On the Role of Women in the Church in the Modern World

By Brendan Slovacek

In celebration of the May Crowning of Mary, Queen of Heaven, Born Dignified is blessed to share an academic article titled On the Role of Women in the Church in the Modern World written by our Ministry Director, Brendan Slovacek. Brendan serves as the High School Youth and Young Adult Minister in Steubenville, Ohio, where he also serves as the Program Coordinator of the Sycamore Youth Center. He also proudly serves as a Religious Affairs Specialist in the United States Army Reserves. He is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he earned two Bachelor’s Degrees in Catechetics and Theology. He is currently studying for his Masters of Arts in Theology from the same university. This article was written in conjunction with a graduate course titled The Church in the Modern World. For written permission to republish or reproduce, email bslovacek@borndignified.org. For citations, please reference Born Dignified as the publisher, listed as May 1, 2022 for original publishing.


On The Role of Women in the Church in the Modern World

By Brendan Slovacek | Franciscan University of Steubenville | Masters of Arts in Theological Studies Candidate

            A prevalent question in the Catholic Church deals precisely with the role of women in the Church. The question has been formed by centuries old arguments regarding the prior roles of women in the Church (such as the mention of deaconesses in the Pauline texts of the New Testament) to the inclusion of women in both pastoral and liturgical role in the Byzantine rite, as well as the continually evolving role of women in modern day society. The main historical role of women in the Church has been that of the lay people and consecrated religious sisters. Despite calls for women to be ordained to the priesthood, the Catholic Church has affirmed the role of priesthood as being reserved for men. Despite criticisms of this doctrine, women hold an important role and place of respect in the Catholic Church.

            The role of women in the Church has been a contended issue for centuries, as renowned sociologist Dr. Ruth A. Wallace points out in her article Catholic Women and the Creation of a New Social Reality. The author writes, “Before the changes legislated by the Vatican Council between 1962 and 1965, women, like children, were seen but not heard in the Roman Catholic Church. Even during the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council, women were almost invisible.”[1] Dr. Wallace expounds on her belief that there was little influence from women in the Church prior to the implementation and years after the council. Her argument stems from the initial lack of invitation of women to the council, to their lack of a vote or freedom of speech without permission of the bishops present, to the little to no women in lay person leadership roles within the Catholic Church.

            However, Dr. Wallace also felt that the societal changes in the secular world led to an increase in an openness to women in leadership roles in the Catholic Church. According to Wallace, “A study of Catholic parishes  in America found that 52 person of members of parish councils, 60 percent of eucharistic ministers, and half of the lectors (who read the scripture lessons at Mass) are women (Leege and Trozzolo 1985, pp. 56-57). In addition, when asked who were the ‘most influential parishioners’ exclusive of the pastors, the respondents produced a list that was 58% women.”[2] Dr. Wallace goes on to speculate that the lack of male leadership (outside of priestly roles in parishes, or even the lack of priests assigned to just one parish) resulted in the uptick in the place of women in lay leadership positions within the Catholic Church.

            Development of the role of women in the Catholic Church has seen an increase in the past 57 years since the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council. The Church Fathers at this council affirmed the role of women as lay persons, mothers, and religiously consecrated individuals with a place of great respect and dignity within the Church. In the years following this council, the Church has defined specific roles of leadership and ministry within the Church that are open to women, including those of lector, catechist, and heads of dicasteries and other offices within the Church.[3] To best understand the role of women within the Church, we must recognize several distinct (and possibly dual) roles that women may hold: Consecrated Religious, Lay Minister and Leader, and Wife and Mother.

The Role of Women as Consecrated Religious

            A woman who pursues the role of a person consecrated to the religious life has chosen to seek a more perfect lifestyle for themselves that more closely aligns to that of Jesus Christ. In this role, they take Jesus Christ as their spouse and live vowed to the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. This vocation is the complete and total dedication of one’s life to the mission of Jesus Christ and his church. The Second Vatican Council Fathers gave insight into the life and role of these consecrated religious in the text Perfectae Caritatis: “While holding in high esteem therefore this way of life so useful to the pastoral mission of the Church in educating youth, caring for the sick and carrying out its other ministries, the sacred synod confirms these religious in their vocation and urges them to adjust their way of life to modern needs.”[4] While affirming the inherent good of this vocation, the Church encourages women religious to see their work in light of the needs of the modern world.

