of it. I really appreciate you saying that and just the ways in which you and other people like you are able to bring Catholic faith and that perspective into a secular conversation.


15:14 SAMANTHA: Yeah and I think it's important to that we learn to build bridges and engage in dialogue with people who think in radically different ways than we do. One of my favorite quotations of all time is from St. Thomas Aquinas, and he says, "We must love them both"– I'm gonna paraphrase–but "those with whom we agree and radically disagree, because both have joined us in the search for truth and both have helped us in the finding of it." A lot of times, I think we want to insulate ourselves from disagreement. Maybe it's because they want to keep the peace, or maybe it's because we're afraid to look like we don't know what we're talking about. But we kind of want to keep anybody who doesn't agree with us at arm's length, or we just, we're afraid of offending people. But I mean, we can't really talk about anything that matters! We can't really talk about anything that has any meaning. And if we're just willing to kind of say, "Wow, that's really interesting! I totally disagree with you!" And be able to articulate why, but to be able to just make space for that so maybe we'll be able to understand ourselves and our own point of view, in a much better way, and ultimately, to find the truth because the truth is always going to be outside of us and beyond our reach and so it's not something we can do by ourselves.


16:38 RACHEL: Dialogue is so important, whether it is with people who have radically different points of view or even for our own learning and just self-growth and self-development to continually challenge and learn and see for ourselves and not like what I was describing earlier of myself, is just kind of taking things passively and kind of believing it to be true. But I understand that one of the ways that you're doing this of course is that you have this podcast that you started, "Brave New Us", and it really takes a good, hard look at bioethics in the church and I was wondering if you could share a little bit about this project, what inspired you to do it and anything you want to share about that.


17:17 SAMANTHA: As you can hear in the background, our lives are a little bit crazy, we have three kids, four and under. So the idea that we can have any kind of quiet in our lives, to [laughs, Noah crying] to be able to record a podcast, like you said, taking that leap of faith. And actually I don't think I'd be starting the podcast if I wasn't a mother. After a couple of years of in trying to be a working mom, I really discerned, you know, my heart is in our home, and I want to be the one who is with our kids all day long, and that's...I think that's a discernment that every family has to make for themselves, you know, how, how do our gifts meet those needs? But for me, I was feeling [a] really strongly call to be at home with the kids, during every little, you know, patching up every little boo-boo kind of a thing.


So that kind left kind of this mental space. I kind of felt like it was a withdraw from the world, almost a monastic type of withdraw. But at the same time, I was kind of wrestling with, well, I know that is for my vocation. This is the most important thing can be doing, but I also feel like I want to be giving in some other kind of a way. I have these other gifts and I want to be able to give. So "Brave New Us" kind of came out of this place, feeling that way and then feeling really isolated as a mom. I think a lot of women who go especially from a working world, they're they're doing stuff all the time and then to being at home, it feels really quiet and it feels like your world gets really small really fast. A lot of moms that I talked to at the beginning of the pandemic said, "Well, we've been doing this for a long time, like, because everybody's doing it is far less lonely than when I became a stay at home mom!"


And so I started listening to podcasts. It's crazy, I was commuting to school in LA traffic for years! I would have loved to have figured it out the whole podcast thing a lot sooner! [laughs] But, folding laundry, getting. doing the dishes, all of that really dove in memory so the podcast world. And some of the podcasts that were the biggest joy for me to listen to, that I really looked forward to each week were these storytelling podcast. A lot of crime podcasts, you know, "This American Life" tells really amazing stories about American life! [laugh] "Serial" is a crime podcast that kind of goes over a season. And so as I was listening to these, I had the idea for the podcast and I told my husband about it. And he's like, "Are you just gonna, like, talk to people?" Because he rightly knows that is not my gift! He's hearing that thinking, "How are you going to hold people's attention? You know, you're not the best extemporaneous speaker," which is true! That's not my gift. But I love the storytelling podcasts, and I am a writer, that's one of I think my charisms that God's gifted me with and called me to get back to the church.


So thinking about that, I wanted to create something where I could invite people into these questions to explore and really wrestle with them. So that's what it is, it's interviews with people, to kind of guide them through thinking about–season one is about genetic editing. So we talked about human enhancement, we talk about eugenics uses, you know, who you want to rid the world of disability, what does that mean for people who are disabled? On the one hand it's a great thing to heal people of disease. On the other hand, what if healing means that people like this don't exist anymore? So those are the important questions that we kind of wrestle with and think about throughout season one. There are plans for many other seasons, as well.


