Have you heard the saying: “Behind every good man is a good woman?” Well, I’ve said this before, but I think the same is true for women, “Behind every good woman is a good man.”
In any vocation, we as women look to the men in our lives for affirmation! This is healthy…to a point, right? But to truly know and believe we are loved, beautiful and chosen, we must accept that those very things are true about each of us because of our innate dignity as God’s daughters. The affirmations we receive from men, and the positive attention they give us can only confirm the truth God has already spoken; and if it is not confirmed, it is still none-the-less true!
To remind myself, and all of us, where our worth and true beauty comes from, I asked three men, representing each vocation: a priest, married man, and a single man, to reflect on what makes a woman truly beautiful.
As you read, take note of what really resonates with you and take it to prayer. I’d love to hear, too, so head on over to Instagram and share there so all of us can know what you found the most insightful.
Father Craig Vasek
Father Craig Vasek was ordained in 2010 as a priest of the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota. He is a graduate of the Pontifical North American College, Vatican City, having obtained a Licentiate of Sacred Theology in 2011 from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Rome, Italy. Father Vasek obtained a Master of Science in Psychology (’20) from the Institute for the Psychological Sciences of Divine Mercy University, Arlington, Virginia. He is currently the Chaplain to Marauder Athletics at the University of Mary, Bismarck, North Dakota. Father Vasek has worked extensively as a retreat director for the Missionaries of Charity. He hosts an evangelism ministry through a blog and podcast called Evangelical Disciple.
Q: What do you think makes woman so uniquely special in the way God designed her?
A: First I would like to say thank you for thinking of me to write on this topic. That being said, I will not be writing as a theologian or priest per se, but rather to simply offer some thoughts from who I am as a Christian man.
The mystery of woman comes from the mystery of humanity, which comes directly from the creative mystery of God. Humanity towers over the rest of the created order, as the pinnacle of creation and participating in the highest way as a reflection of God. So, from that, God created male and female – equal in dignity (human) but clearly different in fascinating ways.
What makes a woman special? Wow… like, tons! In relation to the rest of creation (as human) – I’ve already indicated that woman (human) participates in the very reflection of God’s image in the world. That’s crazy dignified, yo! As woman, the reflection of God comes through in fascinating ways of receptivity, big-heartedness, emotional-relational capacity, nurturing and tender to the little (I’m thinking babies, but also puppies and kitties haha!!… everything is ‘cute’ and ‘little’ to a woman… men are not like that!).
Women move more from the heart, via intuition, and in beautiful ways they are able to move even beyond what the rational would otherwise permit, giving them incredible capacity for sacrificial love. Women are fascinating, mysterious to man, and a truly beautiful reflection of the love and beauty of God.
Q: You have sisters and nieces. How many? Tell us about them. If you were talking to your sisters and your nieces about true beauty, what would you say to them?
A: I have 4 sisters (one is a sister-in-law) and 6 nieces from like from the ages of 18 down to 7. They are all AWESOME! They are beautiful when they are honest, when they are paying attention to the nurturing and emotional-relational capacity that they bring – in other words – when they manifest tender affection for others without judgment.
They are beautiful when they allow themselves to not be sufficient and are willing to allow others to help them – so… when they are humble and not independent spirited. They are beautiful when they aren’t trying so dang hard to look sexy. Trying to look sexy is completely gross to an uncle. Not only is it gross, but then I have to start worrying about how they are going to act if they would dress that way. I’m getting off the subject… They are beautiful when they are less focused on how they look and rather on how they act and how they can relate to others with grace.
They are beautiful when they inquire about being faithful to God and how to navigate the complexities of the world with moral uprightness. They are so beautiful when they open their hearts to me and share their desires and dreams in ways that are noble and at the service of God and the common good. They are beautiful when they overcome the temptations against their nature.
So, the aspects of woman that are unique and beautiful, such as relational capacity, the temptations against that would be like gossip and betraying secrecy. Those temptations against the principal gifts of the uniquely feminine become the ugliest things. So, think gossip, snarling, over-drama, moody, etc. When a woman is able to control and moderate these temptations, she is beautiful when she allows herself to struggle humbly through that.
Q: What do you think women need most to know their true beauty and worth?
A: What seems most broken in women is security in their identity. I know women who could be told every hour that they are beautiful and worthy of love, and each hour they would need to hear it again because they didn’t allow it to take root. It is here that the fragility of the heart manifests itself and the need for healing grace to take hold. A woman needs to stake her claim on the WORD OF GOD, the truth that Jesus Christ has spoken once and for all.