            According to Religious Studies scholar Kenneth Brian Nauert Jr., there was a contrast between the vocation of consecrated religious life before the Second Vatican Council and following its conclusions:

“Before Vatican II, the dynamic of female religious life was based around a life of seclusion and commitment to God. Women often cut ties to earthly and secular life and entered into secluded communities and convents focused on intimate relationship with Christ. Women entering into convents and religious communities gave up all earthly possessions and wore habits that were designed to enhance personal modesty and sacrifice as an outward physical sign of their devotion to God and their profession of poverty.”[5]

            Seemingly, Mr. Nauert is arguing that many religious sisters were cloistered, or near cloistered, prior to the Second Vatican Council. It is worth noting, however, that many religious orders such as those led by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Mary MacKillop performed missionary works that led to the education and religious formation of many youth. Nonetheless, the Second Vatican Council further defined the role of consecrated religious women. In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church ,Lumen Gentium, the Council Fathers declared “Therefore, this Sacred Synod encourages and praises the men and women, Brothers and Sisters, who in monasteries, or in schools and hospitals, or in the missions, adorn the Bride of Christ by their unswerving and humble faithfulness in their chosen consecration and render generous services of all kinds to mankind.”[6] The role of consecrated religious women in serving the Church through the fulfillment of the evangelical counsels and expression of the theological virtues have served as pillars of Catholic mission and models of the faith for all generations.

            Of particular note, it is important to recognize the great influence that religious sisters have within the Catholic Church. Beyond their example of solemn faith and virtue, it is within the doctrinal beliefs of the Catholic Church that orders of consecrated religious women should be consulted on matters of evangelization. In the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Missionary Activity, Ad Gentes, the Council Fathers wrote that in regards to the Office of the Propagation of the Faith, that “Institutes of religious women, regional undertakings for the mission cause, and organizations of laymen (especially international ones) should be suitably represented.”[7] Thus, one can see the indispensable role women religious play in the mission of the universal Church.

The Role of Women as Lay Ministers and Leaders

The Church has more clearly defined the opportunities for women to serve the Church in both pastoral and liturgical roles in recent years. Previously, biblical and historical texts have referred to female “deaconesses” who served the church in her early years. Origen of Alexandria, in his Commentary on the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans 10:17, expounded on this historical matter, writing the following, “And thus this text teaches at the same time two things: that there are, as we have already said, women deacons in the Church, and that women, who have given assistance to so many people and who by their good works deserve to be praised by the Apostle, ought to be accepted in the diaconate.”[8] The use of the terminology of deacon (diákonos in Greek) has been contested as meaning “servant,” however, Origen also used the word “instituted,” and (in some translations to English) “ordained” as a description of the ministry of Phoebe. However, the practice of including women as “deaconesses” and servants in the Church was seemingly lost at some point until recent times.

Under Pope Francis, canon 230 § 1 of the Code of Canon Law was changed to say that “Lay persons who possess the age and qualifications established by decree of the conference of bishops can be admitted on a stable basis through the prescribed liturgical rite to the ministries of lector and acolyte. Nevertheless, the conferral of these ministries does not grant them the right to obtain support or remuneration from the Church.” This change was made as a direct result of a months of discernment by a commission instituted by Pope Francis to explore the possibility and legality of ordaining women as deacons. This change in the Code of Canon Law allowed for women to assume the non-ordained role of “lector and acolyte,” which was previously officially reserved for men, and in particular deacons. However, this role was unofficially carried out by women for decades within the Church.

Furthermore, Pope Francis recently released a new Apostolic Constitution, Praedicte Evangelium, in which he opens the doors to the possibility of lay person leading offices of the Church: “It cannot be ignored in the updating of the Curia, whose reform, therefore, must provide for the involvement of lay people, including in roles of government and responsibility.”[9] Even preceding his own decree, Pope Francis appointed various women as administrators in multiple Vatican offices, although no major office as of yet has seen the appointment of a woman as its executive officer.

Finally, besides the various volunteer roles that a lay woman may take on in the mission of the Church, Pope Francis has officially instituted the Ministry of Catechist as a formal role within the Catholic Church.[10] This role is available to both men and women and serves under the authority of the Magisterium, particular church Bishop, and ordained clergy. Through this ministry, the doctrines of the faith may be explained by lay persons to those awaiting initiation into the Church. This development signifies a formal opportunity for both lay men and women to be recognized as having a sub-role as teacher of the faith in the Church in the Modern World. While the ultimate teaching authority of the Church rests within the Magisterium, the formalization of this role allows for the expanding definition of the role of a lay woman within the Catholic Church.

