What Can Catholics Learn from Lady Gaga?

I know. I got your attention with that title, didn’t I? It seems like Lady Gaga’s name is coming up everywhere these days—in conversations, on television, at baseball games…Let’s face it. She’s pretty hard to ignore.

At first glance, it seems a little hard to see how this unusually captivating music icon-of-the-moment can provoke us to think about anything Catholic. But in the past few months, she’s practically been haunting me by being spoken about in the most unexpected places and situations, and I figured it was time to put my thoughts on Lady Gaga’s fame to good use.

So what can Catholics learn from Lady Gaga? 

Our culture craves intrigue and shock-value.

Maybe you saw the dramatic story on the news a few weeks ago depicting an uncensored Lady Gaga having a “moment” at a Mets game. Or perhaps you read about all the hype and controversy that surrounded her nine-minute “Telephone” music video upon its debut. (The ten-second clips I caught on the news were more than enough to clue me into the strange—and for me, unappealing—entirety of the video.) One thing is certain: our culture must have serious cravings for intrigue and shock-value, because Lady Gaga’s got it—a lot of it.

But what about Catholicism? Is it lackluster next to the array of chaotic “art” distributed to us by the Lady Gaga enterprise? Hardly. In fact, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If our culture really wants intrigue and shock, it should try reading the Gospels. Jesus put forth some quite compelling challenges to current, traditional ways of thinking. He taught people to love enemies, not seek revenge against them. He told people to give away their possessions, so they could walk around with nothing more than the sandals on their feet, bringing the un-boring and unfiltered Gospel to everyone they met. I could go on, but we Catholics know it doesn’t take a filthy rich music producer to spot surprise and uniqueness at its best.

Popularity doesn’t mean everything—or sometimes anything

Did you hear about the big race between President Obama and Lady Gaga to become the person with the most followers on Facebook? Well, the Lady got the prize. The celebrity recently passed 10 million fans, making her the most “liked” figure on the popular social network. And fame is everything, right?

Not for Catholics. Back to the Gospels we go, to see how Christ teaches us that popularity doesn’t mean everything—or sometimes anything. Remember the Beatitudes? I’m pretty sure Jesus said “Blessed are the meek” and “Blessed are the persecuted”—not “Blessed are the popular.”

Purity is more original than provocativeness

I don’t believe I can think of a better word to describe Lady Gaga than the word “provocative,” because no one can argue that she isn’t. But instead, the word I seem to always hear people use in relation to her is “original.” Have you looked at our culture lately though? What’s original about provocative people and their activities? They seem to be the norm.

Now, I can think of one thing that never goes out of style and is ever-original: purity. And it isn’t practiced very strongly by our modern culture (making it all the more unique). So you know who is really an “original,” unique lady then? Mary, our Blessed Mother.

There is nothing more captivating than purity. Today, it isn’t the commodity it should be, so when it’s on display, it grabs everyone’s attention.

Our society needs to get “caught in a good romance”

Full disclosure: that catchy tune to Lady Gaga’s famous song, “Bad Romance” has gotten lodged in the playlist in my head before—thanks to a mere few seconds of hearing it on the morning news. Yes, the beat is a musically memorable one, but so are the lyrics, in a kind of sad, gross, and depressing way.

The song is basically about a woman being “caught in a [very] bad romance,” one that appears to be everything but self-sacrificial, loving, and sacred, which is what I thought romance was supposed to be all about.

We need to remind our society what it’s like to be caught in a good romance, one based on the premise of self-gift. I remember the most romantic story I ever heard; it was one of a God who became man and died for the love of His life, conquering death and showing His bride the most authentic love the world has ever seen. Actually, I’m living this romance.

People want to be followers of a leader

It was about a year ago that I had someone explain to me that Lady Gaga’s fans actually have a name for themselves: little monsters. These little monsters can get pretty obsessive when it comes to staying in-the-know about everything going on in their pop idol’s life and career. 

What does this teach us? People actually want to be followers of a leader. But it’s all about choosing the right leader…

Jesus had a multitude of His own followers; they were called disciples. These disciples were encouraged by their leader—Christ—to adhere to the highest standards of faith and charity. They were meant to become saints—not monsters.

There is a need for people to find their true identities

When I asked a friend of mine why she likes Lady Gaga as much as does, she told me, “She’s just herself.” I asked her to explain, and she elaborated by telling me that “Lady Gaga knows exactly who she is as a person, and that is something I want. I want to be able to know who I am—and then be that person.”

