When I was growing up in the 80s, our culture was centered upon and shaped by celebrity: popular music, MTV, movies, and other forms of entertainment. As Generation X teenagers, our culture raised up role models for young women such as Madonna and encouraged us to aspire to look and dress like the bone-thin models of fashion magazines. Not much has changed, unfortunately. We are still enthralled with pop culture celebrities, many of whom do not embody traditional Christian values or set a good example for our children and teenagers today. This celebrity worship has seeped into the Church and affected people who consider themselves Christians. If we are to truly be Christians, who should our role models be? Movie stars, music artists, and fashion models? Or the heroes of the Church, the saints and martyrs? These two categories of role models are diametrically opposed to each other. We have to choose; we can not continue to sit on the fence and worship both mammon and God.
Role Models of Modesty and Simplicity
What has become of modesty? Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in humility and modesty, rather than a spirit of boasting, gloating and showing off. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. (Lk 14:11) We have forgotten the inspiring examples of the women of the Bible and the female saints in the tradition of the Church. As women, our ultimate role model should be Our Blessed Mother Mary. She didn’t speak excessively, never boasted, and always pointed to her son Jesus. She dressed simply and modestly, and didn’t demand attention from others. Her sole concern was serving her husband Joseph and her divine Son Jesus. She tended the home, cooked the meals, and cared for her family. I am not saying that women should never work. I only think that simplifying our lives creates happiness and peace and frees us to deepen the most important relationship we all have – that with Our Lord Jesus.
St. Monica – Patroness of Married Women
An excellent example for married women is St. Monica. Born in the 4th Century, she was married to a pagan Roman official, Patricius, who was known for his violent temper and his “dissolute living.” Her husband was said to be irritated by her piety and her Christian beliefs; however, he respected her. She prayed and fasted for her husband and her son, Augustine, who both eventually converted as a result of her prayers, with Augustine becoming a Doctor of the Church. St. Monica is an example of perseverance in the Faith, even in the face of opposition and criticism.
Obedience is a Virtue
Mary was a woman of prayer. She was a faithful Jewish woman and her obedience was unparelleled. Obedience is a virtue that has fallen out of favor today; however, I believe it is the way to peace and freedom. I believe in questioning authority when power and control are being abused. However, all authority is subject to God and comes from him, so as long as those over us are acting in accordance with the gospel we should defer to them. “Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct.” (1 Peter 1:14-15) Like St. Therese, we should be like “little children” and be submissive to God and authority. He has allowed our leaders to be over us, and we owe them deference. A society can not function peacefully and harmoniously when there is constant discontent, discord, and complaining against our leaders. Similarly, I believe as women we owe respect and deference to our husbands and that they are the heads of the family. This idea may be controversial, but I find that when I try to practice the virtue of obedience in my own marriage, our home life is more peaceful. As Helen Andelin, author of Fascinating Womanhood, has put it, “The first Law of Heaven is obedience, and it should be the first law of every home. It is the foundation of an orderly home, a successful family, and the successful lives of the children. The wife is the key.”
The woman is the heart of the home, and the man is the head. We are called to be love to our husbands and children and to be faithful because of our nurturing tendencies, our connection with emotion, and the importance we place on relationships. We are wired to care for our children and husbands, and when we don’t do so, we stray from God’s plan for our lives. Like Mary, we are to pray for and with our families and to teach them how to love. Our children need us to be dedicated and loyal to them, a strong support for them as they grow and mature. As women of God, we submit our own selfish desires to the will of God and the needs of our families for the good of our husbands and children. This is the fulfillment of our vocation of charity as wives and mothers: As wives are called to cherish their husbands, so are husbands called to love their wives: “Be subordinate to one another, out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her, to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Eph 5:21-28)
What is Sacred Should be Hidden
I believe there needs to be a conversion of the culture to obtain the peace and sanctification of all people. We need strong Christian women as role models who embody the values of faithfulness, humility, courage, and obedience. Where there are bikini selfies on Facebook, there should be prayers for humility and modesty of women. What is sacred should be hidden and not flaunted immodestly. As chastity speaker Jason Evert has proposed, “When a culture of ladies arises, a culture of gentlemen will follow.”
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