In the summer of 2014, one of my former colleagues sent a Facebook message to me and some other women, "Just finished reading this book and wanted to recommend it to all. It is worth your time, I will be buying it to use as a reference" with a photo of a library copy of Teresa Tomeo's Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ Not Conformed to the Culture.
This past year I read the book twice - once on my Kindle and then again in paper version because I wanted to be able to flip back and forth from different sections easier, as well as be able to share it with others.
One of the aspects that I loved most about this book is that I had a better understanding of the rationale for some of the Catholic teaching when it comes to topics that often come up in culture and the media, such as the Catholic Church stance on birth control, abortion, and the role of women in the Church. Though I had an understanding of each before, the book was able to provide a deeper background, which in turn helps to strengthen my convictions and feel a stronger sense of confidence in the teachings when it comes to the well-being of humans. When talking about women's ordination, Tomeo stated, "Although the matter is considered settled, that doesn't mean we should walk away from a deeper understanding of this teaching. If you're still struggling with this issue, reading and prayerfully reflecting on the above documents and Scripture and consulting a good spiritual advisor or director should help you come to peace with the matter" (p. 123). This is a takeaway for me for any Church teaching - make sure that I am well-informed from solid Catholic resources in order to have a sense of peace through understanding.
Another concept that struck me in the book was the recognition that many Catholic adults have not been properly Catechized. As I have been learning more about my Catholic faith, I have been frequently experiencing a sense of surprise that I did not know or did not understand certain concepts or ideas that help click pieces into place to make the bigger picture make a whole lot more sense. Earlier this year I also saw glimpses of Tomeo in the Symbolon series, another key influence on my faith development.
I appreciated that Teresa started the book by sharing her journey. Though our experiences were very different, I learned so much by reading about her growth and reflections and there were implications about goals for my own faith development. I respected her courage, trust, and personal development over time. This reminded me of the power of story and how we can positively impact others if we only have the courage to share our voices and stories.
Extreme Makeover was one of the resources this year that has encouraged me to view evangelization as part of my role and then inspired me to view ways in which I was already evangelizing without thinking about it and then to also start taking steps out of my comfort zone.
Based on Teresa's inner view of the media, it was interesting to learn from her experiences about the perceptions that are and are not valued in popular media, as well as tensions for those who are living in counter-cultural ways with strong convictions aligned to the Christ's teachings. Tomeo quoted Catherine of Siena saying, "When we are whom we are called to be, we will set the world ablaze" (p. 134). I am grateful for resources such as this who help me to reflect on who I am called to be by strengthening my personal faith development and convictions.