Fierce. Valiant. Brave.
Unwavering in mission. Descendant of an epic lineage.
In the past few months, Wonder Woman has captured our hearts. Guys cheer for her, girls want to don her armbands and wield swords. She has given us an image of womanhood—one of physical strength and fearless leadership—which varies from that of Emma Watson’s Belle earlier this year. Wonder Woman shows courage and tenacity amidst World War I, while Belle is an exemplar of grace and sacrificial love in a cozy French village. Both, though, display characteristics of authentic womanhood. Both of them speak to the desires of our hearts: we women want to be women of beauty and wonder. We yearn, as Belle sings in Beauty and the Beast, for ‘adventure in the great wide somewhere.’
As a kid I dreamed of sailing vast and choppy seas, swash-buckling through wild forests, and discovering new lands. Growing up, many told me I couldn’t do it. In games with our neighbors, I was an Indian--barefoot and free with a stick in my hand. When my parents bought a new fridge and gave us the big cardboard box, my brother and I made it our tank, our last shelter in a bombed out world.
What did I want to be when I grew up? My teachers and parents asked.
An explorer, I said. An adventurer.
Then, as I learned ‘everything’ had already been discovered—that I couldn’t possibly be the next Lewis and Clark--I shed dreams of that title.
My aspirations became defined by one word.
What did I want to be?
In my mind, to be strong was to be like my dad—with his calloused feet, a set and often silent face, and stories of years living alone in Africa. He was a kind of warrior, having gone on a great adventure across the world and returned to his homeland unscathed. He led us on adventures as I grew up: we camped in the hills of the Ozarks, biked winding paths in the woods nearby, and crossed the country in our van.
I didn’t want to sit and wait for someone to take me on an adventure, though. One Thursday night in college I knelt in the chapel, staring at the only thing illuminated in the church. The crucifix.
The stocky wooden Jesus hung with his head bowed, looking down at me. I looked up. I told Him the desire on my heart. I wanted to take someone on an adventure. I wanted to romance someone and show them the beauty of this world.
As I gazed at Him, I suddenly felt Him say, “Take me. Take ME on a great adventure. Pursue MY heart.”
‘Should there not be women who will do for love what soldiers do for patriotism?’ Fulton Sheen asked. After that night in college, I realized I wanted to be such a woman: to be a warrior on the forefront of love, pursuing Christ and fighting for His kingdom in this battlefield of our world. What did such a woman look like?
In a recent Catholic Answers Focus discussion, the bodybuilder and theologian Jared Zimmerer spoke of manliness and self-discipline. He also addressed womanhood, that true womanhood can be seen in array of women from St. Therese of Lisieux to St. Joan of Arc. Both exemplify womanhood. Both are heroic.
Joan of Arc, the French peasant who heard the voices of saints and led her country’s army to battle—then stood staunchly in defense of her faith in the face of death—is a literal example of woman and soldier. St. Therese, quiet and comfortable in her convent from a young age, is a less likely representative of womanhood. But I have only to look at my childhood, in my own home, to see I’ve been gifted with a model all my life.
During high school I disagreed with my mother’s decisions. I was impatient with how she responded to several relatives, on a daily basis. I pressed her to be courageous, dream, and pursue her desires. Her strength and her own adventure were hidden from me. In time, both have been revealed—for she fed her sister when her father worked overtime and there was nothing but a ketchup bottle in their fridge, she navigated friendships and dating after her mother left them in middle school, and she took herself to college with straight A’s. From there she fought for a Master’s degree in a male-dominated science field. Later she endured a struggling marriage, became her mother’s legal guardian, and raised a son with ADHD and Bipolar Depression.
Like my other mother, our Mother Mary, my mom has risked condemnation from others and watched her son experience pain as he grows. She has persevered in prayer, and through her ‘yes’ to hold true to her vows, my mother has seen them bear fruit in the world. Mary saw salvation brought to the world; my mother has born witness to a renewed marriage and happier children.
John and Stasi Eldredge, in Captivating, write ‘A woman is a warrior too. But she is meant to be a warrior in a uniquely feminine way. Sometime before the sorrows of life did their best to kill it in us, most young women wanted to be a part of something grand, something important.’ Despite what I thought years ago, my mother has been part of something great. She has gone an adventure, and she has become a warrior though circumstances could have beat it out of her.
Fulton Sheen says women who do not fail are IN LOVE WITH GOD. Joan of Arc was such a woman, my mother is such a woman—Mary is such a one. For some, our vocation of womanhood involves speaking with a loud voice and leading the masses; for others, it involves quiet, and caring for a small group of people. The vocation of womanhood comes in many forms, and we are blessed to have a rich heritage of Christian women who are fiercely faithful and strong.
When I was a child, my definition of 'strong' was limited to what I saw in my father and in the movies he watched. I dreamed of sword-fights and finding new lands. I thought I had to make my own adventure but, in saying yes to God as these women before me have, I’ve found that life with God is the adventure. He has equipped me for battle and invited me to live a mission of love, in a purely unique way, in this world.
I am not alone in this: God has equipped all of us for a great adventure in the 'great wide somewhere.'
We each have been given different gifts. We each have been called to battle for Him. We have been given a great purpose.
We, men and women of God, have been named warriors.