Altogether, the role of a lay woman in the Church is no small task. Much like consecrated religious women are called to a particular task of upholding their vows to the evangelical counsels and the fulfillment of the theological virtues, lay women are called to practice these same virtues and minister through the allowed governance of the Church and teaching of the faith. The formalized role of women as lectors and acolytes in the participation of the liturgy further expands the life of the Church to include the special gifts, talents, and faith life of God’s children. Ultimately, each baptized person (whether a man or woman) inherits and is called to live out the three-fold office of Jesus Christ as priest, prophet, and king. While women may not be ordained in the Catholic Church, the Church has continually discerned the development of doctrine to better define the roles that are allowed for women to participate in.

The Role of Women as Wives and Mothers

            From the primordial existence of the woman, her most basic role is synonymous with her most dignified and exceptional role: that of a wife and mother. Sadly, the modern-day synthesis of the vocation of marriage and motherhood has often been corrupted. There are people who posit that being a wife and mother are subject to a patriarchal system and are lesser vocations, thus placing things such as careers and personal ambitions above the second highest vocation (second only to the vocation to holiness). However, the role of a wife and mother are solemnly proclaimed by the Catholic Church, so much so that even the act of marriage is sacramental. These roles are ancient, yet also have been defined further through the Second Vatican Council and the teachings of the Catholic Church following this council. This development of doctrine has allowed for the faithful to have an expanded understanding of these roles.

            First and foremost, it would be neglectful to not mention the reflection of God’s beauty on earth found in women. Both men and women have been created in God’s own image and likeness, and have both been instilled with their own respective qualities found in the likeness of God. While men and women may both possess similar qualities, God has often made certain qualities more dominant in one gender over the other. Thus, women embody what is commonly known as the feminine qualities of God. These qualities allow for a woman to provide a motherly instinct to nurture children in ways that are typically uncommon to men.

            In Eve, the human race found its primordial mother. While Eve’s sin led to the fallen nature of mankind, she was created in perfection for the sole purpose of love and fruitfulness. Because of the Original Sin committed by her and Adam, God foretold from that moment of another mother who would participate in the redemption in the world: Mary, Mother of God. It was by the sin of a woman that the fruit of the world was tainted, and it was by the fruit of the womb of a woman that the world was redeemed. These two significant events bear many striking resemblances and determination for the course of mankind. Through Eve, the primordial sacrament of marriage to Adam was made evident, while through Mary, the fruitfulness of Motherhood was fully realized. St. Pope John Paul II brings together an understanding of the special significance of being a wife and mother in his Apostolic Exhortation Mulieris Dignitatem:

“The ‘woman’, as mother and first teacher of the human being (education being the spiritual dimension of parenthood), has a specific precedence over the man. Although motherhood, especially in the bio-physical sense, depends upon the man, it places an essential ‘mark’ on the whole personal growth process of new children. Motherhood in the bio-physical sense appears to be passive: the formation process of a new life ‘takes place’ in her, in her body, which is nevertheless profoundly involved in that process. At the same time, motherhood in its personal-ethical sense expresses a very important creativity on the part of the woman, upon whom the very humanity of the new human being mainly depends. In this sense too the woman’s motherhood presents a special call and a special challenge to the man and to his fatherhood.”[11]

            This role of motherhood does not stand in opposition to the role of a husband and father, but rather enriches it. It is in keeping with Biblical tradition that “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.”[12] The role of a man and a woman in a family are meant to be harmonious and cannot stand without one another. Through the physical requirements of fruitfulness to the spiritual symbolism of a union that reflects the Trinity, both man and woman have special and equal roles and dignity in a family. Furthermore, the education of the children produced is the responsibility of both parents, as well as different elements of nurturing and providing for the family. In the Sacrament of Marriage, man and woman serve as ministers to one another. Rather than one person dominating the other, they serve as co-equal actors of the sacrament and are both infused with sacramental grace, which binds them together.

