We have discussed at length on this blog the sad state of our culture, particularly when it comes to questions of dating, sexuality, faith and marriage.

For example, huge numbers of Americans, are postponing marriage, or never marrying at all. A recent article in Our Sunday Visitor presents stunning statistics about marriage:

The number of marriages celebrated in the Church has fallen from 415,487 in 1972 to 168,400 in 2010 — a decrease of nearly 60 percent — while the U.S. Catholic population has increased by almost 17 million. To put this another way, this is a shift from 8.6 marriages per 1,000 U.S. Catholics in 1972 to 2.6 marriages per 1,000 Catholics in 2010…

[In this Catholics reflect the general social trend]. In 2010, 53 percent of Catholics surveyed in the General Social Survey (GSS) indicated that they were currently married. By comparison, 51 percent of non-Catholics surveyed were married. [But this an astonishing drop from 1972 when 79% of Catholics were married. Among younger adults 18-40 the number is even more shocking: Only 38% are married]!

Some of [the low numbers]  can be explained by Catholics waiting longer to marry, but the shift here has been slight. In 1972, the average age at first marriage reported in the GSS for Catholics ages 18 to 40 was 20.9. In 2006 (the last time this question was asked), it was 23.9.

Thus, the decline in Church marriages is more about not marrying at all than marrying older. [Our Sunday Visitor 6/26/2011]

Of course, despite this, most younger adults are quite sexually active. And the lack of marriage, and promiscuous sexual activity is a very poisonous environment for you people. There is no need to here recite all the terrible statistics of STDs, abortion, teenage pregnancy, single motherhood (absent fatherhood), cohabitation, poverty, broken hearts, broken homes, and children raised in less than ideal situations, with often terrible conflicts they have to grow up in.

And in these promiscuous conditions, and conditions of low marriage rates, women suffer a lot more than men, since (fair or not) the consequences of the sexual revolution have fallen much harder on them. Too often men “play the field” with few social consequences, while women end up used and abused, often pregnant and with little support. Many end up unmarried with children to raise or, tragically, haunted by the aftermath of abortions.

One may ask, “In this poisonous climate, what is a woman to do?” It is easy to say that women, who usually set the limits and boundaries in a relationship, should just be chaste. But the expectations on women to be unchaste are very strong. Further women are not a monolith and there are many different points of view among them as to questions of sexuality, family, priorities, careers, faith, and any number of other issues. Women who do seek to remain chaste and also to live an active Catholic life face many challenges in doing so.

So again the question, in a culture gone mad and dysfunctional, “What is a woman to do?”

One answer is given by a new group here in Washington DC called “Good Girls DC.” These women, most of them college graduates, most of them single, but some married, have gathered to support and encourage one another in living their Catholic faith in a world often poisonous to it. At their website, goodgirlsdc.com their vision is stated as follows:

We are a network of trendy young adult Catholic women who welcome all woman of faith. We seek to renew society through living out our dignity as daughters of God. We aim to create a place where like minded women can find fellowship, friends, and networking opportunities while encouraging each other to live up to their God-given potential.

The group sponsors luncheons, rosary and holy hours, book clubs, and other social functions in which women gather to give each other support in living their Catholic faith and to not give way to the often poisonous social culture of today. They also sponsor co-ed events that encourage Catholics and others of like mind to meet. Their website and Facebook page feature encouraging articles, of many topics focused on faith, uplifting stories, significant events, and helpful links. In the video box below is a Radio interview with Jessica Lanza, the founder of Good Girls DC that supplies a lot more information.

In effect, what are these women doing? They are, by God’s grace, forming a faithful remnant and seeking to become a leaven in society; or, if you will, a spark that will ignite a refining fire. This is, most often, how God reforms his Church and the world. It usually begins with small groups of the faithful, the spark God ignites. And fanned by the Spirit of God’s love, the spark becomes a fire, a refining fire that begins a purifying process in the Church and the world.

Something tells me that Good Girls DC is a spark of God and He wants to fan it into flame. Why not become part of it? While the group is for women only, Men to ought to form similar groups. (Here in DC I am aware of the St. Lawrence Society, a men’s group with a similar purpose). And men ought to support groups like Good Girls DC and encourage women to join. There is a hope that other chapters will begin soon in other cites.

We all need to be strong in a culture gone mad. To use a gloss on a scriptural text we might say Woe to the solitary woman! For if she should fall, she has no one to lift her up. (cf Ecclesiastes 4:10). The same scripture also says, Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecc 4:12).  Here are strong women, unwilling to compromise with the madness of modern times. Here are women who are standing together and insisting on what is right. Here are women who seek others of like mind. Here are women who seek their vocation, whether to marriage or religious life and want to seek it untainted by the often bitter waters of modern culture.

