Ink Slingers Mary P.

Why settle for shades of grey?

Remember the scene in the movie The Passion of the Christ when the androgynous, almost-beautiful-but-not-quite Satan character is carrying a baby, and when the face of the baby is revealed, it turns out to be old, ugly, and creepy rather than a sweet baby face? This was confusing for a lot of viewers, and when asked about it, director Mel Gibson explained that the surprisingly hideous baby was a depiction of how evil is a distortion of what is good. In other words, it can appear at first attractive, but when we take a closer look, we [hopefully] see that it is a twisted counterfeit of the good that it purported to be.  This is what I think of when I think of the book (and now movie), Fifty Shades of Grey. Admittedly I haven’t read it and certainly don’t plan to see the film, but I know enough about it to know that it’s an example of how Satan takes what is good, what speaks to the deepest longings of the human heart, and perverts it into its own opposite.  devileverythingyouvewishedfor

Fifty Shades is about an innocent, and apparently boring, college student (Ana) who falls for a strong, successful man (Christian) with a proclivity for abusive domination in the bedroom. (I guess because it’s “consensual,” people might balk at the word “abusive,” but sometimes consent does not change the nature of a thing). The popularity of the story comes not from the plot or the good writing—in fact, I’ve heard the writing is laughably bad—but from the explicit sex scenes detailing this domination. The book, along with its two sequels, has been called “mommy porn,” and men and women are admitting all over the internet that it has “spiced up” their intimate relationships. The only conclusion I can reach is that women are enjoying the depiction of this type of relationship. Perhaps surprising even themselves, modern women are turned on by a man who likes to control and dominate women. This is somehow “romantic,” and like a “fairy tale” (if the movie preview is to be believed).

So what is the good that is drawing women into this story, but is being twisted into something dark and evil? Aside from romance and sexual intimacy, the good that is being counterfeited in Fifty Shades of Grey is authentic masculinity.

Here is where I reveal myself to be hopelessly old-fashioned and decidedly not-a-feminist (in the common sense of the word). I believe, and the Catholic faith teaches, that God created men to be leaders. He created them to be strong and active, with a drive to take charge. And I believe that He created women be attracted to strength and leadership qualities in their mates. These fundamentally good qualities have been twisted by the Evil One throughout all of history. Because of original sin, men in every age have struggled to live out their roles properly. Some have used their strength and their role as leaders to hurt and subjugate women, even using Scripture to justify this behavior. These men have misunderstood or ignored the fact that true leadership is also service. The role of a leader, of a man, is to seek and provide what is good for those in his care. True leadership, true masculinity, is never self-serving. A real man doesn’t use his strength to dominate, but instead to carry his cross, and even to shed his blood in sacrifice for those he loves. This is a hard truth, and thus counterfeit masculinity is nothing new.

jesuscarryingcrossIn modern America, women have responded to the twisted version of masculinity—the version that says it’s manly to dominate and abuse—by trying to feminize men and take over all leadership roles. While our society still produces many men who try to be leaders but completely misunderstand the role, it also produces a lot of very wimpy men who sit on the sidelines letting women completely run the show. They are content to take a back seat in the decision-making in their families, to play the role of the inept screw-up while women do all the heavy lifting. They prefer pornography and promiscuity to doing the hard work of winning the heart of a woman and fully giving himself to her in, and out, of the bedroom. Strangely, modern women seem content with effeminate men. But, I think that even as they fight against masculinity and try to feminize all the men around them, it is a secret desire of their hearts to have strong men who want to take charge.

And that is part of where Fifty Shades of Grey gets its success. Without realizing it, I think women are starving for relationships where there are no power struggles, or where they are not the ones always in control. They are starving for men to be manly – strong and decisive. (And perhaps men are enjoying the way that this book has changed their sexual relationships because now they finally get a chance to be “in charge” in some aspect of their relationship). The problem, of course, is that Christian Grey is not displaying authentic masculinity or leadership, and the relationship in the story is not one that will really fulfill the desires of the female heart. The sexual relationship may seem exciting but it does not honor the human dignity of both participants and is a far cry from the mutual self-giving that is the hallmark of a respectful intimate relationship.

Ladies, let us not settle for this counterfeit masculinity. The “bad boy” who misunderstands and misuses his masculinity is understandably alluring when the alternative is a wimpy “nice guy” who sits on the sidelines and lets women dominate him and fight his battles. But what about the third option? What about the strong, adventurous man of action who doesn’t shirk his responsibility as the servant-leader? What about someone who is willing to risk his life slaying dragons for you and your children – not only to protect your bodies but also to protect your souls? What about someone who is like the Lord, who leads with quiet strength, not dominating people with his power, but also not afraid to turn over some tables when justice calls for it?