Since the Second Vatican Council, this role has been affirmed numerous times, especially in the works of St. Pope John Paul II. In his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, he further defines the role of a woman as a wife and mother in relation to other vocations. “The true advancement of women requires that clear recognition be given to the value of their maternal and family role, by comparison with all other public roles and all other professions. Furthermore, these roles and professions should be harmoniously combined, if we wish the evolution of society and culture to be truly and fully human.”[13] Some in the modern day society struggle to recognize that a woman may be called to both vocations of a secular career and a (higher) vocation of marriage and motherhood. However, these vocations do not lay in opposition to one another, but rather one is at the service of the other. Secular careers may provide financial stability, service to a community, and using one’s gifts and talents for the sake of furthering God’s Kingdom on Earth, while the vocation of marriage and family life ultimately leads one to greater fulfillment of a holy vocation. These primordial roles of a woman remain at the core of the Church, from their beginnings in Eve to their perfection in Mary, Mother of God, to their continual realization found in each modern day wife and mother. These are vocations of the highest dignity and fruitfulness.

In Conclusion

            The multiple roles of the woman in the Catholic Church have always held a special significance and dignity. Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, these roles have seen a development that has led women to a greater fulfillment of their purpose as daughters of God and heirs of Jesus’ priestly, prophet, and kingly offices. The Second Vatican Council shed new light to the purpose and role of the woman in the Church of the Modern World and the continual apostolic works that have been largely based on the works of the council fathers have furthered this understanding. By no means did the Church necessarily neglect the role of women prior to this council, however, the Second Vatican Council and subsequent works enriched the Church’s doctrine on womanhood.

The highest perfection of womanhood found in Mary, Mother of God, highlights the special role the female plays in society. At times in Scripture, Jesus intentionally refers to his mother as “Woman,” which is born out of a deep respect and veneration of his understanding of the protoevangelium: that God “will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.”[14] His use of the term “woman” refers to his understanding of the role of his mother as a woman, in particular the woman who would serve as Co-Redemptrix of the Church. The title of “woman” is one that holds a special place of honor. The Catholic Church’s doctrines have maintained and further developed especially since the Second Vatican Council that the person of a woman is unique, cherished, and above all a reflection of God’s own image and likeness. Women are valuable members of the Catholic Church and the fruitfulness of their works and vocations allow God’s kingdom to abound even more so on this Earth.


[1]WALLACE, RUTH A. Catholic Women and the Creation of a New Social Reality. Gender & Society 2, no. 1 (1988): 24–38. https://doi.org/10.1177/089124388002001003.

[2] ibid.

[3] Pope Francis. Praedicate Evangelium. Costituzione Apostolica “Praedicate Evangelium” Sulla Curia Romana e il suo servizio alla Chiesa e Al Mondo, March 2022. https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2022/03/19/0189/00404.html.

[4] Paul VI, Pope. Perfectae Caritatis. Second Vatican Council, October 28, 1965. https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19651028_perfectae-caritatis_en.html.

[5] Nauert, Kenneth Brian. After Vatican II: Renegotiating the Roles of Women, Sexual Ethics, and Homosexuality in the Roman Catholic Church. Western Kentucky University, 2018. https://digitalcommons.wku.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3453&context=theses.

[6] Paul VI, Pope. Lumen Gentium 46, November 21, 1964. https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html.

[7] Paul VI, Pope. “Ad Gentes.” Ad gentes. Vatican, December 7, 1965. https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19651207_ad-gentes_en.html.

[8] SCHECK, THOMAS P. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Books 6-10. Catholic University of America Press, 2002. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt32b2z8.

[9] Pope Francis. Praedicate Evangelium 10. Costituzione Apostolica “Praedicate Evangelium” Sulla Curia Romana e il suo servizio alla Chiesa e Al Mondo, March 2022.

[10] Francis, Pope. “Apostolic Letter Issued ‘Motu Proprio’ by the Supreme Pontiff Francis ‘Antiquum Ministerium’ (10 May 2021): Francis.” Apostolic Letter issued “Motu Proprio” by the Supreme Pontiff Francis “Antiquum ministerium” (10 May 2021) | Francis, May 10, 2021. https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/motu_proprio/documents/papa-francesco-motu-proprio-20210510_antiquum-ministerium.html.

[11] John Paul II, Pope. “Mulieris Dignitatem 19 (August 15, 1988): John Paul II.” Mulieris Dignitatem (August 15, 1988) | John Paul II. Vatican, August 14, 1988. https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1988/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_19880815_mulieris-dignitatem.html.

[12] Holy Spirit. Genesis 2:24, RSVCE. (Beginning of Time). Published by Moses.

[13] John Paul II, Pope. “Familiaris Consortio.” Familiaris Consortio 23 (November 22, 1981) | John Paul II. Vatican, November 22, 1981. https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_19811122_familiaris-consortio.html.