21:16 RACHEL: Well again, I mean, congratulations and kinda like we were chatting earlier just before we hit record that, you know, I myself am also–I think it's no surprise–that I love podcasts as well. And very similarly, these types of storytelling podcasts, especially where you have, you know, for a whole season, you're grappling with one particular issue where you really diving deep, like you said, doing these interviews with folks and then really looking at an issue from all sides. It takes a lot of work, so it's wonderful and I really look forward to learning through it and listening to it. So I just thank you for doing that and yeah, listeners, please go check out "Brave New Us". It's available wherever you can listen to your podcast and yeah. So thank you, Samantha. That's really exciting!


And like you said, you have this podcast and we do a lot of writing, and I want to touch on something that you just said about how like the world feels suddenly very small when you make that choice from going to being working mom or working woman, to a stay at home mom or stay at home woman. I wanted to kind of tie this to the community that you had started here during the pandemic, of course. And you know you have this community of Catholic creatives–so podcasts, writers, speakers–and you have called it Spoken Women. And I was wondering what your intention was behind that and why you decided to start a community like this for women creatives.


22:45 SAMANTHA: Sure, yeah. So the name is "Spoken Women" comes from another wonderful gift of a person from Loyola Marymount University. Sister Peg Dolan, she's passed, but she used to say that "Each of us is a word of God was spoken only once." And if I had to say, you know, my primary theological interest, certainly while I was an undergrad, was Ignatian spirituality. And so this idea of being able to discern what it is that we are all called to be in the world. I think that that resonates with all of us, you know, we all want to know and discern and be able to live that out.


And so, when I was trying to get started with writing, I wanted to be formed. I had had really great, I think, formation for Catholic ministry, but I wanted to be formed in my craft. I want to think as a writer, I wanted to be formed for the kind of evangelization that I wanted to be doing. I found a really wonderful Protestant conference to do that, but I couldn't find anything that was Catholic. Obviously, given my background, that's pretty significant. It's pretty significant to have people who are also Catholic and sort of speak the same language and to have that starting off point for us to have that in common. And we have so much richness in terms of understanding the theology of what it means to be formed and how to listen to our calling, there's so much that's particularly Catholic that we can explore. And I thought, "Gosh, it's gonna be so great when I can one day go to retreat like this that's Catholic!" And I just kept kind of thinking about that in prayer. I felt like God was saying, "Well, you really want this to exist. Why don't you do it?" And that is kind of crazy that that would come during the pandemic when we can't have any kind of retreat. There were some other Catholic groups that were doing different kinds of virtual events, and I thought, we could wait 'til we can all gather in person, or we could start joining in community and doing this now. And then when we do have a retreat or a conference in person, we'll be able to continue that community through what we have online.


And so the podcasts that we do with Spoken Women is very Ignatian-inspired, just because that's the background I come from. But it really deals with these different things that come up. If I am a Catholic writer or speaker or podcast or musician or artist, you know, what are the things that are going to be my pitfalls? What am I going to struggle with. And so, I've done a lot of messages but also a lot of women in our community and you have done messages because it's not this person or persons up here on high are offering formation, but it's how can we form and encourage each other?


25:46 RACHEL: Yeah, and just on that, like with Spoken Women. I mean it's a privilege and an honour for me to be, you know, alongside you but also so many other talented women from all over. And I think what you said. And the call is of course that kind of this whole thing was inspired by, from Sr. Peg Dolan, about how each of us for the word of God spoken only once. And I remember the first time I read that and, you know, of course when you speak about it, it's just a powerful reminder to me, I think, more and more that we really are unique, made in the image of God. And I think that especially in Catholic circles sometimes, like, we throw that around and we kind of just be like, "Oh yeah, we're made in the image, we're unique." But it's really something that has significant weight, that we shouldn't take lightly and we shouldn't take for granted. And because of that, like, each of us have–you know, you touched on the charisms–like, we have these gifts and these charisms these calls that we're all called to and we are kind of given and endowed with from the moment of our conception. And for us to maybe sweep it under the rug and things that we're not called, or like you said, maybe we'll wait until the pandemic is over or when we have more time and we have more money. God calls us here and now and He doesn't call us when we're ready–not to kind of throw us off kilter–but just because He wants us to work with Him, and He wants us to trust in His providence. And, you know from the beginning of this project of Spoken Women, I've really seen that. I've seen that in you, Samantha, and it's just so beautiful to see a community of like-minded women come together and really embrace that call. So yeah, like, it's just such a beautiful thing to be a part of.


27:36 SAMANTHA: Yeah, I agree it stretched and challenged me. One woman who I really look up to is Jennifer Fulwiler, and she has a book that's amazing that's called Your Blue Flame, and she talks about how our passions and our "blue flames", is what she calls them. The thing that you are called, the word you're called to speak in the world. Those things draw us deeper into community with other people, and that, more than the other projects that I've worked on, this community has been community. It's been a work of community, and this does not happen because of the work that I do alone. It happens because there are women who I really embrace the mission and are willing to give of themselves to make it happen, and without them, it wouldn't exist! [laughs] Without the support of the women, none of it would continue to happen. So it's definitely a completely community effort.


