Think about those times in your life when you have felt inspired to something really great. Where does that inspiration come from?
The Holy Spirit. God inspires us to do great things with our lives.
----Matthew Kelly

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Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, just a Catholic empty-nester trying to figure it all out. The views on this blog are my own.

Book Review: Girl Arise

Picture of the book on a wood background
I was a little leery of the term "Catholic Feminist" because of its negative connotation, especially with an ultra-conservative as myself. What exactly does that term mean? Claire Swinarski clarifies the term in her book, Girl, Arise!

To be a Catholic Feminist is to love the Church and to love our sisters, those next to us in the pew and those on the other side of the world. (Introduction, page xiv) Basically, our idea of a "real Catholic woman" has to change. This phrase takes on different looks because we're all different; God has given us gifts and calls us to use them in our unique way.

Getting Involved

There were a couple of things that bothered me at first.
1) She used the word y'all in the introduction of the book. My initial thought: She's a southern woman! Wrong. It always irks me just a little when a non-Southerner uses that word. But, she did spell it correctly and even used it appropriately so I'll cut her some slack! After doing a little bit of digging I discovered that she spent some time at Tulane University in New Orleans, so I'm okay with her using that word.
2) In the 2nd Chapter, Claire references a biography on Dorothy Day. She then asks, "Where are the Catholics when it comes to sex-trafficking, immigration issues, along with sexual harassment, equal pay, and rape culture?" Inside my head, I was screaming "NCCW!" (National Council of Catholic Women) (One look at their Commissions page and you'll see everything CCW is involved with at the local, deanery, diocesan, and national level. Want to get involved? CCW is the perfect place to start!) Claire did go on to say she has had supporters of these topics on her podcast. I didn't see any hosts from NCCW as I took a quick look over past episodes, so maybe that may be a suggestion?

Claire challenges women in Chapter 3 when thinking about serving: 1) To serve is to be like Christ. 2) Don't run away. 3) Recognize the service you're already performing. She continues to say that we can't act as Christ's presence if we're afraid of a five-letter word. (page 29) But, what is that word? Labor? Serve? Maybe I'm just daft, but I had a hard time figuring that out, even after I re-read that section several times.

Staying True to the Catholic Faith

I really liked how Claire discussed women of the Bible as leaders. When she brought up the point about women not being priests, I have to admit I held my breath. But, she did an excellent job of providing alternative ways women can be leaders in their own parishes. She stayed true to the Church on this topic.

Reading the Chapter on pro-life, I can tell this is an issue that she feels strongly about. She has definite opinions and is able to back them up with good, solid reasoning (at least to me). I love, love, love this line on page 49: Adoption is incredibly complicated and difficult. But it doesn't end a life. It begins a new family.

Stepping Away

At one point in the book, Claire suggests that it's okay to step away from the noise, no matter if it's Church organizations, social media, or a community. I couldn't agree more. Your relationship with Jesus is so much more important and as she says, all of those things will be there once you get right with Him. Think about it: Most Nuns/Sisters, Brothers, and Priests go on annual retreats. As a single/married woman/mom, why don't we do that as part of our vocation? We all need to step away from the world for a while to rejuvenate our relationship with Christ. Fr. Josh Johnson says he takes a day from time to time where he turns all electronics off. He lets people know ahead of time that his phone won't be on and he won't be checking emails or social media. We all need that time to turn off the noise and listen.

Claire calls us to action in our own communities. We shouldn't think spouting off on Twitter or Facebook is enough. She devotes a whole chapter to describing what loving your neighbor doesn't look like(pages 86-89) and gives suggestions on how to remedy it.

Conclusion

In conclusion: Claire makes some excellent points all throughout her book. But why do we have to give ourselves the title of "feminist"? Aren't all of her suggestions what all Catholics and Christians should be striving for? Maybe it's just the fact that she's a 20-something Catholic woman and I'm a 50-something Catholic woman, but just seeing the word "feminist" kind of gets under my skin. I think I would rather call myself a  "Real Catholic Woman". Once I got past the whole "feminist" terminology, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it to other Catholic women...whether I perceive them to be "real" or not!
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