[14] Holy Spirit. Genesis 3:15, RSVCE. (Beginning of Time). Published by Moses.

Authentic Femininity

By Amylia Bult

Let’s talk femininity for a second. I say the word “feminine,” or even “ideal woman” and perhaps two different images come to mind for most people.

Woman 1: CEO, power suit and heels wearing boss of a lady. Her husband has more time with his flexible work schedule to be with the kids, so he’s the one who makes most of the meals, takes them to sports practice, etc. She makes it a priority to be home for dinner each night, tries to make it to most of those sporting events, and makes sure the weekends are as much about family time as possible.

Woman 2: A stay-at-home mom who has 5 kids and makes organic meals from scratch every night. She gardens and bakes and has the occasional crafting adventure. She volunteers on the PTA for her kids and is a carpool mom extraordinaire.

Now let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with either image. I know women who fall into each of these two categories. But the problem comes in when we place femininity as a whole into one side or the other, place one image above the other. Both of them are authentic representations of femininity because God made those women that way. Our identity is not wrapped up in what we do but in who God created us to be.

This is part of the reason why the Church, in her motherly wisdom, reminds her faithful that community is an important aspect of the Christian life. It is so, so important to have others to walk to Jesus with as a support system, accountability, a shoulder to lean on as we carry our crosses this side of heaven. But another unique piece of community is that, if we live it well, not only are we reminded of our own dignity, but we are also shown unique aspects of the Creator through the examples of others living authentically as themselves.

What do I mean by that?

Currently, I am in my late twenties and I am in a women’s group with five other women who are also in their mid-late twenties and early thirties. We all met in a variety of ways, but decided to start our group because being a Catholic and trying to live out a relationship with Jesus can be dang hard. I need other people to pray for me, to pray with me, to look at me and love me when I’m having a rough time, but also to tell me I’m being dumb and to stop doing the dumb things when they get in the way of that relationship with Jesus.

Sometimes when we get together on Monday nights, I’ll look around the room and giggle to myself at the six of us. We have many things in common (mainly that we love Jesus and want to get each other to heaven), but also we couldn’t be more different from each other. Some of us are introverted and internal processors and rely on the others to help us get out of ourselves, be vulnerable, and speak things into the light. Others are extroverted and external processors and need a safe space to process all the things weighing on their hearts. We have different tastes in music, different taste in fashion, different ideas of what is the proper way to put on a necklace (hint: there’s only one way and the rest of them are wrong).

Sacrificial love for one is waking up at 2am and giving up sleep (and sanity) to sit with her crying one-year-old. Sacrificial love for another is giving up her weekends to bring Jesus to the middle school students at her parish. Boldness for one is learning to say “no.” Boldness for another is learning to say “yes.” One woman’s prayer is for the gift of children. Another woman’s prayer is that the babies wait a little while longer. One is so excited about a new job position. Another is excited at the prospect of getting to be at home more with her kids.

I would never look at any of these women and say “oh you don’t fit a mold, therefore you are not feminine enough.” Absolutely not! There is no mold, there never was a mold, so get that out of your brain right now.

These women have taught me that the minute that you (as woman and daughter of our Heavenly Father) ask Him what He wants from you and use your personality, gifts, and talents for Him, and then do it, you’re living out your femininity. And for that lesson, I am forever grateful.

“The Three Do’s”

By McKenzie Gamache

Don’t think of a pink elephant. What did you just think of? Yep, a pink elephant.

Growing up in the Catholic Church, even as uncatechized as I was, I constantly heard the “don’ts” of purity and chastity: “Don’t have sex before marriage. Don’t be alone at night with a person of the opposite sex…” I wasn’t a rebellious daughter in middle and high school by any means, but since I heard the “don’ts” without much else accompanying them I tended to stop paying attention and instead grew curious. Later in high school, and now in college, I have found that the “don’ts” have been detrimental for many people, especially myself for years.

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Mass: Our Weekly Miracle

By Cecilia Elizabeth Linares Castillo

I‘ve always thought that I had never experienced a miracle in my life, until I realized all of the times that I have been witnessing the greatest of miracles— at the altar.


Sometimes we caught ourselves going to Mass, because it’s part of our routine, for obligation or just because it is what we have done all of our lives. But of course, it is one of the biggest mistakes. Mass should be lived and prayed deeply. On Earth, it is the biggest opportunity for us to become one with Christ.


