By Cheryl Dickow
These are the most powerful words a Catholic girl can hear, know, understand, and believe. Fortunately, many young girls come from homes where this particular dialogue in a common occurrence. Others come from homes where this message is said, from time to time, but not often enough. For still others, this is a message that isn’t said at all, under any circumstances. Regardless of whichever situation a young Catholic girl experiences, however, the words are no less true, needed, and valuable.
For me, these were words I neither heard nor knew as I grew up as a child of divorce where Catholicism was left behind like a shredded tire on the side of the highway. Parents who belonged to strong Catholic families with strong Catholic ties were too wounded themselves to worry about the wounds that had been inflicted upon their child. Sadly, instead of turning to their faith, they turned from it. Instead of seeing the healing balm found in their faith, they believed healing to be outside of it, separate from it. Of course the ramifications of those decisions were to impart neither the faith nor its Truths to me, their only child.
This isn’t to say that God didn’t provide me with graces, though. Indeed, it was during these years in my life that I spent countless time in the Jewish homes of my friends and neighbors. I learned of Jesus as a Jew before I learned of Jesus as a Savior. My debt to these families will never be known but I have always been able to see how God’s hand has guided my life.
And so, as a grown woman, my own personal journey continues. It is one in which the Catholic roots planted by grandparents created a foundation that I would eventually embrace with passion. And while I can’t imagine how my journey could have otherwise unfolded, I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. I understand how our personal experiences are necessary for our spiritual growth and yet I have a deep aching to know that this message of Christ’s love is imparted to every young Catholic girl today.
So, as I continue to edit the “All Things Girl” series I find myself being buoyed by the knowledge that any and every girl who reads these words will have her heart touched in a way that may be both valuable and necessary but also in a way that creates a foundation from which a love and relationship with Christ will flourish. I see these books as having an impact regardless of which home situation the young Catholic girl lives in, whether she is constantly reminded of Christ’s love or has never heard of such a thing. I am reminded of what we are told in Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” The foundation and relationship of faith must be formed during this time of youth to prepare a child for the days ahead.
Yes, they are words I wish someone had said to me but now I am able to marvel at how loving God is that He would allow me to help those words be said to others! In my own quest to know, love, and serve Him, He has allowed me to passionately contribute to that same quest of others. He’s allowing me to help make sure that every girl knows that she is His daughter and, thus, a princess. The authors of the series have shared their amazement at the way in which I can “jump into their skin and complete a thought or emphasize a point.” It is because I want every young girl to rejoice in what is being said within the pages of this series. I want every young girl to know her value in the eyes of Jesus and how loving Him and serving Him will always be like a gift she continues to enjoy. In passionately telling each young reader how much she is loved by Jesus, I am telling myself, as well.
I’ve just completed editing the third book in this ground-breaking series. The first title being “Friends, Boys, and Getting Along” and the second title is “Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall…What is Beauty, After All?” The title just completed is called “Girls Rock!” and I am so thankful to have been part of this work.
“Girls Rock!” is filled with stories about women of faith. Whether looking at the story of Ruth or reading about Mother Anjelica and Dorothy Day, Catholic girls are inspired to respond to God in a very real, very personal way. Each and every reader is asked to say “yes” to God in her daily walk.
This book, like all the others in the series, weaves the Truths of Catholicism throughout and uses the teachings of JPII’s Theology of the Body and Mulieris Dignitatem in such a way so that every girl rejoices in her role as princess. Real issues are faced in real ways and girls are encouraged to “have a plan” in which their personal relationship with Jesus is developed through prayer and everyday behaviors.
When I was a young mother and had my three baby boys I used to remark that God knew I wasn’t equipped to raise daughters and so did not give me girls. In many ways I was too wounded to tend to the special needs of a girl and He knew that. And I was grateful! Raising boys had its own challenges but I knew they were quite different than the challenges faced with raising girls. Then, having taught many years in a parochial school environment, I began seeing the needs of young girls from a perspective and position in which I could respond. Not being the mother and yet being the teacher (religion and English) allowed me to emphatically tell my young charges about Jesus and His love for each and every one of them. There was a perfect balance between closeness and distance from which I could “preach.” Yes, there were rolled eyes but they didn’t hurt me, the teacher, as much as they often hurt a mother. I worked past all that and kept delivering my message of what it means to be a daughter of the King.
Indeed, as I worked through my own understanding of Christ’s love for me, I was able to share my enthusiasm with my middle school students, but especially with those girls in my classroom. Every message I had never heard as a young girl now became a lesson. Every Truth that had been hidden from me, I now revealed in my classes. I spoke to each girl as if she were my long lost daughter or maybe my future daughter-in-law. Every girl needed to know who she was in Jesus and make that relationship her top priority. As a consequence, boys couldn’t help but take away the knowledge that they had better be treating these girls with honor and respect as daughters of the King.
The boys were easily able to see that that, they, too, were His children. They were His sons, they were princes! I admit that sometimes I was practically jumping around the classroom.
I share all this to say, imagine my feelings in being asked to edit this book series! After speaking at a woman’s conference a couple of years ago, a woman came up to me and breathlessly asked, “Wow. What has happened to you that you could be so inspirational?” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry but now I finally do. I cry tears of joy at the idea that God uses each of us, if we allow it, for His purpose and for His glory. And that He has so honored me to work on this book series is testament to the graces He has in store for each and every princess, regardless of her age.
Note: To contact the authors of this series for a presentation, conference, or mother-daughter event for your parish or diocese, visit their websites at http://www.teresatomeo.com/ or http://www.runwaytoreality.org/.