The Big Girls in the Dance Studio
When I was a little dancer, I looked up to the “big girls” at my studio. I wanted to be just like the girls who helped my instructors teach my dance classes. They were beautiful dancers, but they were also kind, smart, and fun to be around. These girls were my role models, and I wanted to grow up to be them.
Fast forward to when I was in high school, and I became one of the older girls. It took me a long time for me to think that I was a beautiful dancer. My technique was not the best, but I brought so much heart to dance. I was on staff for three years, and it was such a fruitful and rewarding experience. My students were my pride and joy, and I loved each of them. I felt the overwhelming responsibility of being a role model. Every day their little eyes would watch me, and I had to set a good example for them.
In some ways, this is just part of growing up. We go from being the young, impressionable minds to the ones who directly or indirectly teach the little ones how to behave and think. At my dance studio, I was always intentional and I wanted to be my best for the younger dancers. I remembered the dancers who taught and inspired me when I was small, and I wanted to return the favor by being someone worth looking up to. In many ways, this is exactly how the Catholic concept of moral authority works.
Defining Moral Authority
I give this example not to boast or to make myself sound important, but to describe moral authority. Whether we know it or not, we look up to those around us, and their lives affect us. Moral authority is the ability to lead others not by title or position, but by the way we live. Yes, as a junior teacher I had a leadership position in my dance studio, but it was my character that mattered and affected the ones watching and looking up to me.
As Christians, we don’t–or at least we shouldn’t–make moral authority our goal. We don’t wake up each day with the intention of wanting everyone to look at us and think we’re such a great follower of Jesus. Moral authority is the result of our personal faith journeys. It’s what we gain when we surrender our lives to Christ. When we make Jesus the center of our lives, that demands something of us. Surrendering to Jesus means that we change our lives for good, resolving to follow Him and desiring to draw near to Him at all times. If we’re truly living the Gospel, then our lives won’t look like everyone else’s The choices we make, the habits we form, how we fill our minds, and how we spend our time affects our moral authority.
At the heart of moral authority is a quiet yet strong way to evangelize. When people see our example of living joyfully for Jesus, they’ll know we’re different and want that for themselves. I came into college with a steadfast faith, but when I met the upperclassmen and the FOCUS missionaries, I knew that I could dive deeper. At the Newman Center, I was surrounded by women on fire for their faith, and I wanted to be like them. As a freshman, I had no idea what a holy hour was, but when I was a senior, I was praying holy hours regularly. I learned to love the Mass so much more, and I went as often as I could. I detached myself from earthly things that distracted me from God learned how to live in such a way that glorified Him.
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Moral Authority as a Responsibility
The moral authority of the seniors and missionaries evangelized me. Their example of joyful godly women inspired me to be like them, and therefore, be a closer disciple of Christ. Now that I’ve been transformed by their witness, I have the responsibility of doing the same for others. Reflect on your own life and think of the role models who nurtured you during your faith journey. What was their relationship with God like? How did they pray and how often did they receive the Sacraments? What did they do to keep God their first priority? Now apply these questions to yourself. Have you taken on the responsibility of moral authority? How have you been a good spiritual example and modeled Christ to others?
When we practice moral authority, we become more like Christ. Just like Jesus led His disciples to become more like Him while He was on earth, moral authority allows us to imitate Christ and help our friends and family become more like Him.
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