Panting for constant affirmation from friends and men will NEVER actually accomplish the yearning of her heart. She needs Jesus and His WORD. And she needs faith to believe it. And…. reminder… faith is NOT a feeling. Constant affirmation tends to move the heart as emotion-based. Faith in this regard has to do with the intellect. The Word comes through the eyes or ears and needs to land in the brain, not pass through the heart. Faith is a response of the intellect, not of the emotional-dimension of the heart. Most people fail to recognize this. And women are a part of ‘most people’.
Q: When you think of true beauty, what do you think of? In this same light, what makes a woman truly beautiful?
A: The first thing I think of regarding beauty is the sensible delights…, so tasty pasta, luscious wine, externally beautiful women – let’s say Barbie doll style. But that’s not TRUE beauty. It’s quick, sensory, passing.
It’s the stuff that most people are slaves to. It’s the stuff that, sadly, most women feel they ought to pay most attention to. True beauty is the stuff I said above – when a woman overcomes those temptations against her uniquely feminine nature and begins to flourish within those uniquely feminine ways, ways that when purified and strengthened are remarkable and exquisite reminders of the tender, loving, compassionate, big-heartedness of God (and many other attributes which I’ve passed over in this brief articulation)… that’s super awesome!
I know women who are incredibly sensitive and attentive to details, providing non-judgment and personal care to others in ways that seem effortless. I’m amazed. I know women who speak of relational interaction with no hint of drama or gossip and are able to bring about incredible networks of positive growth and that’s awesome! I could go on and on…
Q: Women have a difficult time accepting they are beautiful. As a spiritual father, what would you say to the spiritual daughters entrusted to your care?
A: BELIEVE THE BIBLE. LIKE, ACTUALLY BELIEVE JESUS. AND TO BELIEVE IS TO USE YOUR INTELLECT TO RESPOND TO REVELATION. WOMEN NEED TO BELIEVE THE BIBLE ABOUT THIS TOPIC. REDEEMED AND SANCTIFIED. THE BLOOD OF JESUS. TEMPLE OF THE SPIRIT. THESE AREN’T JUST WORDS.
Q: You serve as the chaplain to both male and female athletes. What has this experience been like? What do you see as the biggest struggle for women on the university campus and what can help them navigate these challenges?
A: I’m living a dream job that I didn’t even know I could have dreamed about… so… yea…
The biggest struggles for female athletes are simply the same as for all women but ramped up in the spotlight of sport. So, ‘not-enough’ comes across ALL. THE. TIME. I want to punch someone, but I don’t know who. I hate that these women feel this. We do a TON of work on anchoring identity in relation to God rather than in relation to what-I-can-offer. It’s foundational.
Q: If the Church’s teachings on the beauty of woman could be summed up in a few sentences, what would they be?
A: Woman, dignified in herself, finds completion in the giving of herself to man. Primarily, this is perfectly done in consecration to Jesus. In a passing sacramental form, woman finds this completion in her gift of self in marriage to man, since the two become one flesh. Woman is beautiful in her full gift of self, in Marian form, to be all for Jesus, a tender and magnificent big-hearted expression of the love of God in the world. She is bride (Ephesians 5).
Sam Guzman is the founder and editor of the Catholic Gentleman. He’s married and has four children. He and his family live in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area. Sam is an author, blogger, and occasional poet, and his work has appeared in such publications as Catholic Exchange, Aleteia, Truth and Charity Forum, Jesus the Imagination, and The Christian Science Monitor. He is also a frequent guest on EWTN, Magnificat Radio, Radio Maria, and other media outlets. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Mental Health Counseling from Divine Mercy University. His first book, also titled The Catholic Gentleman, was published this past year by Ignatius Press.
Q: What have you always found the most beautiful about woman?
A: That is an interesting question. There are multiple dimensions to this. Of course, there is the most basic level of physical beauty. Women’s bodies are different from men’s, and there is a quality of attraction and mystery to this difference. Beyond this, though, I find women’s ability to love, understand, nurture, and show compassion to be a beautiful thing. Men can learn to embody these qualities as well, but it is harder for us to learn them and takes a concerted effort. Women instinctively listen; they are orientated toward mutual relationships.
Left to themselves, caring springs spontaneously from their hearts. I think of my daughters pretending to nurse their dolls, or wrapping them in blankets and pretending to put them to bed. It is so natural. For my boys, it’s all about war, conflict, competition. It goes without saying that women can learn to be aggressive just as men can learn to be compassionate and caring. But there is a feminine grace and gentleness that is instinctive and inherent to women, and that is a beautiful gift to the world.
