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Among Women 170: Holy Souls, Holy Bones, and Giving Thanks

Among Women gets ready for thanksgiving as we work our way through this month remembering saints and souls. This episode features the return of Emily Stimpson to the podcast with a peek inside her new book, These Beautiful Bones. This is an interesting take on the everyday ways to live the meaning and message of the theology of the body.

I’m also sharing on the life of St Agatha Kim of Korea whose stirring story or martyrdom from the 19th century that does not seem so far removed in light of the ongoing persecution happening today. 

You’ll also find prayers for thanksgiving and links to help you read Pope Francis’ Lumen Fidei.

Listen to the podcast.

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About Emily’s book:

 

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Powerful wisdom from Emily Stimpson & Angela Franks – both recent guests on Among Women

While I’m busy in my own corner of the world launching a book to make the gift of womanhood and the feminine genius better known, I have to just stop and offer some praise for the genius of some of the bodacious –most excellent– writers and teachers I know who are doing the same. I learn so much from them!

First of all, there’s Angela Franks, my most recent guest on Among Women. We talk about a lot of issues on that show including how Catholic “new feminism” understands contraception, Margaret Sanger, and eugenics. For those of us who may not know our 20th century history very well, many of Margaret Sanger’s ideas have become part of the foundation that supports a culture that tries to “fix” society by weeding out undesirables, and has no true respect for the dignity of all human persons. Much of this thinking plays a role in our society’s contraceptive and abortive mentalities. But we have the power to change that both from a faith and a common-sense perspective.

In a recent blog post about working women, Angela Franks states:

According to Dr. [Jennifer Roback] Morse, fertility is not seen as the norm for women but is rather viewed as a problem.

This is exactly the problem facing women struggling with “work-life” issues today: their fertility is not a gift to be embraced but a problem to be solved.

What do we need? We need to recognize that fertility has certain biological coordinates that won’t change, no matter how much we want them to: namely, peak fertility in the twenties and decreasing fertility after that. Artificial reproductive technologies [ART] have less and less effect the older a woman is, not to mention the horrific side effects of hyperstimulating the ovaries plus multiple “left-over” frozen embryos. Check out Katie Elrod’s chapter on ART in Women, Sex, and the Church: A Case for Catholic Teaching.

What is changeable? Not really fertility, but rather social attitudes and structures. Let’s not attack biology. Let’s attack the real problems, and create better structures that allow women to bear and raise children…

Read the rest, it’s informative.

Then, there’s the amazing Emily Stimpson — also a previous guest on Among Women, (and whose book I recommend in the resources listed in my own book) — whose recent piece just further adds fuel to the fire that our societal standards are dangerous for women, especially our upcoming girls.

Here’s an excerpt from her post, “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Daughters Grow Up to be Disney Stars” over at CatholicVote.org:

Squeaky clean, wholesome goodness. For almost a century, that’s been Disney’s brand. But the young girls working for the Mouse have the most terrible habit of not getting the memo.

Case in point? Miley Cyrus (aka “Hannah Montana”), who went from teenage cutie to dominatrix sex kitten in little more than a calendar year.

There’s also Demi Lovato, who backed out of her hit Disney show after provocative photos surfaced online of her kissing another girl.

And now Selena Gomez has gotten in the game, with her newest flick, Spring Breakers, featuring The Wizards of Waverly star doing both drugs and engaging in threesomes with her female co-stars.

It’s not just Disney starlets that are the problem, though. The annals of Hollywood are filled with similarly cautionary tales. Not coincidentally, so too are homes across America, where girls from 5 to 15 and beyond are imitating the starlets they idolize, dressing, talking, and acting in ways that, in the not too distant past, would have made a sailor blush.

Setting aside the soul-destroying consequences of living life as a sexual object, from even the most secular vantage point the sexualization of young girls—Disney stars or otherwise—is bad news. Defining your worth by your sexual desirability causes grades to drop and athletic performance to suffer. It induces depression and triggers eating disorders. It leads to high-risk behaviors, sexually transmitted diseases, and situations where no amount of saying “no” can help.

On Sunday, two young football players in the town where I live, Steubenville, Ohio, were found guilty of raping an underage girl. That ruling has generated all sorts of chatter in the media about the lessons parents need to teach their boys.

And boys in this culture do need to learn some serious lessons. Parents need to teach their sons how to love, honor, and respect women, to see them as human beings to value, not bodies to use.

But as a cursory glance at either the Disney bullpen or the local junior high will tell you, our girls need to learn a few lessons too, lessons that are foundational to protecting their bodies, their souls, and their futures.

Then Emily gives some good lesson points for families, so go read the rest. You’ll be happy you did.

If the idea of living a kind of feminine freedom that is free of the shackles of a feminism that denies the gift of who we are as women — in the fullness of our biology  — and the fullness of our intellect, will, and emotions that are baptized by grace, you might just want to read my book  for an executive summary of the dignity, gifts, and mission of women. You might also wish keep on your radar the next books that both Emily Stimpson and Angela Franks will be publishing later this year. Emily Stimpson’s future title is: Everyday Theology of the Body: Meditations on the Mysteries and Manners of the Sacramental Worldview. Angela Franks, a theology PhD, will be writing about how we can better live out our lives with faith and knowledge of a sexuality and life that is loving, faithful, and fruitful —  and free of the entanglements of contraception and, oh, and so much more! So stay tuned!

There’s a lot of bodacious women out there. I hope you’ll count yourself among them.

The 7 Best Books for Women by Women (and one Priest) from 2012

The 7 Best Books for Women by Women (and one Priest) from 2012

(Okay, so that’s really an 8-book list.)

If you listen my podcast, Among Women, you know I have a passion for three things: first, to encourage women to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and their Catholic faith; second, to celebrate the beauty and genius of their womanhood; and third, to call women to serve others with love. With those three goals in mind, let me share with you my top picks for great reads from 2012, and the some of the podcasts that highlighted them. These books are grouped by the three aforementioned themes, and not ranked by priority or preference. They are ALL good, that’s why I’m sharing them.

(For the men reading this, you may enjoy these titles too, or give them to the women in your life! That book from Fr Gaitley, 33 days to Morning Glory, is for all, not just for women! Most especially, the books from Helen Alvare, Mary Eberstadt, and Colleen Carroll Campbell, have mass appeal as well.)

 

Books that build your faith:

 

He Speaks to You, by Sr Helena Burns, FSP (Pauline Books and Media) 41Bo2LdjiPL._AA160_

Though released in 2011, I didn’t catch this title until 2012. The publisher describes the book this way, and its spot on: “What is my purpose in life? How do I best utilize my gifts and talents? How does God call upon me as a young Catholic woman? Discerning your vocation can be difficult. But endowed with the spiritual guidance contained within this daily discernment book and Jesus as your lifelong coach, you’ll be on your way to self-discovery rooted in faith.”

So, with that said, JESUS is the “He” in the book title. This is a great book for women in their 20s and 30s… but even though I’m no where near that age category anymore,  I loved, loved this book… for its page-a-day wit and wisdom, and its great suggestions for daily prayer and Christian action. I think it could also be a good fit for women in high school.

This is a book to pray with; it’s a faith-builder for sure. Check it out. Give it as a gift.

Listen to the author — the energetic Sr Helena Burns, who has a spitfire faith-and-media blog named “Hell Burns” — chat with me on Among Women 143.

 

33 Days to Morning Glory, by Fr Michael Gaitley MIC (Marian Press) 51SKa-8TITL._AA160_

Though released late in 2011, this book didn’t catch fire until this past year, so like Sr Helena’s book, I’m including it. This book is a four and a half week retreat for your soul. What I love about it is that it is an updating of the tried-and-true Consecration to Jesus through Mary that I’ve been doing for many years. So if you’re ready to entrust yourself to Mary, and become her daughter in a meaningful way, or you want to increase your devotion to the one who is most blessed among women, here’s a good book to help.

(Through the years, I’ve privately used the formula found here by St. Louis de Montfort. Some people have mixed reactions to it, since its a bit “old school” in its language and approach to the daily prayers. I still like it, but that’s me. Blessed John Paul II recommended it, so that was enough for me to trust its efficacy.) However, I also like this new book on Marian consecration and let me tell you why.

I’m grateful for Fr Gaitley’s approach, because I think many more people will consecrate their lives in this way, using this book, with its updated language and friendly sensibilities as a spiritual guide. What’s more, Fr Gaitley introduces Montfort’s method essentially, but then incorporates wisdom from other modern Marian-devoted saints, (beyond the 18th century “classic” notes of St. Louis de Montfort), thus widening and deepening the wisdom pool that he draws from. It’s a beautiful, easy-to-read result. Besides Montfort, Gaitley also explains the Mariology of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and Blessed John Paul II.

You can do the consecration using this book on your own, or with a small group. I enjoyed doing it with a small group last Lent, and will renew my consecration later this year, either privately or corporately.

Finally, and this is worth noting: This book does not stand alone; it is part of a new parish-based initiative known as HAPP (Hearts Afire Parish Program) that you can look into.

So go to it. I’m here for conversation on this subject, if you choose to take on the 33 days.

Books that capture the feminine genius, as applied to women’s issues:

 

Breaking Through, edited by Helen Alvare. (Our Sunday Visitor) 41i1YszbbuL._AA160_

For years, I’ve been reading articles and insightful commentary from Helen Alvare on the sexual politics in our culture, law, religion, and family life. Most recently, in light of the controversy surrounding the HHS mandate in relation to Obamacare, she became the co-author of an open letter on women and religious freedom that has thus far attracted over 37,000 women’s signatures, including my own. (See womenspeakforthemselves.com). Breaking Through, grew out of that effort, and contains a series of essays from nine women who take on the myths and media messages that often malign Catholic women today, or that tries to squeeze women into a one-size-fits-all caricature. Topics include:

    • Navigating dating and sexpectations
    • Feminism, freedom and contraception
    • Children versus a “better me”
    • Being Catholic in light of the sexual abuse scandal
    • Faith, psychology and same-sex attraction

 

Adam and Eve and the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolutionby Mary Eberstadt (Ignatius Press) 41IXPzjMADL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_

This book has one of my favorite titles of recent memory. But besides its pithy headline, this book has excellent social, religious, and political commentary on its subject matter, which is, what the sexual revolution hath wrought. Critically and intellectually, this is a tour de force, not to mention it is superbly written and researched. In light of the present testimony presented, Eberstadt asks probing questions, as she proceeds to answer them, such as: Is food the new sex? Is pornography the new tobacco?

This book stretched me and forced me to think deeply, as it gave me hope in light of the problems it examines. I agree with NRO Editor Kathryn Jean Lopez’ assessment that Eberstadt’s book “is a treasure and a resource and a cultural catechesis.”

(I had hoped to interview Mary Ebestadt on Among Women last fall, but Hurricane Sandy pre-empted us. We’ll see if we can re-book the professor at a later date.)

 

My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir, by Colleen Carroll Campbell (Image Books) 51jyrsFYD+L._AA160_

This well-told memoir from Campbell, a popular journalist and EWTN host, plus a former White House speech-writer, describes her quest for meaning in light of her Catholic faith and contemporary feminism. Her story is woven with wisdom from St. Teresa of Avila, St. Faustina Kowalska, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

When I was reading this book, I felt like I was reading about my younger sisters and younger friends, who like me, have waded through much of cultural feminism’s promises and been found wanting.*

Campbell is a masterful writer, and given all the lives of the saints that I’ve profiled over the years on Among Women, you know that I appreciate when someone integrates their saintly wisdom with care and modern application. As for the writing craft, this is probably the most well-written book on this list.

Books that serve others with love:

 

After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman’s Companion to Healing and Hope, by Karen Edmisten (Servant Books) 41Vt+aDDqrL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_

When something like one in four pregnancies can result in miscarriage, you know this is a sad event in the lives of many women. There is an amazing amount of comfort packed into this little book of 120 pages. Stories, theology, prayers, comfort aids… just good, solid help and a come-alongside attitude to soothe the hurts on multiple levels that accompany miscarriage. Every Catholic family should have this book as a resource. Give it to your parish priests or your parish library. This kind of love-in-action book needs wide distribution.

I highly recommend my two-part conversation with Karen Edmisten about this book. Part one is on Among Women 129, and part two is on Among Women 130. 

 

My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saintsby Dawn Eden (Ave Maria Press) 51G1xpQt1RL._AA160_

Many women, and countless listeners of Among Women, have suffered from sexual abuse and trauma. This podcast featuring my interview with Dawn Eden was in the top three downloads of Among Women in 2012. That alone tells me this book is a needed resource. Of course, I give the author props for utilizing the lives of the saints as source material, but the book is that and more. Eden tells of her own path to recovery as she shares her conversion to Catholicism and through it, her on-going healing from sexual trauma, thanks to the graces of the sacraments and the wisdom of the Faith. I won’t say this is an easy read, given the emotionally-tender content, but it is accessible and practical. Listen to Dawn Eden’s visit on Among Women 140.

 

The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years: The Nuts and Bolts of Staying Sane and Happy While Waiting for Mr. Right,

by Emily Stimpson (Emmaus Road Publishing) 416bhJ+7DWL._AA160_

This common-sense title says it all. With passion, intelligence, wit, and beauty, Emily Stimpson – who also writes for numerous Catholic publications and websites – puts it all together with prayer, excellent facility with theology of the body and the feminine genius in particular, and profound honesty and care for her reader. (Yes, this little book touches all three categories of this blog post.) Stimpson tackles a variety of topics with nerve and verve: vocation, dating, sex, finances, work, depression, and more. You’ll enjoy her candor and stories on Among Women 144.

Note: If you choose to purchase these books through the links provided above, a small portion of your purchase will benefit the ministry of SQPN.

*(If you choose to read my book in the coming year, you’ll see what I mean. I concur with many of Campbell’s conclusions.)

Among Women 144: The Single Life Survival Guide

This week, on Among Women, we look at the lives of two single women who are separated by a few centuries. In the “Blessed Are They” segment, we meet St. Catherine of Siena, a Dominican tertiary, in her words of The Dialogue, and get a look inside the heart of a saint. In our “Among Women” segment we meet Emily Stimpson, author of The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years: The Nuts and Bolds of Staying Sane and Happy While Waiting for Mr. Right. Our conversation looks inside a few of the chapters of this wise and witty book. Find it here.