In my house, there is one thing that unites my teens and brings a short reign of peace in our home on a weekend night; an entertaining superhero movie. My older boys are super fans, and no matter who it is, Spiderman, Superman, Antman … they love a good action film. My kids are always dying to go to the next superhero film on the horizon and will often show me the trailer for the latest and greatest movie that is months away. Me, I am not generally a superhero lover, but I do appreciate their quest for greatness and justice for all. I found this particularly true while watching the recently released Wonder Woman movie. I cried, I laughed, and as I watched this movie unfold, I couldn’t help but allow my mind to drift to thinking about my Catholic faith and how inspired I was to help others, just like Wonder Woman. Now I don’t have to just think about the link between my Catholic faith and superheroes; I can read about it in Maria Morera Johnson’s newest book, Super Girls and Halos.
This unique book examines the commonality between two groups of people one wouldn’t ordinarily pair together – superheroes and Catholic saints! I was not only entertained in this book, but I was also left inspired to grow in virtue through taking a deeper look at super saints who embodied a particular virtue. I do have a confession to make: in some of the sections, I knew less about the fictional character than the saint to whom she is compared, such as X-Files’ Agent Dana Scully or Star Trek’s Nyota Uhura, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the discussion. This book is like giving mom the Cliff Notes to some of our children’s favorite films and allows us to pull out virtues and teaching moments to pass on to our children in their terms.
Recently, Pope Francis wrote, “Be brave in finding new ways to live, share the faith.” This book takes on that charge and helps to dispel the myth that “religion is boring” by linking the virtuous behavior of our beloved Saints to that of adventurous, exciting mission driven characters. As you read this book, you quickly appreciate how this really is an apt comparison.
Here is an excerpt from the book:
We’d never describe a villain as virtuous, nor would we call his attributes virtues. That’s because, in our everyday use of the word, we can usually agree that we’re talking about the things that make up someone’s character as being morally right.
To discuss virtue in the context of the Catholic faith, we turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for a definition: “A virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself” (CCC, 1803).
With this definition in mind, we can take any of those positive attributes discussed above and call them human virtues. These are habits that help make us morally good. We call them human virtues because it is up to us to practice them in order to achieve the habit. It’s a causal thing—to become honest, for example, I must endeavor to tell the truth always; by telling the truth always, I will become honest.
These human virtues, which are numerous, can be grouped, or classified, under four areas, called the cardinal virtues. They are justice, prudence, fortitude, and temperance. In characters such as Wonder Woman from DC Comics, we see the pursuit of justice; prudence is at work in Agent Dana Scully from The X-Files, and in Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, we see fortitude in conviction. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games shows temperance and self-control in a vicious setting outside of her control.
Characters such as these can inspire us to grow in virtue. However, we cannot attain these virtues without God’s saving grace. As we move from the heroines’ stories to the lives of saints, we see how the cardinal virtues, strengthened by God’s grace, led these women to holiness. We learn through these saints that we grow in virtue by practicing the tenets of our faith, too. Frequent reception of the sacraments, unwavering trust in the Lord, prayer—all of these things, in cooperation with God’s grace, bring us closer to God.
(This excerpt from Super Girls and Halos: My Companions on the Quest for Truth, Justice, and Heroic Virtue is reprinted with permission of Ave Maria Press.)
This book will leave you inspired, laughing and appreciating not only your Catholic faith but how fictional characters can be examples of virtuous behavior too. So, the next time I choose the movie for movie night, you can bet I am going to pick one starring one of these awesome female characters and then squeeze in a little discussion on Catholic virtues with my teens afterwards.
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Copyright 2017 Emily Jaminet