Tony Rossi, Director of Communications, The Christophers
Super Girls and Halos
After 10 years of drifting from her faith and avoiding the sacrament of Reconciliation, cradle
Catholic Maria Morera Johnson returned to the confessional, partly because of “The X Files” character
Dana Scully. Yes, that’s right. A TV character. Johnson’s Catholicism has been shaped in a positive
way by the sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book characters she admires in film, TV, and literature. Not only
that, she sees connections between these strong, fictional women and her real-life role models, the great saints of history. Johnson has now written about the links between the two in her book “Super Girls and Halos: My Companions on the Quest for Truth, Justice, and Heroic Virtue.”
Johnson’s parents escaped Cuba after the communist revolution, and their Catholicism was always important to them. But as Johnson entered young adulthood, she became indifferent toward her faith – going through the motions sometimes, but never really invested. That began to change as she had children of her own who were preparing to receive the sacraments. Though she had given up on God, she now sees that He never gave up on her.
Johnson’s movement back to the faith was mirrored in a way by Gillian Anderson’s character Dana Scully on the hit TV series “The X Files.” Scully was a scientist and a skeptic faced with investigating paranormal activities with her partner Fox Mulder. Their quest for the truth sometimes led them into religious subject matter, such as the case of a boy bearing the stigmata. This brought Scully’s strained relationship with her Catholicism to the fore. After discussing the topics of monsters and guilt with a priest she was interviewing for the case, Scully wound up in the confessional. Johnson recalled, “That television episode was the final little pinch that got me into the confessional after a decade.”
Around the same time, Johnson discovered Edith Stein, who became known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. The saint’s intelligence, spirituality, and use of reason resonated with her. Born to a Jewish family in Germany in 1891, Stein became a committed atheist while studying philosophy in college. But after reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, her conversion to Catholicism had begun.
Though Stein tried to rush through her entrance into the Carmelite order with the impatience of a millennial downloading movies on slow wifi, her spiritual director encouraged her to take her time because her mother took her daughter’s conversion hard. Stein continued to teach philosophy and imparted a foundation of knowledge to many future teachers. Stein became well-known for her affirmation of women in the workforce, but ultimately was killed by the Nazis in the Auschwitz concentration camp because of her Jewish heritage.
Johnson related to Stein’s Catholic feminism, as well as her work as a teacher. She writes in “Super Girls and Halos,” “I often felt a measure of guilt that I had gone to work in the public school system instead of teaching in a Catholic school. A kindly priest put me at ease by encouraging me to teach where I found myself. He told me my work was in teaching the students with love.”
Anyone who reads “Super Girls and Halos” will easily detect the love that Johnson now feels for her faith. And her hopes for those who read the book are simple: “I think [readers] can learn from this book that we do have the stuff of heroism. With a little bit of grace and a little realignment, we can be saints.”
For free copies of the Christopher News Note FINDING YOUR PATH HOME TO GOD, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org