Q: What was it that attracted you most to your wife?
A: I always find this a difficult question because listing attributes always feels like a reduction of who she is. I love her whole person in a way that is difficult to define! But of course, there are reasons I do find myself attracted to her. First, I believe she is physically beautiful. We met online, and as soon as I saw her profile picture, I found her attractive, and this encouraged me to continue the conversation with her. At a more interior level, I love her radical honesty.
She is without artifice or pretense; she does not put on airs. She simply is who she is with complete simplicity. She says what she means, and she doesn’t engage in emotional manipulation. I also love that her deepest desire was always to be a wife and mother. In a world where young women are often told they must achieve, where they are hammered with the message that to be a mother is to be a second-rate failure, she simply wanted to raise and nurture children of her own. What a beautiful thing!
Q: What do you think society has the most wrong about beauty?
A: Without question, it is the fact that beauty has been reduced to sexual desirability. What a tragic mistake! Young girls are pressured to grow up as quickly as possible and express their sexuality at earlier and earlier ages. Aging women, on the other hand, have been forced to try to stay young and sexy as long as possible. For they are told that to lose their sexual desirability is to lose all value as a woman. This is a completely foolish reduction of what women are and what they have to offer the world.
Women are far more than sexual objects to be lusted after by men. As I mentioned in response to the first question, women have many gifts to offer the world. Their interiority, their caring, their unique ability to be mothers and nurture life in the womb–and so much more. There really is a beautiful feminine genius. Yet all of this has been surrendered and denied so that women can flaunt themselves for the pleasure and gratification of men. Even more insane, this is considered liberation! It is the opposite, I believe, and it reduces women to one dimension, robbing them and the world of the many gifts women have to give.
Q: You have two daughters. Tell us about them. If you could tell them what’s most beautiful in a woman what would you say?
A: What I want them to know about beauty, and what I have already told them to some degree, is that true beauty is an interior reality. I have known women who, by the world’s standards, are not going to win a beauty contest. Yet, they are some of the most attractive women I know, because their beauty comes from the heart. Their sensitivity, their spirituality, their warmth and sweetness, their compassion, their ability to nurture, and so much more—these are the qualities that transcend physical beauty and yet dramatically enhance it.
On the other hand, we all can probably think of people who are physically beautiful, but terrible people filled with pride, vanity, bitterness, and hatred. How unattractive such people are! My four-year-old daughter regularly tells me with a big smile, “When I’m good, my heart shines!” And she’s exactly right! A beautiful heart makes a face, and the whole person, beautiful.
Q: For women who are worried in their marriages about being beautiful and attractive for their husbands, what would you like to tell them?
A: This is a difficult question, but there are a few things that come to mind. First, as a marriage progresses, the sense of pursuing and being pursued can fade. A woman who once took great care of her appearance in order to attract her husband can easily let it slide as time goes on. This is understandable, because marriage and family life are tiring and filled with distractions. It’s easy to think it no longer matters. But I would argue that it is an act of love to your spouse to continue to care for your appearance, to continue striving to be desirable to him.
Perhaps even continuing to flirt with him! As I have already mentioned, though, beauty goes beyond the external. Life can be hard, and this can mean that those interior qualities that were once so attractive to him can dull and even fade. They can be replaced with bad habits like criticism, nagging, fault-finding, unforgiveness, and much more. These habits can be devastating to a man’s confidence and erode the foundation of a marriage. Seek to cultivate the same spirit of generosity and love you had when you were seeking to win his heart. Of course, all of this is simple to say, but hard to practice.
There are many things that can erode a marriage, and men can very often be responsible for wounding their wives and extinguishing her desire to please him. But in a happy marriage, I believe keeping alive the same spirit of excitement and enthusiasm as when you were dating or newly married is an important thing. The longer you are married, the more work this takes, but I have seen that it is possible, and in my experience, it makes for a happier marriage.
Q: What advice would you give to single women looking for spouses? They are concerned about being beautiful and being perfect to find a husband. Any encouragement for them?
A: I would, first of all, suggest developing those feminine qualities of the heart. As I have suggested, I believe that these qualities make a woman attractive no matter what her external appearance. Beyond this, I would like to make the point that modesty does not have to mean frumpiness or shabbiness. Many women I know dress stylishly and attractively, yet modestly at the same time. There is dignity, grace, and simplicity in this. Yet, I have also seen women who go out of their way to be plain, dressing in clothes that are shabbily handmade of poor-quality materials. Perhaps they believe this is more pious, but I don’t see how. You don’t have to wear ugly clothes to be holy.