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Catholic Women and Faith in the Workplace

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The number of women in the workplace today (full-time or part-time) has risen considerably since the 1970s. In 2010, 72 million women (58.6%) were in the labor force, both employed and unemployed (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Women in the Labor Force, 2010). Mothers make up a significant portion of that number. Statistics for 2012 show that 70.5% of mothers with children under the age of 18 participate in the labor force (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Working mothers in 2012). With so many mothers in the workforce, it’s to be expected that many are Catholic. Whether they work part-time or full-time, in retail, in an office, or in any number of work environments, Catholic women in the workplace live out their vocations as women and mothers in diverse ways while at work.

Our Catholic faith is part of who we are and thus not something we can leave behind when we head off to work. This may seem contrary to the business culture around us, especially in the public sphere, but it is totally doable. At the end of this post, I have provided a list of resources on how all Catholics can live their faith in the workplace. Check those out for additional information.

This post will focus specifically on women and mothers in the workplace. As a Catholic woman and mother I sometimes struggle with how to live out my faith in the workplace. It is challenging in a secular, public work environment and I imagine I’m not the only one who struggles with this. How do we evangelize those around us when religion is a taboo topic? It’s my opinion that we can evangelize others through our actions and be true witnesses of our faith by how we treat others, how we present ourselves, and how we care for our fellow co-workers. Actions speak louder than words.

Below are five suggestions on how we as Catholic women can be witnesses of the faith and evangelize to others in the workplace. but first there are two points that can apply to all Catholic men and women.

First, always remember to pray. Prayer is the most important aspect of our faith and not something to be set aside during work hours. Ten minutes at lunch, a quick prayer when you sit down at your desk or on your way to a meeting, an afternoon break to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet, any of these things and more can easily be incorporated into your day regardless of the type of work you are doing.

Second, don’t overdo it. By that I mean, be careful how you are witnessing to those around you. In the workplace you are surrounded by people of all faiths and no faith. Don’t be so forward with your faith that you turn someone off to it. It is important that we each evaluate the environment we are in and take an approach that works well in that environment and for us. You want someone to be attracted to how you live your life and treat those around you so that they come to you rather than run from you.

And now, five suggestions for Catholic women in the workplace:

Keep a Tidy Work Space

I know! This sounds like a strange suggestion, but stay with me. I once worked with a woman who had the neatest desk I’ve ever seen. She was also a strong Christian woman and one day I finally put the two together. She had such a focus and always completed tasks in a timely manner and almost always had such a good attitude about her work. I really think the tidy work space contributed to her ability to stay focused on her work and assisted her in keeping a good attitude. She had nothing to distraction her and it led to peace of mind. Women can be great multi-taskers, but often what we think of as multi-tasking is really distractions that cause us to constantly change our focus, which is not as productive as we like to tell ourselves. If we can create an environment in which we can keep our focus on the task at hand, we can approach those tasks with a positive attitude. As a Catholic we should look to our work as a positive good.

Be a Mother, It’s Who You Are

God calls women to some form of motherhood. How that motherhood manifests itself varies for each of us. Whether you have children at home or not, we can all bring our motherhood into the workplace. Show compassion for the people you work with: your supervisor, your peers, those you supervise. Show them that you care about them and that you can take a few minutes to listen if they need to talk about something. As mothers we do this sort of thing automatically with our kids. You can do the same in the workplace. Eventually people start to know that you are a caring and compassionate person who will take five minutes to listen and offer consolation when needed.

Keep a Servant’s Attitude

Christ has called us to be good and faithful servants. Be a servant in everything you do. Keep that positive attitude toward your work, stay on task, and be willing to go above and beyond. Be a servant also to those who work for you. As a supervisor, I view it as part of my responsibilities to help my staff be successful in their jobs. I try to do anything I can to serve them to that end. I believe women have a strong inclination to a servants heart. Bring that with you into the workplace.

Avoid Gossip

This one can be so hard. Office gossip is part of the culture almost everywhere. Don’t participate. If at all possible walk away when the conversation around the office coffee pot heads in this direction. Be okay with others recognizing that you are the one who will not stand for tearing others down. You might just have an effect on the office culture as a whole, or at least your little corner of it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your Feminine Side

Bringing our femininity into the workplace is a good thing. Women can still be competitive and strong leaders in the workforce while also being true to their God-given nature. I’ve already mentioned being compassionate to others, add to that being generous with your time and being sensitive to the needs of others. These are our gifts from God and we can use them in the workplace to be witnesses to the beauty of womanhood and our Catholic faith.

For more helpful resources on bringing your faith life into the workplace, check out these articles and other resources:


“Six Practical Ideas for Integrating our Catholic Faith with Work” by Randy Hain (Integrated Catholic Life)

“Faith in your workplace” by Randy Hain (Catholic News Agency)

“Show Catholic Courage in the Workplace” by Randy Hain (National Catholic Register)

“What every Catholic needs to know about witnessing your faith at work” by Eric Sammons (Our Sunday Visitor)


The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work by Randy Hain


The Working Catholic Mom by Mary Wallace (who also just started a summer series of posts on saints for working moms)