Friday, February 26, 2010

Feminism: The "Apple" of Our Generation?

Feminism: The "Apple" of Our Generation?
By Cheryl Dickow

“It is evident that women are meant to form part of the living and working structure of Christianity in so prominent a manner that perhaps not all their potentialities have yet been made clear.” When John Paul II wrote Mulieris Dignitatem, his 1988 Apostolic Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of Women, he freely referred to the discourses of Paul VI, Pius XII, and John XXIII to shore up his own firm belief that women, when imbued with the Gospel, are bearers of gifts, charisms, and power (yes, he uses the word power) intended to “aid humanity in not falling.”

Imagine, “aid humanity in not falling.” That’s a powerful statement of a woman’s effectiveness and ability. So, a full twenty years after feminists took center stage and burned bras, declared their equality, and mandated a way of thinking that threw families into turmoil, John Paul II earnestly tried to set the record straight. In his document, Mulieris Dignitatem, JPII begins by exhorting what he calls “the greatness of the dignity and vocation of women.” It can be no surprise that our beloved Pope, himself in a Mary honoring relationship, would proclaim such great news within the Church and to Catholic women everywhere. One cannot be in right relationship with Christ, and His mother, and not know that Christ’s entire Messianic time on earth was exemplary in the way in which He broke with the traditional ways in which women had been mistreated to make a point. The point, as John Paul II lovingly describes, is that women understood Christ’s messages of God in a special and thoroughly unique way, indeed, a necessary way.

JPII brings into our consciousness an awareness of the women Jesus encountered and why it could be said that “Jesus’ attitude to the women whom he meets in the course of his Messianic service reflects the eternal plan of God, who, in creating each one of them, chooses her and loves her in Christ:” Simon’s mother-in-law, the woman who had the flow of blood, the widow of Nain, and the Canaanite woman, to name a few. Throughout the document on the dignity and vocation of women, JPII continually draws us back to the eternal truth of a woman’s worth due to her creation by God and boldly states that woman’s creation was for its own sake, just as was man’s, and it is an error to view God’s punishment as a result of the first sin (“he shall rule over you”) to be anything other than an evil inheritance for BOTH man and woman.

In other words, where our world has interpreted that Scripture verse salaciously, JPII eloquently reminds us that God’s original intention was for a more perfect union between man and woman. Equality was originally intended to be a measure of sameness as created beings in the likeness of God. Equal but different. Indeed, when JPII writes that “In the “unity of the two,” man and woman are called from the beginning not only to exist “side by side” or “together,” but they are also called to exist mutually “one for the other,” there is no mistaking that in subjugating either of God’s highest creations, both creatures suffer and this was never God’s plan for humankind.

Whether in regards to the societal misinterpretation of such verses as Genesis 3:16 or due to women’s general misunderstanding of their own inherent worth, the “feminist” has long ago gained momentum at the expense of what JPII refers to as her own “feminine genius” when she has chosen to pursue, at great danger, her own “masculinization.” In many ways it would seem that feminism, as a means to masculinize the female species, is incompatible with the Church but most certainly incompatible with what JPII exhorts in Mulieris Dignitatem. This is to say that a Christian woman who lives and understands her call, as a disciple of Christ, cannot also find herself on the “feminist” path where her own gifts are seen as anything less than monumental; gifts to be employed for God and for His kingdom. When a feminist claims that a woman is only fulfilled when she occupies a “man’s” role in life she is simultaneously saying to a Christian woman, “The plan God has for you is less than what you should want for yourself.” Sound serpent-like?

Additionally, it should be abundantly clear that a Christian man diminishes his own dignity and vocation when he suppresses a woman’s worth and calling. As said earlier, man is also a created being made in the image and likeness of God. As such, he cannot be called by his Creator to be anything less than loving, compassionate, wise, and forgiving in how he attempts to live out his life on earth. A Christian man understands how he is called to love his wife just as Christ loves the Church. As JPII states, “The bridegroom is the one who loves. The bride is loved.” What a beautiful illustration of God’s intention when Christ made Himself the bridegroom! A Christian man, then, conforms his own will to the will of God and in doing so, frees his wife to be all that God has called her to be and to fulfill her vocation in the midst of love.

But how are Christian women called? Once we get back to the basics, sans feminist messages to masculinize ourselves, and embrace our own inherent worth, we are able to find anointed role models in Scripture regardless of the different times in our lives. Has God called you to a position of great territorial authority like Queen Esther? Has He blessed you with a family in which you affect the world by the way in which you love and nurture your spouse and children? Or has HaShem called you to remain anonymous while you diligently work for Him just as Noah’s wife did? If Adonai has done the bidding, how can you refuse?

I would suggest that God counted on the women in Noah’s life, Moses’ life, Abraham’s life, and Isaac’s life just as he counted on the men. Imagine if these women had mistakenly bought into a message that their worth wasn’t in fulfilling God’s role but in pursuing roles designated by their pagan neighbors or their jealous adversaries. This isn’t to say that each of these women, and others like them, were without faults but that in their faults, and in their stumbling, they provide more of an example on how to live as a Christian woman today than any television personality or best selling self help book. They were the perfect women John Paul II wrote of when he said, “The perfect woman becomes an irreplaceable support and source of spiritual strength for other people, who perceive the great energies of her spirit. These “perfect women” are owed much by their families, and sometimes by whole nations.”

If you are ready to leave all the secular messages behind and would like to spend time discovering the richness of such women as Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, Zipporah, Ruth, The Blessed Mother, and others, please join me as I moderate a unique, online ten week woman’s study that has been approved by The National Association for Catholic Chaplains. If you are looking for confirmation that your life has God’s hand upon it, this study will nourish you and make you embrace the richness of your Catholic faith! Please visit my website for more information as registration is currently underway.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

You are a Daughter of the King!

You are a Daughter of the King!
By Cheryl Dickow

“As the daughter of the King, you are a princess!”

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 or