28:34 RACHEL: Yeah! And I'm curious to know, from your perspective, I'm sure there are many. But what have been some of the biggest maybe surprises or takeaways from your time time seeing Spoken Women–not just as an idea floating around in your head–but something that is now real, tangible, there are people connecting. You have like the site and the groups and this podcast that you're doing, on top of another podcast and your family! My goodness! So yeah like, some of the biggest surprises or takeaways.


29:04 SAMANTHA: I think for me, the biggest surprise has just been the hunger for this community that is shared by all of us. I mean, I had so many people respond and say, "This is exactly the thing that I have been praying for" or "I've been hoping to form something like this, but I just couldn't do it on my own." So your other whole point is, we don't do it on our own, we do it together. So to have women of all different ages, seasons of life, at all different points in their careers and everything. And some people have this call and use it as a career, some people have this call and it's something that they do that gives them life outside of what they do to earn money. And so to have all of these women, searching, and on this journey together and responding in community with each other is just a really beautiful gift!


I've been a part of a couple of other online groups like this, and far and away, the hunger for being in relationship with each other has been really specifically unique in this community, as opposed to the other two professional development groups online that I've been with. I think that maybe comes from our shared understanding of our Catholic faith and wanting to connect with each other, and not just care about each other's projects or how we can network with each other–which is also important and definitely a focus of how do we do this?–but really authentically, how can I support you and what you're doing? What can I learn from you and how can we do this together, which is I think what church is supposed to be, you know? It's supposed to remind us that we're not alone and that we're walking on this pilgrimage together.


30:58 RACHEL: Absolutely, yeah, that's exactly my thought! You know, just as your describing that, the words 'together' and 'community', like you're saying, it's not just me on the journey and I shouldn't be walking alone, because it can be a very lonesome place. And I think, particularly for creatives–like whether you write, whether you do a podcast, or you do art–it is very solitary work sometimes and it can get very lonesome. So when you have that community people to, like you're saying, not only network or connect or collaborate, but just to cheer each other on. And also to recognize too that each of us, you know again, coming back to that quote, like we're all a word, a unique word, to be spoken out. And we'll never be spoken again. So it just keeps coming back to this idea of I have certain gifts, but I don't have all the gifts. Where I'm lacking, someone else will be able to make up for, and vice versa. It's not a weakness, it's absolutely a strength. Like, our diversity is our strength. Yeah, so it's just a wonderful thing to be a part of, and I'm blessed to be a part of it, so I thank you for starting this and really following through with a call that God has given you.


32:10 SAMANTHA: Yeah, I think that we really–I mean, maybe, hopefully after this pandemic we don't continue to underestimate our need for community. I think especially in countries like the United States, maybe in Canada too, we underestimate how much we really need each other and we don't... we take for granted the value in being with each other. When we try to do things on our own or alone, sometimes we can get by with that. But then especially for me, having been withdrawn from people in the pandemic and then coming back in small groups, some with face to face with the few family members, friends that we've seen, it's amazing how much refreshment just being together in a physical place and sharing a meal can bring to people. God knows that, He gave us the Eucharist, told us "do this every week at least!" So, He knows that we need that, not just that we need to receive Him physically in the Eucharist, which we do, but that we need to be together when we do it and.. I mean, He knows what we need and He designed us in that way! So being able to join in community any way that we can, I think we really underestimate and undervalue what that can do for our souls.

33:27 RACHEL: Thank you! You know, I know that obviously doing this over Zoom doesn't replace or make up for the fact that we can't be in person, but I agree. I hope that as we you know, one day we're able to listen to this conversation and not be in a place of lockdown or not be in a place of pandemic, that like you're saying, we don't take for granted the time that we are able to spend together. Thank you for that reminder!

Just as we maybe switch gears a bit, and we're talking about Spoken Women, and of course all of these different areas that you've really worked through in your own life–like your professional life, and then going through these different areas and charisms that God has called you to–I'm curious to know from your perspective how you've seen your personal feminine genius grow and develop? Like, what that's been like in the different areas, and maybe to use your term, in the different seasons of your life?

34:20 SAMANTHA: Yeah, gosh, I don't think I can answer this question without talking about where I am specifically right now, and that's in my relationship with Mary. So in some ways, I feel like the conversion that started back when I was in college is actually coming to it's fullness now. And I mean, we are all called to continual conversion throughout our lives, but one area that's sort of been a sticking point as a Protestant coming to the Catholic faith has been my relationship with Mary.


