When it comes to being Catholic in today’s world, one thing Jesus said is so important to remember.
He criticized the Scribes and Pharisees in these words:
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. (Matthew 23:1-4)
What does this have to do with being Catholic?
Well, if you spend much time on social media, the connection is probably pretty obvious.
Some very loud voices on the internet insist that we take on extra burdens that are much heavier than what the Church actually requires of us.
Perhaps you’ve seen Catholic women being criticized for this or that other choice — for the way they dress or present themselves, or Catholic mothers who are maligned because they work outside the home. Maybe you’ve seen someone pick apart another couple’s use of Natural Family Planning or how many children they have.
I’ve seen these and other judgments thrown around a lot. But when we look at what the Church actually teaches and at her history, a different message emerges.
The saints show us that Catholic women are radically diverse: Some, like St. Gianna Molla and St. Zelie Martin, worked professionally while raising large families. Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur and St. Catherine of Genoa were never able to have children. St. Joan of Arc led an army. Blessed Chiara Badano loved dancing to pop music.
You get the idea. There is such a great variety of female saints in the Church, and their examples show infinite ways to be faithful.
What do they tell us about what it means to be a Catholic woman?
To be a Catholic woman, these are the only two requirements:
- You are Catholic
- You are a woman
There is no cookie-cutter model of holiness. No matter who you are or what you like, you have what it takes. You’re always welcome as a sister in this wild, joyful, beautiful family we call the Catholic Church.
So, when someone claims Catholic women have to look or act or dress a certain way, remind them what Jesus said. There’s no reason to go around laying down extra burdens for each other on top of what the Church actually requires. Let’s make sure that message is heard, loud and clear.
Instead, let’s spread this message: You absolutely belong here.