Confronting the Stereotypes Associated with Catholic Womanhood
Letter from Lucia Gonzalez
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Hola my dear sisters,
Dorothy Day once said, “Don’t call me a Saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”
I know what she meant there.
I’m a cradle Catholic...and I mean very cradled. I grew up in a devout Catholic family with 10 siblings, going to daily Mass, praying the Rosary every night, going to Catholic school my entire life, to now being a Catholic high school Theology teacher. Oh, and I’m Hispanic, so it’s part of my culture to be super religious, right? Wrong! When people find out these things about me, they immediately put me in a box. But it’s the kind of box that would have “fragile”stamped all over it. People assume things like I don’t enjoy having “real” fun, I’m a robot who follows “religious rules” blindly, I could only possibly be from one political party, I only like people like myself, I find progressive thinking evil, etc. Thus many are surprised when they hear that I have true friends of many religious backgrounds or no religious background at all. They can even be surprised that I love late night salsa dancing, drinking Scotch, staying out with friends till the bars close, listening to rap along with Christian music in my car, and that I’ve gone through some hard things in life that I didn’t want to just smile away because "Jesus Loves me.” It’s frustrating.
The truth is growing up with Catholic values presented to me every single day encouraged me to be fun-loving, strong, brave, creative and ingenuitive.
To not give up when the going gets tough because there’s a bigger picture in suffering. To be compassionate and service oriented. And I am not perfect, but I'm okay with that. Because I’m not ultimately trying to be better than others, simply trying to be all God intended me to be. Not every person who worked their whole life to make it to the Olympics received a gold medal, but they sure achieved a whole lot more than if they had never set their goal so high in the first place. So I set my goal for heaven. I fall short and have been dramatic, petty, selfish, rude and lazy...but I keep trying. This is why you cannot put me in a box. We Catholic women come from all sorts of backgrounds, political parties, and groups of interests...it is just our end goal that is the same. Yet the world does not always think so and we often have to face negative stereotypes.
But I want my life to shout that being Catholic my whole life has not made me boring and rigid. It has given me more time to understand why I believe what I believe. And I can say with certainty I don’t just practice my faith because it was spoon fed to me and definitely not just because it’s the cool trend of the moment. I did question my faith on several occasions in several ways, and each time I discovered authentic truth, it always pointed back to the Church.
But I also discovered that while we believe the Faith itself is perfect, those who practice it are not. That is probably what led Fulton J. Sheen to say, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”
I think that is something that really hits home right now with atrocious scandals coming to light that have affected all of us in the Church. But I know that is not what the Church is nor what it truly stands for.
With the unique gifts and interests I was given I want to do what I can to spread the truth. Salsa dancing may not seem like a typical way to dispel misconceptions of what it means to be Catholic, but oh the stories I could tell of faith-filled conversations with dance partners I’ve had some of which even led to atheists going to Church or adoration with me.
The point is there is not one way to live out the Faith and being a cradle-Catholic does not mean you are one specific thing. Some of the amazing Catholic women that I personally know are weightlifters, marine biologists, environmental advocates, nuns, actresses, make-up artists, CEOs, bakers, plumbers, fashion designers, real-life princesses, artists, welders, teachers, singers, engineers, physical therapists, scientists, speech pathologists, pilots, motorcycle riders, professional athletes, politicians, nurses, doctors, baristas, tattoo-artists and incredible mothers. You’d need a pretty big box to fit them all into one.
I like to remember that things that are worthwhile are often not easy, as is the case of a faith-filled life, but it is made even harder when people limit their views of what that means. So don’t call me a Saint and dismiss me as a boring Bible-hugging weirdo. Saints are trail blazers. I am not a Saint. Not yet anyways. But I know if I truly want to be a Saint, it will be by not being boring. It will be by living my life to the fullest for God, as if each day was my last. By doing things that may be surprising to others, but that’s okay. The glory of God is man (and woman) fully alive. I’m ready to give God all the glory I can. I’m ready to show people that being Catholic is flipping amazing and no box is going to limit me.
Ad majorem dei gloriam sisters. God bless!
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Get to know Lucia
Full name: Lucia Gonzalez
Occupation: High School Theology Teacher
Location: Charleston, SC
Educational background: Franciscan University of Steubenville (double majored in Communications and Theology).
How does your Catholic faith affect the way you live your day-to-day life?
It encourages me to live intentionally every single day.
I like to ask people “How are you?” and actually want to wait for the response.