Finally, I would encourage young, single women to find their security in their relationship with Christ. Just as women are attracted to men secure in their identity, I believe men are attracted to women who are internally secure as well. Clinginess is generally not attractive in men or women! And ultimately, this security cannot come from any external source, but through our identity as sons and daughters of God. Maturing in this identity can take time, especially if we have been hurt early on, but it is a necessary step to relational health.
Every woman must realize deep in her core that she is loved, she is wanted, she is beautiful and admired…by Christ her divine spouse. Living from this knowledge will prepare her to be loved by an earthly spouse as well. Let joy and interior peace radiate from you, for this is irresistibly attractive.
Dan Lohff currently works as the Parish Life Coordinator at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Middle School Religion Teacher at St. John the Baptist Catholic Grade School. He enjoys reading books, mainly anything recommended by Dr. Peter Kreeft and other people who are passionate about Christ and His Church. Dan became Catholic in college thanks to the witness of FOCUS Missionaries and good, holy priests in Winona, MN. Dans’ patrons are Saint John Paul the Great and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. The one book Dan tries to recommend and hand out to people the most is Visits To The Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary by St. Alphonsus Liguori.
Q: What’s it like being in a platonic and romantic relationship with Catholic women? Specifically, could you speak to the strengths and weaknesses you have found in today’s Catholic lady? What’s attractive and what’s not?
A: I have had lots of wonderful friendships with Catholic women and a handful of really good dating relationships/experiences. I came into the Church during college in December of 2014, which was really transformative for my interior life and a time of experiencing real friendship for the first time. The faithful Catholic women I met in college helped change my perspective on myself, women, friendship, love, and many other things, through their love. I also had amazing men walking with me who helped me appreciate the ladies.
The holy women in our Catholic community truly loved me for my own sake, not just because I was becoming Catholic or because maybe I’d be a potential spouse. Before being loved as a brother in Christ by good Catholic women, I put a lot of effort into making a girl like me. It was totally life changing to receive unconditional love from people who hardly knew me.
After college, during my years as a FOCUS missionary, I was blessed to make more of those beautiful brother-sister friendships. I really appreciate and cherish all the times I was encouraged by women to grow as a brother by being virtuous, serving, listening, supporting, etc. I thought that, because I was in my mid-twenties, I needed to quickly figure out how to be a husband and father, but I was forgetting the foundational aspects of a man being first a son and brother. Thanks to the women friends in my life, God continues to teach me super important lessons about being a beloved son and a trustworthy brother.
Women have a great power to bring out the best in men. I hope all women can love the men in their lives with unconditional sisterly love. It doesn’t work well when men and women put too strong a focus on being future spouses instead of enjoying the brother-sister relationship.
Q: What is the biggest struggle of today’s dating scene? Does the struggle have to do more with men or more with women?
A: I think the biggest struggle in the dating scene is fear. Many men are paralyzed in fear because they might make mistakes or emotionally hurt someone if dating doesn’t lead all the way to marriage. The fear of hurting someone else is rational. I would argue, however, that for respectable, Christian men, the fear of causing emotional hurt is most likely rooted in pride and distrust of God’s Will. Many men, myself included, trust God too little. We trust ourselves with making risk-assessments in regard to dating relationships, but we fail to communicate with God’s heart to heart and to follow His lead. So many problems would be solved if men would be more patient with God and learn to enjoy the journey of being led by Him.
In regard to dating and going on dates, I received some essential advice from solid men in FOCUS after my year of the dating fast. The dating fast is a commitment that every first-year missionary in FOCUS makes, to not date or have intentional romantic conversations with someone for a whole year. It really isn’t that hard unless you meet a girl that you’re attracted to within that year, which is absolutely unavoidable. The advice I received after the dating fast was so helpful. I was told to take the focus off myself and strive to honor a lady with a date. The focus shouldn’t be on the future or if the other person is falling in love with me. The goal should be to have fun, get to know the other person more, and see if you want to go on a second date. After that, a lot of the initial fears get minimized. Then, it is important to remember that if and when you break up, God has a plan. God has a really good plan for everyone, trust Him!
Q: How do you think single men could better hold up women’s dignity and help them know their beauty more fully?
