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A painting of Judith, the Blessed Mother, and EstherRon Dilenno

(LifeSiteNews) — We need more books, series, cartoons, and movies that tell stories that celebrate virtue.

Children’s characters are formed by the stories they hear and impressed by the heroes they admire, and we know this but have fallen behind in providing and distributing faith-literate stories and movies.

Disney on the other hand has quite effectively formed the characters of children, especially girls through the princesses that appear in their animated films. Disney princesses are not all together bad but they don’t exactly promote Catholic values. While we wait for excellent stories to come from Catholic authors and filmmakers, mothers need to dig deep and find stories about women who are worth imitating, women like Queen Isabella of Spain, St. Joan of Arc, and most especially the Blessed Virgin Mary. By promoting humility, purity, and a willingness to serve others through stories, a strong devotion will take root in little girls and they will grow to become virtuous women.

Little girls are attracted to goodness and beauty and no one is more beautiful or good than the Blessed Virgin Mary. Little girls are attracted to Disney princesses because they are beautiful and in their stories triumph over some sort of evil. Our Lady possesses every desirable quality found in these princesses plus so much more. The Blessed Mother is known by the titles Virgin Most Powerful and Our Lady of Victory. Her holiness and purity make her attractive beyond all human imagining. While discussing the story of Our Lady of Fatima, I asked my little girl why she thought the children were so eager to see Our Lady again on the following month when she promised to return. My daughter’s dreamy answer was because Mary is so beautiful. Her brothers scoffed at her, and initially I thought I should perhaps solicit a more in-depth response but I quickly realized that she was right. In her innocent mind the Blessed Virgin Mary is the most beautiful woman to behold, and truly she is.

The media apparently doesn’t recognize beauty as it would rather idolize women who are pushy and coarse. We know that Our Lady was neither of these things. In her humility she acknowledged her lowliness before God. Using the story of the Annunciation we can show our daughters that strength comes from God. Mary said, “Be it done unto me according to Thy word,” and again she said, “He Who is mighty hath done great things to me.” 

Girls will also enjoy hearing Old Testament stories of humble and brave women such as the adventure of Judith or the boldness and courage of Queen Esther. They’ll love hearing about how Deborah killed Sisera with a tent peg. Another inspiring tale is that of the courageous mother in the Maccabees. Rather than pleading that they break the 1st Commandment, she admonished her sons to die manfully. All these women’s strength came from God and not from within. True humility is seeing the fittingness of things and attributing all that is good in us to God.

One very effective way of reinforcing stories that celebrate virtue is by making use of mottos. The book Leading the Little Ones to Mary is a fantastic aid in going about this. Some of the slogans from this book include: “I’m a little Mary,” and “Mary did all things with a smile.” These gentle reminders help little girls keep in mind that they want to be like Mary and the other little Marys, namely the saints. Many good stories and a daily consecration to Mary are contained within the pages of this little book.

Our Lady was never vain, calculating or manipulative but rather proclaimed herself to be the handmaid of the Lord. When she found out that her cousin was in need, Mary hurried off to assist St. Elizabeth. Johanna Spyri’s Heidi tells the tale of a little girl that brings joy and is helpful to all that wander into her path. All little girls should meet Heidi. Girls will admire Queen Isabella of Spain who traded her own jewels to pay for the ships that took Columbus to the New World. Tell your daughters about Ruth’s touching and unfailing dedication to her mother-in-law Naomi. They’ll find the charity and devotedness of St. Elizabeth of Hungary irresistible. This saint couldn’t bring herself to wear her royal crown on Good Friday. Her love for her husband seemed almost fanatic but it sprang from her ardent love for Jesus her Savior. A story American girls love hearing retold is that of the Sisters of Charity who nursed many a soldier back to health during the American Civil War. The sisters’ tender and attentive care led many of these soldiers to convert to the Catholic faith after the war.

As girls mature another book that proves essential is Fr. Lasance’s The Catholic Girl’s Guide. My older daughters were each given a copy of this book on the day of their confirmation. One was ten and the other was twelve. Both of them treasured this prayer book, reading it daily through their late teenage years. This book brought up many discussions between them and me. I didn’t read this book aloud to them but in our day to day conversations they would comment upon states of life and the virtues young women should possess, ideas and encouragement that Fr. Lasance so beautifully strings together in this book. It is safe to say that this book had a profound influence on them. They loved that Fr. Lasance called the daffodil “industry’s flower,” and because their father grew up on a daffodil farm, they thought the best nickname we could give our family website, that later became a filmmaking business, was Industrious Family, in honor of the daffodil and their favorite virtue, industriousness.

A final virtue that is sadly not held in high esteem in our day is purity. We are adopted children of God, but Satan wants to degrade us to such a level that we view ourselves as mere beasts. If we want our children to be children of light, we must show them the light. If we immerse them in modern culture it won’t take long before they are degraded to the level of beasts. Few accounts remind us that we are children of God quite like the Purification of the Blessed Mother because purity is a virtue that elevates us out of a bane and selfish existence. In order to embrace their dignity as daughters of God girls should hear stories about the virgin martyrs. St. Cecilia had an angel guarding her purity from the advances of Valerian. When he was favored with a vision of her angel guardian, he converted and the celibate couple were later martyred. While imprisoned, St. Joan of Arc was told that she could change into women’s clothing. In order to trick her into staying dressed in men’s clothing, soldiers were stationed in her room at all times. To protect her purity she refused to undress in front of them even though it meant a sure sentence of execution. 

From literature we have been given the beautiful example of Jane Eyre. She was tempted to enter an invalid marriage with a man who already had a wife. No one would ever know and the other woman was decidedly unfit. Jane refused the man that she loved because she was pure and good. She could never respect herself if she ran off with him. Rebecca the Jewess in Ivanhoe shares this same admirable virtue. These stories will give girls strength as they mature and are tempted to dress and behave in a provocative manner. Women love beautiful things —beautifully presented food, beautiful jewelry and clothing, beautiful landscapes and flowers. All women should do their best to look attractive as it is an instinct that God has given us. Attractive yes, provocative never.

We are up against a very powerful and well financed entertainment industry that wants to destroy our children by glorifying ugly and perverse people and ideas. One way to fight back is to fill our daughters’ minds with images of beauty, stories of Catholic heroines, and to nurture a strong devotion to Our Most Blessed Mother. Mary is the ideal women that all Catholic girls should strive to imitate. Find books, music and films that celebrate virtue and forcefully reject those that do not. 

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Kathleen Bowen is a wife and homeschooling mother of ten children. She began in 2013. As her children have grown, they’ve taken her down the path of Catholic moviemaking. Her family’s 5th film is currently in pre-production.