Not going to lie, I used to fall asleep during Mass most of the time— can you imagine? How embarrassing! (I’m sorry, Jesus). If you don’t realize what is truly occurring at Mass, it can seem boring or tedious at times, but once you experience the flushing love of the Holy Spirit present in it, you will never go back.


I realized that I’d had the wrong approach when I started falling in love with Jesus, and I felt like something was missing in my intimacy with Him. A video appeared on my YouTube home page, “Pray the Mass like never before.” I watched it twice because I was overwhelmed by all of the truth in it that I did not yet fully understand. The more deeply I delved into it, the more I realized how much I was losing by putting so little into the altar.


How can I be so blessed that God reveals all these things to me so I can live a life being His little beloved girl? Me, a sinner? But, what can I do in my littleness? All this things started coming to my mind and I felt that I wasn’t enough, that I wasn’t able to comprehend all that was happening in the Mass, that I couldn’t give to God what He deserves.
But when the infinite mercy of God came into my life, I felt loved; I felt chosen. I was reminded by Him that He wants my heart, and that all I have to offer is because of Him, and that is enough. He never puts expectations on us, because of His merciful, loving and sacred heart.


Think about this, how blessed are we to be convocated in honor of the Holy Trinity for its worship! Mass is unlike any other service: It’s not about us— we go to fully worship a triumph God, and we are purified by the Eucharist and by so many prayers, as our angels on Heaven descend to offer our prayers to the Father.


During Mass, the altar on Earth unites with the altar on Heaven and they become one, we got many key parts in the holy celebration where we pray, listen and learn the word of God, especially where we worship the word made flesh. Today, I´m not going to go in depth about the parts of the Mass, but I highly encourage you to research about it, it’ll open your heart to encounter Jesus in the most amazing way.


In the Eucharist, the promise made to the apostles, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20) is fulfilled. I am forever thankful to be a cradle Catholic, and I feel so blessed to be able to have all of this fruits that God has to offer us through the Church.


Living the Eucharist and knowing what it truly means is the best way I’ve ever lived my life. I’m only 20 years old, and I still got a lot to learn, but my heart is full of joy to be part of the greatest sacrifice offered to the Father, by Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

As Saint John Vianney said:

“If we knew the value of the Holy Sacrifice of Mass, we would put our greatest effort to assist to it.”


Mass is Heaven on Earth!

Deepfake: When the Nudes Aren’t You

By Rebekah Hardy

A few years ago, I was sitting at my teacher’s desk while my students took their religion test. I was going back and forth between grading papers and checking my email when suddenly I saw one, then ten, then twenty friend requests come in to my Facebook inbox from men that I didn’t know. I checked my page to see what was going on and if I was getting spammed. When I checked my inbox there were messages… gross ones. 

I didn’t know what I did to bring all of this creepiness into my life. I ignored the messages and just deleted them thinking it was some kind of awful mistake that all of these people were messaging me. The next day I received even more friend requests and then finally a message that made my heart stop. Someone was kind enough to send me screenshots from a couple of popular sites… it was a picture of my face photoshopped onto a naked woman’s body with all my contact information listed. I couldn’t believe it.

I was struck with absolute horror and my stomach turned in disgust that someone would do this to me. I had never taken a naked picture in my life! I felt so shameful knowing that all of these men in my friend requests were looking at a picture of someone who they thought was me. People were lusting after this picture of someone they probably imagined was a consenting adult. I was horrified at the thought that one of my students, my boss, my friends, would come across this and how much damage that would produce- even though it was fake. 

I felt like it was real. The person who sent me the screenshot to me said they were so sorry someone had shared my pictures… but they weren’t even mine. Somewhere in the world, however, there was someone who did take that picture of herself. My heart broke at the thought that she was also being exploited through this. I felt for my poor sister in Christ.

For weeks I would report these pictures and they would be taken down only to pop back up a couple of days later with more raunchy captions. I felt like I wasn’t safe when I would think about the ill-intentioned people who might be on these sites seeing the place I worked next to the naked picture of “me”. I would have nightmares about them showing up at my work and following me through the parking lot. Out of fear for my safety, I told the priest who was my boss at the time about what I was going through. Thanks be to God, he took me under his wing and immediately reached out to the police in our school district to report everything that happened. He told them to keep an eye on me and make sure I was okay- and told me to call him if I ever felt unsafe.

That same day I went to my hometown police station with my dad and received so much kindness and concern from them as well. I got several calls from the lieutenant who took down my story over the following days to ensure that all was well and to give an update of the status of things. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t do this earlier. It was partly out of shame. I was so embarrassed at the thought that they might not believe my story. For fear of being misunderstood or disbelieved, I suffered in silence.

