The culture seems to indicate that I should feel a bit like an oppressed victim. Partly because I am a woman and even more so because I am a young, Catholic woman. The “male-dominated hierarchy” that imposes a radical ban on my sex from becoming a cleric is meant to be railed against. And yet I do not imagine myself to be oppressed or a victim. Instead, I feel genuinely free.
Recently, I started reading Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves and I’ve found it to be quite enjoyable. The stories are from women who embrace the fullness of the teachings the Church has to offer, finding within the precepts a path to freedom and joy. In the news and social media, many take it on themselves to speak for Catholic women and how we must feel. Breaking Through makes the bold claim that Catholic women do not need anyone to speak for them; rather, Catholic women have the ability and intellect to speak for themselves. Instead of writing us off for actually embracing the Church’s teachings, others are encouraged to listen to the personal experiences women have had as they have grappled with and eventually embraced the wisdom of the Church.
Pope Benedict in Caritas in Veritate…and in Spe Salvi…reminds us (brilliantly, I might add) that progress in personal goodness and real freedom does not follow the same path as progress in technology, where each successive explorer can build upon what others accomplished before. When it comes to goodness, and freedom, and becoming a loving person on an individual level, each woman and man must begin at the beginning, and build from the ground up.
Breaking Through, ed. Helen M. Alvare
Each of the women in the book tackles significant teachings within the Church and shows how she came to believe them to be true, not simply because the Church posited they were true, but because each experienced the truth. From contraception, to navigating the single life in our culture, to entering religious life, these women span a broad spectrum of how they personally encountered the wisdom of the Church’s teachings. Despite the diversity of their stories, they are all filled with the recognition that joy and freedom can be found, almost paradoxically, in obedience and faithfulness.
Instead of the world trying to convince me that I am a victim, I would prefer to hear about how I can live a life of freedom. This freedom comes primarily through my relationship with the One who fashioned me and through living in accordance with His law that is written on my heart. I trust the Church that Christ instituted has wisdom that is relevant for me today. And I pray that the wisdom breaks through the lies that permeate the culture so that we might all recognize truth and freedom when we encounter it. When we encounter Him.
Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash