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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.

30 years ago I said “I do”. Here’s a recap on faith, grace, sex, kids, and love…

30 years ago I said “I do”. Here’s a recap on faith, grace, sex, kids, and love…

Bob and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this week. Dang! Has it been that long? It went by so fast! 

My latest column at Patheos is a look back, and a testament to the graces of living the Sacrament of Matrimony these thirty years. It’s one part our experience, one part what we have learned, and one part verifying that God’s plan for marriage is still a viable, and noble, and satisfying enterprise.  Bob and I often joke that we’ve seen it all, done it all… all the having and holding… and all the cycles of better, worse, richer, poorer, sickness, and health… and that we’d do it again. Here’s a small section of a much longer missive…

People ask what makes our love special, or what “works” for us, and we tell them: long before we fell in love with each other, we fell in love with Jesus. There’s an old proverb in Scripture that says, “A threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiates 4: 12). Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote a whole book on the subject that it takes three to get married, and we believe it.

We have faith in God, and faith in each other. When we said our marriage vows in the church that crisp fall morning in 1982, we knew we would vow for life… and that what we lacked in our own strength would be made up for by grace.

Talk to any Catholic couple married for a few decades or more and the subject of grace is bound to come up. They may not always use the word itself. It might be their reference to “God only knows” or an indescribable or halting acknowledgement of something that is bigger and grander than they are. But what they will say next is also true: that this love has changed them, made them better, even transformed them.

There is a glue that is stronger than our human love… it is divine grace. Sometimes we think it is just because we were fortunate enough to marry someone better than ourselves — that we lucked out — or discovered someone who believes the best in us despite our frailties, a soul mate. But what we’re really seeing is the truth of the matter: the radiant beauty of God is in our spouse. God magnifies their best human qualities, attracts us to them, and then He give us the privilege of knowing His Love through them. And yes, I’m here to say, in all honestly, that the profound gift of God’s Love made visible in my life, today, has a few wrinkles, some gray, and a few extra pounds.

Just in case you think I’m offering some kind of romanticized view of the love of God and the love between married couples, let me also say that there is a side of grace that is gritty, tough and sturdy under fire. This is the power of the vow; the grace and mercy that flows from the choice – the consent – of the lovers. When we think we cannot hold on any longer, the power of the vow keeps us true.

Read the rest at the Catholic Channel at Patheos. Feel free to subscribe to my columns here.

Mr & Mrs since October 23, 1982. (This photo is from last summer.)