As I sat down to write this blog article one rainy day, my focus was on an outstanding new book, Extreme Makeover: Women transformed by Christ, Not Conformed To the Culture, by syndicated radio talk show host, Teresa Tomeo. And just before posting it, I stumbled across a recent audience address our beloved new pope gave with an important message to women that compliments and reinforces Teresa’s message quite beautifully. I’d love to share their two messages with you now.
Since his election, Pope Francis has definitely been creating waves among Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In his April 3rd audience, he continued his controversial comments that unfortunately left feminists feeling let down (I say unfortunately because if they just listened to the heart of the message, they would see the truth of how important women’s role in the Church is), but in a way that I believe brings a powerful and exciting message to women everywhere and of all ages.
He explained that “…in the New Testament, only men are remembered as witnesses of the Resurrection, the Apostles, but not the women. This is because, according to the Jewish Law of the time, women and children were not considered reliable, credible witnesses.”
That may not sound exciting to you, but Pope Francis led with that statement on purpose, with the goal of helping us realize how powerful his next statement would be:
In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role. The GOSPEL account is NOT culturally-conditioned, locked into a woman-repressing mentality… Here we can see an argument in favor of the historicity of the Resurrection: if it were invented, in the context of that time it would not have been linked to the testimony of women. Instead, the evangelists simply narrate what happened: the women were the first witnesses. This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria: …the first witnesses of the Resurrection are women. This is beautiful, and this is the mission of women, of mothers and women, to give witness to their children and grandchildren that Christ is Risen!”
The pope’s point firmly supports the important message of Teresa’s book, which flays wide open the societal myths of how women are to achieve “happiness” and contrasts those faulty messages with a celebration of the important role of women in connection with the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith.
One of my favorite chapters in her book is Chapter 6: Our Biggest Fan, Our Biggest Liberator: Jesus, His Church, And The Dignity Of Women, where she opens her dialog with a quote from John Paul II, the exact point our new pontiff made: Women were the first at the tomb.
Just as timely and important as Pope Francis’ remarks, Teresa shows no fear in tackling the misunderstandings and urban legends that surround the female pursuit of happiness we are witnessing today. She writes:
Women have, in many ways, become their own worst enemies by believing they must act like men behaving badly in order to achieve fulfillment and happiness.
Isn’t that the essence of modern femininity? No wonder so many women are on anti-depressants. They are chasing an “ideal” and lifestyle that is so far removed from the truth, it couldn’t possibly bring happiness.
I, personally, have never looked at a woman’s physical appearance and thought, “Wow. She’s ugly.” That’s because I think all women, by virtue of their femininity are beautiful. But I have encountered women, even gorgeous women, who have struck me as very ugly because of the manner in which they present themselves. They use foul language, they have no respect for their bodies, and they’ve bought into the lie that they must be bad to loved, nasty to be respected, and self-serving to get ahead. All that is so contrary to the dignity to which Christ elevated women, and the truth and beauty of real feminism. Teresa’s book, and the Holy Father’s message, brings a very necessary conversation to the forefront; one that forces people to choose truth or continue to believe a lie.
Another great aspect of Tomeo’s Extreme Makeover is Chapter 7, Extreme Media Makeover: Your Personal Media Reality Check And Spiritual Beauty Plan. This, coupled with all the questionnaires at the end of each chapter, really provide important food for thought coupled with essential tools to begin your own transformation into the woman Christ intended you to be.
I encourage you to pick up Teresa Tomeo’s book, available at Ignatius Press. Get ready for a fresh and exhilerating breeze to blow through your life. And as always, let us pray for our new pope, Francis, for his continued guidance and example of love for the world.
As always, feel free to send me your comments, questions or disagreements to firstname.lastname@example.org.