So I did a few things concretely, because I do see the Mother of God needs to have, like again, intellectually recognize that the Mother of God needs to have this special place in our faith and we need to have special respect for her, even over and above all the other saints. You know, who loves Jesus more than His mother? It totally has made sense to me for many years. So I did some devotional practices, like one year, I took the rosary for Lent, and I definitely felt like, there's a softening in my heart here. And then watching my daughter just take to Mary. She's four and a half, and we do like a decade at night with the kids, which gets a little crazy with a four and a two year old, fighting over who gets to have the rainbow rosary! To see her love Mary and witness to me what it is to love a mother kind of reinvigorated my desire to have that. And recently I, in my life, did a 54-day rosary novena. To just see that there... [laughs] that the graces that Mary promises, they're real and they're available. And to learn motherhood from the mother, I think, is a little bit different than to just, I don't know, again, try to be doing that on your own. So try to grow in that relationship and understand the way that Mary loves us, I think, is a beautiful image for understanding what the feminine genius is.


One of my favorite quotations about the feminine genius is from St. John Paul the Great's Letter to Women, and he says, "The feminine genius is needed wherever important decisions are being made." And that for me really resonates when we look at something like abortion or contraception. A lot of the ways that we think about these things are really informed by what I perceive to be 'masculine' ways of solving problems–which is not to say that they're bad, but women think about things, issues and people in different ways than men approach them.


So somebody I had a conversation with was talking about abortion, and he was saying, "Look, in my experience as a doctor, this woman–she was giving birth, she had a newborn, she's a single mom, and she had two other kids and they were running around and screaming and the baby was crying." And so he was saying like, "Maybe contraception is a good solution to that problem." And I said, "Well, sir, the situation that you just described sounds like my house most of the time! [laughs] And my family has what I think people might point to and call in air quotes the "ideal situation." You know, we have enough to provide for our three children, but our life is still crazy! And we have a loving mother and father partner, but our life is still loud. And the whole point is not to necessarily say like, "Maybe things would be better if she could prevent herself from having another child, maybe that's a solution." Let's think about this in a broader way. Maybe the situation might be better if the hospital had childcare. Maybe all of the families coming to the hospital could benefit from something like that, because if you're visiting someone ICU, you can't bring your kids. I mean, right now, you can't visit anyone in ICU.

But when I went to the emergency room for a medical issue recently, I had to make more phone calls because my husband was not home, he was on a business trip. So I had to find somebody to watch my children while I drove myself to the emergency room. It's not like, "Oh, because she's a single mom, she needs to have access to contraception." Let's just think about in a little bit more of a broader way that gives a little bit more of attention to the situation surrounding the issue. I think women tend to bring those kinds of solutions. So I think that, I don't know, I just wanted to add that little bit about the feminine genius and just try to think about the ways that women solve problems in a way that's unique to the way women think about and approach the world.


39:14 RACHEL: No, thank you for sharing that! You know, we have come a long way when it comes to gender parity and gender equity and... but I still think that there are some times and some places, some spheres where it is difficult for us to speak up and speak out and be heard and taken seriously. Even within the church, I think it's a powerful reminder that we do have, while different, still unique and still valid ways of approaching things, and different ways of problem solving, and that's more than okay, it's absolutely necessary as John Paul II says, so thank you for including that!


But Samantha, I just want to thank you again, for all the great work that you're doing for woman and in bioethics and just really promoting what it means to be women. So thank you, and I'm wondering if you could close us in a prayer, just as we end off this episode.


40:05 SAMANTHA: Yeah, I'd love to! In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of this time together, the gift of your church, the gift of community, the gift of your mother, to gift of conversation. For all of the ways that you've given us, to find you, to come to your presence. We ask that wherever we are right now, whoever is listening to this, at whatever point in time, that we will be able to more deeply enter the mystery of you through the people in our lives, through those who we can sit across from look at their eyes, those who maybe are far away, joined to our hearts through the gift of technology. And we ask that you come into our hearts. Allow us to really make the most of those connections, to be able to enter into the love that is available or to offer love where it's not available, so that you may be more present as you are love in all of our lives. And we ask, in a special way through the intercession of your mother, that you make that apparent to us where we are called today. We pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.


41:34 RACHEL: Thank you, Samantha!


41:36 SAMANTHA: Thank you!


41:39 MUSIC


41:44 RACHEL: Thank you to Samantha Stephenson for joining me on The Feminine Genius Podcast today! You can listen to Samantha's podcast "Brave New Us" wherever you're listening right now.


Learn more about Spoken Women by checking out their website, spokenwomen.com, and following along on Instagram and Facebook, @spokenwomen. All of these projects and more from Samantha can be found at our website, snstephenson.com. I've left links to these in the episode description below.


You can stay up to date with The Feminine Genius Podcast by following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, we're @femgeniuspod. And you can listen to this podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Soundcloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and many other platforms. All this information can be found on our website, femininegeniuspodcast.com.


We'll talk to you soon and God bless always!