“You were meant for relationship first and foremost, of course, for a relationship with God, and then with your brothers and sisters in Christ,” Teresa Tomeo writes. By denying yourself God’s gift of sisterhood, you could be doing damage to yourself. You can’t redo the past. But you can forgive and move past the pain in order to open yourself up to the joys of faith-filled friendship God has in store for you.
“Unfortunately, I spent far too much time away from Jesus,” Tomeo shares. “I ran from him into the misguided notion of sisterhood as defined back in the day by a few radical, vocal women. They had the lion’s share of the media’s attention, and they claimed to represent practically every single female member of the human race. NOW (National Organization for Women) and NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League/Pro Choice America) led me and countless others down a dark path of near-decay.”
“The new sisterhood,” Tomeo goes on to say:
promised freedom by promoting liberation through sexual promiscuity, birth control, and legalized abortion. The radical feminists of the world proclaimed, “Women need men like fish need bicycles.” All we needed to do was act like men behaving badly, they assured us, and we would be fulfilled and happy. It was all about the sisterhood. The once-used could and would become the users, and all would be well. We were also told to put ourselves first in everything and to push through the glass ceilings wherever we found them, which sometimes could mean pushing fellow members of the sisterhood right out of the way.
There was only one problem: They lied. Anyone disagreeing or choosing a different way of life, even though it was supposed to be all about “choice,” was quickly put out to pasture or made to feel as if they had three heads. That’s not sisterhood. That is more like a cult. And today? Those same messages are beamed into our homes even more loudly than they were forty-plus years ago. The voices may be different, but the words are the same. Despite the onslaught from the sad sisterhood now referred to (and rightly so) as radical feminism, not all is lost. There is always hope because of the love of Jesus.
She worries though: that “some women struggle with seeing sisterhood as a gift. The scars often run very deep.” A former mainstream journalist, she writes, “Coming from an extremely competitive field, where I watched other ‘sisters’ practically throw me and their mothers under the bus for the lead story or a promotion, it took many years for me to warm up to the idea of sisterhood.”
In the new book Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Women, which Tomeo co-authors, she models sisterhood, of the purest and most generous kind. She walks through her journey from feminism to a real independence, one not fraught with the denial or suppression of things all too natural that all too often comes with feminism. A constructive conversation about the “war on women” we’ve been hearing about and the doubling down on the ideology that undergirds Planned Parenthood and the Obama administration’s abortion-drug, sterilization, contraception mandate eroding religious liberty in the supposed name of women’s basic health care and freedom is advanced by books like Wrapped Up. Tomeo talks about the book and the motivation and the realities we face today beneath the rhetoric and regulation.
KJL: Why is forgiveness so important?
TERESA TOMEO: The short answer is because God says so. The longer answer is it really is good for us physically and spiritually. Jesus tells us in the Lord’s Prayer that we must forgive as we are forgiven and it turns out, go figure, that forgiveness is really good for us. As I point out in the chapter on forgiveness there is plenty of secular research to show how forgiving have less stress in their lives and less anxiety. Sometimes people have a hard time forgiving because they feel that justice isn’t served. But as Blessed John Paul II said forgiveness is not the opposite of justice. You can forgive someone but at the same time their are consequences to choices and a fallout from sin.
KJL: Joy is a net by which you catch souls, Mother Teresa said. How can you do that, practically speaking?
TOMEO: By trying to always approach life with an attitude of gratitude. It is pretty hard to be a Mr. or Mrs. Grumpy Pants when you are counting your blessings. This doesn’t mean living in “la la land” but it does mean appreciate the many gifts we have. I also like to think of the word JOY as an acronym; Jesus first, others second, yourself last. When you reach beyond yourself and give back as a way of saying thanks for all the blessings, it really does make a difference and it is very attractive and contagious. And that’s a good thing.
KJL: You describe the March for Life as a joyful event. Is that why it is barely covered? Someone is worried the kids may next be asked the cause of their joy and a door might just open? The media might serve as unintentional evangelizers?
TOMEO: I think the media don’t cover it because it doesn’t fit into their ideology. Surveys going back to before the 1973 Supreme Court decision show the majority of the members of the press identifying themselves as strongly in favor of legalized abortion. They would like the public to think that this issue has been decided and yet it is still a key issue 40 years later.
KJL: Why is Mary Magdalene such a compelling figure?
TOMEO: Because she had such a beautiful relationship with Christ. She was the first to see the risen Lord. She was with Him at the cross and for most of His three years of ministry. And most importantly her life was completely transformed by her first encounter with Him. She gives us hope in so many ways and she is great example of how the Church views women as she is prominently featured in the Scriptures.
KJL: What is it about Rembrandt’s Jesus and what it reminded you about the power of art?
TOMEO: Rembrandt did his best to try and capture what our Lord really looked like as opposed to what some wanted Him to look like. Rembrandt respected His heritage and really wanted to know more about Jesus. God gives all of us different talents in order to be used for His glory and to help make the world a better place. Rembrandt did his best to use that talent to give the world of beautiful and realistic image of Jesus when He walked the earth.
KJL: Can we reclaim sisterhood? Women being supportive of one another without being hostile to men?
TOMEO: We have to or else if we don’t it will be our demise. “Sisterhood” by the world’s terms is all about “pelvic politics” as my friend Pia de Solenni says — contraception and abortion on demand no matter what the costs and it is costing women plenty. We rarely hear the truth about how abortion and contraception is hurting women. The Pill was declared a Group One carcinogen by the World Health Organization seven years ago! The Pill and abortion have been shown to increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Some 4,000 babies are lost through abortion every day and in recent years we have heard about more and more baby girls in the womb being the victims of sex selection. Pro-life women who voice their opposition are not included in the current sisterhood club even though we are the ones really trying to stand up for the good of all women.
KJL: Is Facebook the enemy of prioritization?
TOMEO: It can be if we don’t do what I call a media reality check. We need to have balance in all areas of our lives and too many of us lose track of time when we get involved with social-media outlets. It’s not all bad and is actually a great tool of evangelization but again if we don’t try to achieve some balance and limit our time on the computer, the phone, texting etc.
KJL: Why are your new books the color of a Tiffany’s box? “We are living in a material world and I am a material girl?”
TOMEO: Actually you’re a daughter of the King of Kings and Wrapped Up in God’s love. The beautiful charm in the shape of a blue gift box is hopefully a reminder of how God sees us; as a beautiful gift to the world. And how He wants us to remember how much He does indeed have us in His arms.
KJL: Why does your book have a companion workbook? How can that help? Does it feel a little self-helpy? Perhaps the best kind of self-help, that requires self-surrender? Is that true freedom? (And however can that be, subservient woman!?!)
TOMEO: The journal or workbook allows women to go deeper and find out more hopefully about it is God who does the helping and the healing through His word and the teachings of the Church. The journal is filled with questions for reflection as well as Scripture references and references to Church documents and Catechism quotes. So many women have an issue with some area of Church teaching but not many have actually taking the time to see what the Church actually says. This workbook is designed to help them with that.
KJL: Will we ever get beyond our limited conversations about women in politics?
TOMEO: About Catholics? Only if we make a real effort to engage the culture and to really make the most of this Year of Faith in the Catholic Church. We have to know our faith and then we have to be willing to engage in the public square. Archbishop Charles Chaput has written beautifully about this. I think 1 Peter 3:15 “always be ready to give a defense for the hope that is within you.”