I love meeting new people because each person has a bit of God in them, so I see it as getting to know Him better. If I did not try to have at least one solid, one-on-one conversation with a friend during a week, I feel like my week is not complete.
When I watch movies, I’m always searching for a deeper moral Faith lesson in the plot. That tends to add excitement too, haha.
Also, my job is to literally teach the Faith, so it comes up every day of my life...but I am careful to remember that you cannot give what you do not have, so I really enjoy attending daily Mass, going to a Bible Study with other Catholic young adults at least once a week and regular Confession and Adoration so that the Faith is not just my job but also truly a part of my personal life. And ultimately it makes me push to be a better version of myself than I was the day before, not because I don’t feel like I’m enough but because I am so loved by Love itself that I feel I can do more amazing things each day.
Has there been a particular teaching of the Church that has intimately transformed the way you see yourself and others?
The teachings of the Church are incredible and have all transformed my life. Angelology fascinates me and reminds me there is more out there than what we experience with our senses. The call to the New Evangelization has helped me grow in empathy towards those different than I and planted a love for mission work in my heart. And then there are Marian teachings that have helped me so much. For example, I used to think to be a good woman and close to God like Mary, I would have to be quiet, completely put-together, and serious all the time. Then someone once told me, “You know, the fact that Mary is not quoted often in the Bible does not mean that she was quiet and serious all the time...what we learn about her from Scripture is just the beginning. How she is quoted does not mean she is just one type of woman...instead, every woman can relate to at least one thing that is mentioned about her in Scripture...in other words, in one way or another, every woman can exemplify her close relationship to God.” This helped me get over the constant tug towards competing with other women out of fear that “they were better than me” or even “holier than me” because all women, no matter their personality type, have something beautiful to offer the world and we don’t have to compete...instead we should uplift one another. I also heard about Mary having nicknames for the children she appeared to in Rwanda and how she would sometimes use those names to lovingly tease them and that made me smile so much. So both of these things showed me that I -- a silly, not always put together woman who at many times shows love through teasing others -- can still have a deep, loving relationship with the Lord, as the Blessed Mother did.
What’s your favorite way to pray?
The Mass! Still do whatever I can to get there everyday. Adoration is a close second though.
Tell us about a woman who inspires you.
Deceased: Just about every female Saint, and Flannery O’Connor who used her creativity and writing to share beautiful universal truths (ain’t that the dream?).
Alive: Nancy, the woman who ran a local Soup Kitchen every Friday when I was growing up, filled with immense joy, patience, humility and a sincere desire to serve others. She inspired me to help at the Soup Kitchen every week I could and I think really kick started my love for mission work. She would even be so cute as to clip out newspaper articles about each one of us volunteers whenever that would come up so we would feel special.
Also Mary, a fellow Theology teacher at my school. She and her husband have been teaching the Faith for around 30 years I believe. She has so much style and sincere class. She knows how to bring joy into the lives of her students and is filled with humility. And she is always willing to give a helping hand and is very dependable. #goals
Fill in the blank.
My morning routine consists of: sleeping in till the very last minute I can (I would love to be a morning person but alas am not). When I eventually get up, I say a quick thank you to God for another day of life and ask Him to bless my day, then I get dressed for work, wish a good morning to my roommates, and grab a quick breakfast. After that I drive to work in silence and usually pray a rosary specifically for my students, or just do some sort of prayer asking God to bless my family and all those I will encounter that day.
I’m currently obsessed with: strawberry and Nutella Crepes; Dresses from the store Francesca’s; comfy blankets; mugs that fit your hand just right; Asian Dramas on Netflix; Dance videos on YouTube; cute local coffee shops; Music by ‘Penny and Sparrow’ and Lauren Daigle; and discovering new Saints.
I feel most inspired when: reading the lives of the saints.
My favorite part about my life right now is: living in a beautiful town surrounded by a great community of friends and being able to travel and salsa dance on a regular basis.
The advice I would give to the millennial Catholic woman is: always have some floss and a pen in your purse. Pray with friends and don’t be afraid to ask for prayers often. Know why you believe what you believe. Do the Marian Consecration. Don’t always wait for people to reach out to you...go ahead and reach out first. Value Loyalty, Genuine Joy, and Humility. Don’t allow politics to be the thing you always talk about. And don’t poke your wounds. Instead give them to God, hold on to Hope, and continue to show genuine love to others, even when it feels like you’re the only one doing it because you are the inspiration someone else out there needs.