Our society is mesmerized by the modern superhero. Whether it is Captain America or Thor, there is something appealing about a strong, sure man who rises up for good. In a way, I think that superhero movies are the contemporary yet retro comic book twist to the old westerns, which depicted strong cowboys fighting the bad guys, the white hats versus the black hats, if you will. At any rate, the box office shows that the public is responding incredibly positively to the genre of superhero films.
Interestingly, this is occurring when Pew Research indicates that Christians in America are declining sharply as people who identify as “unaffiliated” increase. It seems we simultaneously want a savior, a hero, but reject the One. As a culture we are turning away from Christianity — recognizing Jesus as savior of the world — and turning instead to … an Avenger? Yes, we are, sadly, because let’s face it, Captain America is fun to watch and isn’t going to ask anything of us.
I’m not labeling Jesus as a “superhero” because that is to minimize and trivialize Him for sure, but it is interesting that recent statistics show that while our obsession with superheroes is high, religious devotion, faith in the One who can really save, is waning.
Let’s sit with that for a minute and consider how this relates to our daughters.
As a mother of six girls, I think about the following a lot: what kind of men are we counseling our daughters to look for in a date, and eventually in a husband? Are we putting value in the qualities found in a fallible Thor-like god or those found in Jesus, one who is God Himself? Are we encouraging our girls to develop a strong relationship with Jesus first, which is and should be primary, and which will in turn become foundational in her relationship with her future husband? We should be. We should be introducing her to Christ in the Scriptures and most certainly in the sacraments, and by doing so, we raise the bar for herself, and for the human man who may one day be her spouse.
We need to turn our daughters’ thoughts to Jesus, to teach them how to fall in love with Him, not in a romantic love per se, but the kind of total love of a created being for her Creator, one that permeates her to the core and challenges her to become what she is, a love that makes her — no compels her — to be the best she can be, pouring out then that same love to everyone she meets, and ultimately, intimately and personally to her husband and children, if that is her vocation.
We should counsel our daughters to know Christ well and first, and then to look for Christ-like qualities in the young men they date, which is the pool from which they will eventually marry. This means they date young men who, like Christ, challenge them to be good and heroically lead the way.
Additionally, while physical attraction is not to be dismissed because it is after all part of God’s plan to get two people together initially to see if they are compatible, good Catholic mothers (and fathers who will lead by example) must tell their daughters that they should look beyond physical attraction for enduring virtues and qualities in a future spouse:
• A man who has faith
• A man who has patience and strength
• A man who will provide and protect his family
• A man who possesses wisdom
• A man with self control, not full of folly or attachment to frivolous things
• And perhaps most importantly, a man who is willing to sacrifice for her and for the family
A man like Christ
These qualities mentioned above manifest in a human are but a shadow of the real One she must seek. Jesus. She must also strive to emulate His virtuous example. Obviously, perfection does not exist in this world, and I’m not suggesting we hold people to unattainable standards. I’m merely suggesting we look beyond societal definitions of “heroic” and think about what really is.
God’s plan is different for each daughter. Some may have a religious vocation or stay single, but most will marry. God is the ultimate Truth, Beauty and Goodness. The more someone reflects those traits, the more he reflects God. Let us teach our girls to strive for that in themselves and to look for that in their future spouses. After all, the real hero we must teach our girls (and boys) to emulate and seek, the One who really saves, is Christ.