To remain chaste, faithful and focused, we need as Catholics to support and encourage one another. Thank God for Good Girls DC.

What is a woman to do? Find other women and stand together, grow in numbers and through this spark, let God send a purifying fire upon the Church and the whole earth.

Photo above: A recent gathering of some members of Good Girls DC.

Here’s an interview with founder Jessica Lanza on the Sonrise Morning Show:

23 Responses

  1. Charles Curtis says:

    Jessica: “Make your woman happy, and you’ll be happy..” Priceless. That’s the attitude. I sit here imagining what would happen if any man were ever to say that to an American girl these days.

    “Make your man happy, and you’ll be happy.”

    That’s even a thought crime these days. You’ve got virtually us all emasculated, Jessica.

    I hope you find yourself a nice, professional guy who’ll be happy making you happy. I really do. Two cars, 30k square feet in suburban Virginia or Maryland, tuition for the kids at Gonzaga and then Georgetown, to boot. It’s all a good girl deserves.

    • Why all the venom Charles? Jessicas comment was meant in a lighthearted manner and surely the insight goes both both ways. Futher the last paragraph of your comment is so dripping with envy, that it tips your hand showing that your irritation is far deeper than a concern about one woman’s comment.

    • Nathan says:

      We ought to strive to make our women happy and they ought to strive to make us happy – isn’t that the whole idea? We are made to be helpmates for each other for, after all, “it is not good for the man to be alone” (gen 2:18). And through the Sacrament of Marriage, we, in fact, become “one body” (gen 2:24) – thus to be happy we need to make our wife (husband) happy. How can I be happy if I am indifferent to the happiness of my wife, that is the rest of my body?

      What are you recommending instead? “Make yourself happy, and you’ll be happy?”

      The only suggestion I’d make to Jessica is that we ought to “make our (wo)man HOLY, so that we might be HOLY.”

  2. Daniel says:

    Msgr.,
    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. What a great idea, and a great example of empowerment. A group of faithful see a problem and come up with a practical solution which is prayerful, inclusive, and even fun. To me it weakens the argument of the male as a de facto “spiritual head” and points to the wonderful potential of lay (woman) led gatherings which are more and more necessary to keep people praying (and in the Church) as we examine the future needs of Church leadership.

  3. Clare Krishan says:

    Be careful with the trite bon mots: “Make your man happy, and you’ll be happy.” Simple-minded sentimental types can take that to mean ‘do what my man wants’… which may very well be not good at all for her and, more importantly, for him.

    Blessed JPII encouraged women to resist that temptation, to use their reflexive conscience to see how the character of her own acts determines that of her intended/spouse. St. Maria Goretti epitomizes this aspect of the theology of the body – she died, not just resisting harm to herself, but harm to her assailant. Every woman who contracepts does evil to herself AND her partner, every Catholic wife doing so puts her eternal happiness and that of her spouse in jeopardy, grave consequences not apparent in such a brief aphorism. Katherine of Aragon would be another example of a woman who’s understanding of happiness didn’t gel with that of her spouse, with historically abiding consequences.

  4. John Michael says:

    Actually, I feel some of Charles pain. Your article makes it seem like men are nothing more than slobbering beasts looking for a good time. I have dated women who were emotionally manipulative. I have dated women who let me know I am less than a man if I don’t sleep with them – and these were good Catholic church-going women. I have dated women who look at me as less than a man for having emotions. What? I’m not allowed to cry at a funeral?

    Your comment that “women suffer a lot more than men” these days is NOT true. It takes two to tango. Women wanted the sexual revolution. Women wanted the pill. Women wanted to do everything a man can do, which ultimately blurred the lines of gender definition. Can a man protect, comfort, care for a woman anymore? So many women who have such issues with that!

    Yep, ultimately, lots of guys end up feeling emasculated. And it hurts.

    • The article is limited in scope. It is about what certain women are trying to do to live their Catholic faith. The culture is poisonous and there are a lot of men who do play the field. I also mention that women are not a monolith and that not all agree on Chastity and Christian values. What Good girls DC is doing is a good thing whatever you think of other women. Also, I do mention the St Lawrence Society. So I think your critique is less than a slam dunk. But recall the focus is what a group of Catholic women are doing to live their faith, you ought to applaud that.

    • Brian A. Cook says:

      Are you scapegoating women?

      • Lindsay says:

        “Women wanted the sexual revolution. Women wanted the pill. Women wanted to do everything a man can do, which ultimately blurred the lines of gender definition.”

        Not all women wanted or want all these things. The sexual revolution was pushed by certain people (not just women) with an agenda. It has filtered through the rest of our culture to the point where many women are uncritical about the values they’ve imbibed from the culture.