The whole time this was happening, my only consolation was that I knew it wasn’t me. Even if everyone else didn’t know that, at least I did. However, something else was weighing on my mind at the time… I thought of everyone in the world who this actually happens to. Revenge porn is a real thing and I know people who have actually had their real nudes circulated online by an ex or a spiteful friend. To this day, I pray for those men and women. The human body was never made for this.

To all of the women and men who have been lied to and made to believe that sending nudes is a normal thing- I am sorry. To all of the women and men who have been exploited because of nudes they have sent- my heart breaks for you. To all of the people who are reading this and are tempted to judge those who ask for and those who send nudes- don’t. None of us are perfect but all of us can be better.

For anyone who might be feeling pressured to send nudes, I would just like to encourage you and tell you that it isn’t worth it. I promise you that anyone who’s love or attention might be hinging on the requirement that you show them something so personal and sacred as your naked body is not the kind of “love” or attention that you deserve. While that may sound arbitrary, believe me, I know. I have had pressure to do the same thing from people I’ve dated and people who weren’t even looking for a relationship with me. Looking back, I am so thankful that I didn’t give them what they were looking for.

If you’ve sent nudes before and you feel like you can’t turn back now- that’s a lie from Hell. We know from Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians that “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17). It is never too late to start over when you have Christ. Start today. Let Him make you new. That isn’t you anymore.

Finding Freedom from Same-Sex Attraction

By Emmanuel Gonzalez

Growing up, I didn’t feel like I belonged in the Catholic Church. Since I experienced physical attractions towards other men, I felt far too broken and “dirty” to ever find myself sitting in the pews at Sunday Mass. I despised God. I despised His Church and its “restrictive” teachings on homosexuality. And yet, even amidst the deep distance that I drilled between the Lord and I, Jesus patiently waited for me to return home to Him.

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Responding to a “Triggered” Culture

By Ava Hill

Trigger warning! Not necessarily, but let’s take a look at the meaning of “being triggered.” The concept actually originated in the field of mental health with the intention of aiding victims of trauma or disorders such as PTSD. For instance, a “trigger warning” may be placed on content involving suicide to prevent those who have struggled with suicidal thoughts or have experienced loss as a result of suicide from reentering into an unhealthy state.

Now, most of us who are familiar with popular culture know that this is not how the concept of being “triggered” is often used. In fact, the popular usage diminishes the real purpose of what it truly means to become triggered. Just scroll through the comments of any Instagram post—it does not even need to be politically controversial—and it is very likely that you will find someone who has been “triggered.” It is almost impossible for anyone to share their thoughts online without allegedly offending others. This may not be news to anyone, but this offense I am speaking of is more nuanced than your old friend from high school unfollowing you because you tweeted about your support for a particular candidate. As this habit of being triggered occurs most often on the political left, it often involves an accusation and questioning of the other’s morality merely because of their religious or traditional viewpoints.

I attended a liberal Catholic Jesuit high school. I met many wonderful people and, most importantly, received a stellar education. I could not, however, simply speak my mind or think out loud in any of my classes. It was not for the fear of others disagreeing with my viewpoints, but the worry that I would be deemed as a less-than-charitable Catholic. Yet, this is precisely what happened. In a very social justice focused Catholic school, I could not speak openly about how birth control distorted the theology of the woman’s body because classmates and teachers claimed that my privilege kept me from understanding why birth control is supposedly so necessary. Furthermore, students would stand up claiming to be triggered because of their personal experience with birth control. Now, contraception is another topic, but I assure you that the Church’s stance is one of the utmost charity and beauty. Like other topics that people become “triggered” by, it must be taught, discussed, and understood properly—which is rarely done.

Another distinction between finding offense and being “triggered” is when one is supposedly triggered and shuns the other person because of the apparent infraction. The response to the offending statement is no longer, “I am offended so I shall have polite discourse or leave the conversation until this blows over,” but rather, “I am offended so I shall create a permanent rift between this person and I.” Many of us have seen this when our long-time friends unfollow us or start social media arguments because we shared our thoughts on a controversial topic, and it is a sad reality.

Let us make one thing clear, when people become triggered, it is most likely because they have a personal tie to the topic at hand. This is vital to recognize, and it is one’s Christian duty to be present to simply listen to someone’s testimony of hardship. Our responsibility, however, does not end when we listen.

