Wonder Woman, with her Golden Lasso of Truth, metal gauntlets, and Amazonian sword and shield, paints an impressive picture of strength, power, and wisdom. She always manages to save the day, making superhuman feats of athleticism and intelligence look like everyday occurrences.
The Wonder Women of the Bible we’ve been learning about over the past several weeks and their female saint counterparts could be said to do the same. Armed with prayer, wit, conscience, savvy decision-making, and courage, they have saved lives, rescued nations, kept the persecuted safe, led their countries into (and out of) battle, and much more. Their achievements are awe-inspiring, which makes them easy to admire, but in some senses very difficult to emulate.
So, the final “saints” in this series will be two women who aren’t actually saints at all. They are both world-renowned and their actions are almost venerable, but there is a key difference between them and the saints: whereas the saints’ actions were Godly, inspired acts of faith that seem impossible to replicate, there are some relatively simple ways to be like these women. (It would probably be pretty difficult to guide the entire nation of France to military victory like Joan of Arc or to leave one’s home, family, and friends behind for a completely foreign land like Rose Philippine Duchesne.)
In fact, the first one of them wasn’t even a Catholic. She simply saw something wrong with the world, felt an obligation to speak up, and did so — which happens to be exactly what Catholic social teaching asks of us. Rachel Carson is frequently cited as the mother of the American environmentalist movement, and her book Silent Spring is widely credited as the catalyst for governmental regulation of pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. She was a scientist who noted a disturbing trend in the wildlife populations in areas with high rates of pesticide exposure, wrote a book about it, and changed the way we view chemicals and conservation forever. That was very difficult, but joining a Surfrider weekend beach cleanup, working to compost and recycle more, or spending a weekday afternoon restoring native plant species to San Francisco with the Presidio Native Plant Nursery wouldn’t be difficult at all.
Dorothy Day was a Catholic convert who dedicated her life to the development of the Catholic Worker Movement. It began as a sociopolitical organization, and has since evolved into communities of Catholics working to serve those living life on the margins. With the Great Depression in full swing and almost one-quarter of working America without work, Day saw how hard life was, and she did something to make it better. But starting a social movement isn’t the only way to reach out to those living on the margins. Be a little like Day, and give some time to St. Anthony’s Dining Room or the San Francisco Food Bank, make lunches for the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s sandwich Sundays, or make a small donation to a favorite charity each month.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the incredible feats of these Wonder Women of the Bible. But, we can all be Wonder Women (and Men!) in our own ways, and leading an army into battle isn’t necessarily on the job description.
--Claire Kosewic, Parishioner
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