        Case in point: In high school, I refused to sleep with my boyfriend of three years. I wasn’t religious; I had never been raised with any moral quibbles; I wouldn’t even have thought to challenge the cultural orthodoxy. But I was frightened and I was shy and I simply didn’t want to. My boyfriend announced it whenever he could; I was ridiculed (mostly by other girls); my mother called me a prude, etc., etc. Eventually I gave in and became one of them; I even became somewhat like some of the girls you describe. It took me a long time and a lot of conversion to realize my natural inclinations weren’t some abnormal psychological condition.

        We can fight all day about whether men or women are to blame. I don’t think many people doubt that manipulation and callousness go both ways, but you really can’t blame “women” or “men” in general. This culture makes us less than we are, less than we can be. I’m guessing the purpose of good girls DC is to counter that effect and let women know there’s an alternative.

  5. Rafael de Ojeda says:

    It’s nice to feel being in a different world for the better! Go on girls and I hope your initiative is taken elsewhere too.

  6. Lisa says:

    Great blog! I love hearing about groups doing good like this! I wish there was one around when I was younger. I’m happily married now, but I would have loved to have been in a group like this in college.

  7. Ann says:

    What a great idea. Best wishes to these women.

    I wish I had a group like this, especially in college. Campus Crusade for Christ made many contacts with me over my years at college, they seemed to be everywhere, inviting people to picnics and volleyball games and movie nights. But I never made contact with anyone from the Newman Center, or even saw an ad for them, etc. Nothing.

    I might have had a different college experience if someone had reached out to me. Not that I blame anyone, but I think it’s important not just to form groups, but to try to reach out and meet people where they are.

  8. RichardC says:

    I didn’t listen to the video. I didn’t feel like listening to a ten minute interview. Jesus help them to be true to their stated purpose. ;)

  9. Bender says:

    What we really need is more people who know what “love” is and for more people to love.
    And authentic love means loving the other whether they make you happy or not.
    It is not a quid-pro-quo.

  10. Cynthia BC says:

    On a recent trip to Williamsburg VA, my family toured the Governor’s Palace. My husband looked enviously at the walls of the entryway, bristling with swords and other weaponry. I don’t think he was being facetious when he suggested that the walls of our foyer be similarly festooned by the time our fifth-grader is a teenager. I believe he is determined to scare any teenaged boys into the next county.

  11. Luis Gutierrez says:

    I fully agree that sexual promiscuity is a disgrace. My wife and I were both virgins when we got married 48 years ago, and she is still the only woman I know, and I am the only man she knows. However, we cannot impose our morality on others, and we make things worse when we condemn those who think and act differently. Only God can judge, and “it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

    I also believe in my heart that excluding women from ordination to the ministerial priesthood is morally wrong, theologically baseless, and a pastoral disgrace. It is not even a “noble lie” anymore, and it is “simply” a matter of replacing “man” (vir) by “person” (persona) in canon 1024. Thank God, the male-only priesthood has not been infallibly defined as revealed truth, but trying to perpetuate the practice is an obstacle to grace.

    With prayer,
    Luis

    • Well Luis, to say it is “theologically baseless and a pastoral disgrace” does not make it so. But at the end of the day the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, based on the practice of Jesus and the apostles. We are simply not free to over throw what has been handed on in this regard.

      As for “not imposing” (as if you or I or the Church really had such a power) are you not (by your use of the term) trying to impose your view on the Church?

  12. Jeff Lea says:

    I’m not making any comment on the women of “Good Girls,” but reflecting on some thoughts I’ve had about the role of women in modern society and the consequences many of them suffer as a result of some of the massive social changes we’ve seen over the last forty years. On the positive side women in America are no longer only able to exist in positions of social subservience. Women can no be corporate executives, stay-at-home moms, political leaders, and school teachers. The range of acceptable social participation has increased enormously for them. On the down side I think that often the perception is that if we could just get the girls to go back to their old fashioned roles the negative consequences of recent social change (abortion, divorce, sexual promiscuity, un-wed pregnancies, single moms, etc.) would dissapear. Instead I think that what we need to hear is both a strong and unequivocal affirmation of the new positive roles women can perform by major institutions like the Catholic Church along with the moral supports necessary to ameliorate the negative consequences we’ve seen over the last four decades. We can’t put the genie back in to bottle. But we can recognize and affirm the value women contribute to society in their new social roles and offer support to those who have not benefitted from these changes.

  13. Shari says:

    The problem is not that the Catholic church discourages women priests. Jesus had ample opportunity to select women as apostles from His many women friends and elected not to do so. It is reasonable to presume that an omniscent God might have had a reason for this omission beyond absent mindedness and lack of forethought, and I am good with that. However what this has done in combination with the collapse of the convents is that it has left women with no real ability to live the gospel other than in their homes or to a modest extent as a volunteer in parish programs.