A: Men can help hold up women’s dignity and proclaim the truth of their beauty better by loving with purity of heart. I know that it is such a general, pious answer but I hope to make it clearer with something I needed to be taught at age 24. Firstly, men should pay attention to all their sisters in Christ, not just a few because of selfish ambitions.
I was taught at Summer Training for FOCUS Missionaries that we should seek to dance with and honor all the women at social gatherings. That was encouraged so that those fun opportunities would be fun for everyone there and not just a way of finding someone to date. I try to put this into practice not just at dances, but every day by intentionally giving good eye contact to anyone I meet and seeking to learn more about them. I really hope these things help women see themselves as important and beautiful.
Q: As you’ve probably experienced in your relationships with women, we have a hard time accepting that we’re beautiful, gifted, wanted, chosen, etc. Why do you think this is? What do you think can help women in this struggle? What can men today do to help?
A: Maybe women (and really all people) struggle to believe they are beautiful and wanted because of comparison. The comparison game keeps us busy making little judgments and keeping score. I really love this line I recently heard on The Waltons, “Our mother and father had a way of making more of what we had, and less of what we didn’t have.” The comparison game is effective at keeping people from living in reality. My personal problem with comparison and my journey toward healing has been two-fold. I would spend too much time considering countless data points about how I was measuring up to others, and I wasn’t asking God to help me.
To the first point, I would say that we all need to devote more time to listening to God instead of hearing the voices of criticism. To increase openness to God’s voice, I suggest praying at consistent times every day and fasting. God will help us all to simplify our lives and freely present our needs to Him.
To the second point about asking for God’s help, do we truly realize how much God loves to help poor sinners? We are not burdening Our Father when we go to Him! God’s heart is so infinitely happy whenever we invite Him to be close to us in our messiness.
Lastly, what can men do to help? Men can be the light of Christ, speak truth, and encourage the ladies to really enjoy what they are blessed with.
Q: What do you find to be truly beautiful about women? What are their greatest strengths?
A: One thing that is really beautiful, is when a woman can be where their feet are. I think it’s also something women find attractive in men. It’s the same kind of “being present” that Our Lord finds in Mary while her sister, Martha, keeps busy with less important things. We don’t have to sit at another’s feet to show that we are truly present to another person. There are so many ways to honor someone when we have the blessed time of being in their presence.
One way to honor someone else is to give them your attention when you are communicating. Whether you’re talking on the phone or in person, it’s important not to multi-task. I think it’s especially important to make good eye contact when saying hello. Many times, people say “hello” in passing which shows that the real intent of the greeting was clearly to obey cultural norms instead of encountering another person who is God’s beloved child. Show people that they are actually persons and not just a cog in the machine of society. I think that women are actually better at this than men in general. I think women have great influence on whether or not people interact with others as objects or as real persons. That influence has been realized in my life through my friendships with holy women, for which I’m thankful.
Q: As a single man, what do you find attractive about Catholic women? What would you like to see more in Catholic women?
A: I think the thing I find most attractive about Catholic women is authenticity. It is so beautiful and inspiring to meet women who are grateful to be where they are on their journey instead of counting the ways that they still need to grow. Each of us is a beautiful work in progress even if we can’t see the beautiful part. It’s really easy to fall into self-pity or self-condemnation when times get tough. I understand that is it super difficult to believe “you’re beautiful” and “you’re wanted” when you feel the exact opposite. But we need to stand up to all the lies and the master of lies, he is such a dirt-bag. Surrender it all to Jesus.
Go to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and hear Him say, “It is enough that you are here. Be at ease. I love you.” That’s from “In Sinu Jesu” (great book) not from me. The words of St. Irenaeus of Lyons may also be helpful, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” God seeks to share His glory with you, give Him control of everything. Give yourself the opportunity to appreciate all the love that God has for you instead of trying to be happy by measuring up to some expectations you may have. One of my former bosses from FOCUS said, “Expectations lead to desolation, desires lead to holiness.” Those simple truths continue to keep me sane and closer to Jesus.
Q: As you’ve dated, what has surprised you most about what you like in women?
A: One thing I’ve learned is that I really enjoy being served. I usually try really hard to be independent and low maintenance so as to not be a burden on the woman I’m dating, but some past experiences have really changed that. I really appreciate when a woman looks past my desire to be independent and gives her love anyways. That kind of love, the kind that is not dependent on me, is so real and powerful. It took me a while to learn how great it is to be served.
If someone in your life seems unappreciative right now, love them anyway and God will help that person learn the true worth of your love in time.