Additionally, social media is hardly ever a place for productive dialogue. Therefore, we cannot sit back passively as we watch the morals of our world crumble down and the souls of our brothers and sisters be lost. We must continue to speak for Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Furthermore, as social media is a realm that seems to emit a great amount of darkness into our world, we ought to be the light source. If all Catholics were to delete their social media because they believed it to be a source for evil, it would only be because they let it become one. Thus, all the lost souls left on Instagram, Twitter, and the like would be left with no illuminating presence.

Ultimately, it is paramount that our prayer lives fuel our words. It is useless to babble on about God, the Church, and politics on our social media timeline if the Holy Spirit does not have time to fill us with His words. Then, if we feel passionate about and called to highlight a particular truth, we can feel confident that we are doing so out of Spirit-filled inspiration and charity, rather than arrogance. If people are “triggered” by our words, we can discern the true intention behind their meaning and act accordingly with kindness. As Christians, it is a grace, for we cannot go astray if we remain in the Lord and speak boldly and in love.

How to Start a Relationship with Jesus

By Ellie Pierre

July 3rd of 2019, Catholic Youth Summer Camp: I walked into a room filled with worship music, and before me stood Jesus in the monstrance. This was very new to me given that I’d never had an encounter with Him. I’d heard about Him, and I didn’t really think I needed Him. But I knew I wasn’t happy where I was at, and something needed to change. So I knelt down and held out my hands. I started to let the words of the song take meaning in my heart, and as I did, tears came—tears of repentance, tears because I wanted to change, tears because Jesus was real, tears because Jesus’ love for me was stronger than I could ever comprehend. I felt so close to Him at that moment, so loved, known, and held.

Let me say before all this took place, I was in a bad place. Long story short, I would make bad decisions that felt good at the moment, but once that moment wore off, I was left feeling more empty, lonely, and hopeless. I felt a longing in my heart for something more that I tried to cover up with things of this world. This longing was left unsatisfied until I started a relationship with Christ.

We can all have an encounter with God. But it is up to us whether or not we are going to let it change us. To have a relationship with someone is not just a one-time thing: it takes time, effort, and persistence. An encounter is only the start, just like meeting a person for the first time. If you want to start a relationship with a person, you have to take the time to get to know them. Here are things that have helped build my relationship with Christ:

Prayer

Prayer is turning the heart toward God. When a person prays, he enters into a living relationship with God.

CCC 2558-2565

You can’t get to know a person until you talk with them. Take time every day to talk with Him, being open to Him and everything He has to offer. It’s all free for us to receive. It’s just our choice whether or not to take that step to come to Him to receive it. He is here right now, patiently waiting for you to turn to Him so that He can shower you with His gifts and flood you with His grace.

The Bible

Above all, the Gospels sustain me during my hours of prayer; in them, I find everything that my poor little soul needs.

St. Therese of Lisieux

By reflecting on the Gospels, we understand how Jesus lived and how we are called to live and treat others as He did—not just by reading the words, but by praying them. This is called Lectio Divina. It involves reading attentively, reflecting on what phrases speak to your heart, resting in the silence of His loving embrace, and responding to what He is calling you to do.

The Blessed Virgin Mary

To love Mary is not to take love away from Jesus. It is to multiply, amplify, and grow in love with Jesus.

Fr. Mike Schmitz

If you are looking to build a relationship with Christ, Mary is the one to turn to for help. She was given to us to be our Mother and will point you right to her Son. Much like how the moon reflects the light of the sun, Mary reflects the love of her Son. Pray the Rosary, and meditate on the mysteries of Christ.

Eucharistic Adoration

The soul hungers for God and nothing but God can satiate it. Therefore He came to dwell on earth and assumed a Body in order that this Body might become the Food of our souls.

St. John Vianney

Eucharistic adoration will bring you into an intimate relationship with Jesus. You can come to experience this intimacy just by sitting in His presence, truly believing in your own heart that before you stands your Savior, the One who bled and died for you, the One who knows you more than you know yourself, the One who has a love for you that is greater than anything you have ever experienced before. Just resting with Him in the silence of your heart will allow intimacy with Christ to flourish. Take the time to listen to what He is speaking to your heart.

I pray this helps you to start a relationship with Jesus—to experience a love, peace, joy, and freedom that exceeds everything this world has to offer. There is a hole in everyone’s heart that only God can fill. He created us to be in a relationship with Him, so why would we want to do anything other than what He created us for?