    This was not a problem back when being a nun was a viable vocation. Fifty years ago, a woman who felt she had a vocation could join a convent and be certain that in a year or two, after “paying her dues” she might be allowed to be a missionary or a teacher spreading and living the gospel in a small community of fellow believers. Now, in the United States, a women who became a nun would most likely spend her entire life as a caretaker for older nuns. If that woman had special skills (a physician or nurse etc) she would be sent out from the community to work in a US hospital to bring in money to support the older nuns and would get to be in community only a couple of times a year. She would frankly be able to spread the gospel more as a lay woman than as a nun. The loss of the parish schools with the onset of free public education and the loss of the Catholic free hospitals to Medicare/Medicaid has essentially robbed the convents of what was previously their main vocational pathways, and this is why they have declined. American convents as they are structured now have very little useful work to do, and most women can figure this out. By contrast, the role of nuns in places like India remains a vibrant vocation for women, but then, there is no universal free education and hospital care is more patchy there.

    I think the more important issue is to find a role for committed women who desire to give themselves to God but find no calling to be a nun as it is currently structured. Personally, I think there is no reason why there should not be female deacons. There are plenty of reports of female deacons in the early church and in Scripture. There is little reason to refuse such service in the current church other than the fear that female deacons will result in female priests. Alternately, convents could be encouraged to actually do something useful, like engage in prison ministry or run homeless shelters or halfway houses for drug abusers. This would restore to women their “servant vocation” without going to the trouble or confusion of bringing back women deacons. However right now US nuns are so elderly, one can’t blame them for not being up to the task of reconfiguring into a difficult new role. This leaves women with nothing serious to do other than engage in various volunteer roles in their parish or to try to enter the church bureacracy.

    • Jeff Lea says:

      I’m never exactly sure why–because all the justifications given ring hollow–but I too prefer that the priesthood remain an all male institution. Perhaps when Jesus established this ministry he foresaw the day when the number of priests would decline to its present levels, and permitted women to serve as deacons because they would someday resume leadership on the parish level. Where I live in the south the local parishes are all mega-chuches with 4 to 5 thousand family memberships. It is not possible for two priests to effectively minister to that number of people. And in my own experience with a handicapped son we were completely left out.

      But I can see where leadership by women deacons would directly benefit the local parish. If we are going to continue to have mega-catholic-churches we should probably be looking at how the protestant versions are managing their affairs. They frequently employ associate ministers to develop a broad range of smaller communities within the larger mega-church. I think women deacons would be ideally suited for this task. That way we would still have a male priesthood to celebrate the mass, but women would have a recognized and institutional role in building up the parish community(ies) into the larger body of Christ.

      Oh, and on dating, asking a girl out can be terrifying. But part of the thrill was the fear. From my own experience with marriage I think we have gotten out of whack with what we have the right to expect from each other.

      • Shari says:

        Well one can’t help but notice that in the various denominations where the woman priest experiment has been tried, this has resulted in a sudden fall off of membership that has persisted. In other words, the fruits of the trial do not appear promising. (Which is really too bad, actually).

        Sometimes one just needs to say, with Gamaliel “But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest perhaps you be found even to fight against God.”

  14. Shari says:

    For the record, I am not an advocate for women priests at this time. I personally believe that the need for the omission of women from the role of “apostles” will be made clear “later” after mankind is more fully united with God. Just as the sacrifices, and the Passover meal of the Old Testament seemed pointless and cruel until the New Testament came along, the relevance of the distinction between the sexes, I believe will be made clear in time. As I told my nephew (who is Hindu) we (all Christians) are united to Christ, but that union is not a matter of people being dissolved in Christ. Christianity is not Hinduism where souls are dissolved in the world. In Christianity, individuals remain distinct as individual, numbered and valued cells in the body of the “church” (by which is meant all Christians not a particular denomination or building). The church (collective across space and across time) in turn is joined in a spiritual union with Christ the way man and wife are joined in a spiritual union in a marriage ceremony in the church. This is similar to the way that God is in a spiritual union with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They too are all very different entities, with apparently very different attributes, and I believe that the church is destined to be a different entity within this communion also.

    If you think about the atom, there are two major particles in the nucleus (yes I know about quarks and leptons but bear with me). There is the proton which carries all the charge and there is the neutron which is about equal in mass, and number but which carries no charge. The purpose of the proton is to do the chemical “work” of the atom. The neutron does no work. It is inert. However, if we knock a neutron out of the nucleus – BOOM –there is a nuclear explosion, for the purpose of the neutron is to keep the atom from blowing up. The proton is not “greater” than the neutron just because it does certain highly visible tasks, and the world would not be a better place if more neutrons were protons. The world would be a devastated wasteland that might not even exist. So it is, I believe, with men and women (including in their positions in the church). But I think this will likely be made plain later. However probably not in my lifetime.

Leave a Reply