There is a desperate need in our world today for people to find their true identities. Regarding this necessary task in life, I have one thing to say (which isn’t really something I can be credited for saying at all): “I wish I could lose myself and never find myself except in God!” –St. John Vianney

That’s the key. It’s not about finding yourself; it’s about finding Him.

Just the other morning, one of the morning news anchors commented aloud, after reporting another Gaga-focused story, saying, “Man, Lady Gaga is just brilliant! She finds a way to make it into the news—always.”

Christ also finds a way to make His presence known in our culture and in our lives. But He does it in a much less assaulting fashion. He simply invites. And then He waits, leaving it up to us to give Him our enchanted attention.

Well, I guess I do owe you a thank you, Lady Gaga. I really don’t “get” you—unlike almost everyone else in my generation—but you have certainly provided me with some valuable insights about living the Catholic faith in a Lady Gaga pop culture. I’m sure you would be as surprised at my gratitude as I am at having written about you.

Lady Gaga—may you experience the intrigue of the Gospel, the heavenly bliss of unpopularity, the beauty of purity, the excitement of getting caught in the best of romances, the treasure of taking after a heroic and virtuous leader, and the joy in finding your true identity. Yours truly, a little disciple.

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About the Author

Katie Warner is a Catholic wife, stay-at-home mother, speaker, writer, and evangelist who is passionate about taking small steps toward a more meaningful and spiritual life, and helping others do the same.

She is the author of Head & Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family (Emmaus Road Publishing, Fall 2015), a book that offers practical strategies and inspiring stories to help men and women better lead and love their families toward heaven.

Katie writes and speaks about a variety of spiritual and practical topics, and has presented in venues like the National Catholic Bible Conference and numerous Legatus chapters, the Eucharistic Congress of Atlanta, EWTN radio, and on EWTN television. She is also a presenter for the Symbolon RCIA and Opening the Word programs produced by the Augustine Institute. Katie is one of the original contributing writers for The Integrated Catholic Life and a correspondent for the National Catholic Register.

Katie works very part-time (usually during toddler naps and late at night) as the Manager of Communication and Evangelization for Catholics Come Home, a national Catholic evangelism apostolate working to invite fallen-away Catholics and non-Catholics home to the Catholic Church. She holds a graduate degree in Catholic Theology, specializing in Evangelization and Catechesis, from the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado. Her favorite ministry work—and day-job—is family life, and she enjoys homemaking and mothering in sunny Southern California, where she lives with her husband and son.

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11 Comments

  1. Katie-well done! I love how you use a pop culture icon to help us more deeply understand our faith. My favorite part is your closing paragraph:

    “Lady Gaga—may you experience the intrigue of the Gospel, the heavenly bliss of unpopularity, the beauty of purity, the excitement of getting caught in the best of romances, the treasure of taking after a heroic and virtuous leader, and the joy in finding your true identity. Yours truly, a little disciple.”

    Thank you for this gift to start my day.

    God bless-

    Randy

  2. What a great article, Katie! Your premise is very clever and your message is not to be missed. What a blessing that young women like you are so clear-headed and above the pop culture mania. You are truly grounded in your faith. I wish I could have been at your age, but I followed the lemmings and listened to Madonna and her “gurl power” message. Interestingly, both she and Lady Gaga were raised as Catholics. What a pity! I pray for their reversion.

  3. Hi Katie,

    I have received more positive feedback in passing on this article than most any other we have run. Welldone!

    You really hit the mark with finding one’s true identity. When we are inauthentic, we neglect who we were made by God to be and we waste his precious gifts.

    Deacon Mike

  4. A friend of mine shared the notion of ‘the temptation of mercy’ years ago. According to my understanding, for how can one be ‘tempted’ by mercy as it would seem to be oxymoronic. The implication is that we improperly dispense of mercy when justice is clearly merited. In regards to the Lady Gaga article which is very well written, containing much food for thought, I think in the name of charity we can be too kind to that which is insidiously evil. Meaning, I do not believe it is wise or profitable to handle Lady Gaga and her pathetic press with kid gloves. Yes, perhaps she is going through an identity crisis and is lost to Christ, but I do not think she cares. Her free will has led her down the predictable path of celebrity, being congested with public exposure and adoration, money lust, sexual disgrace; and all respective, popular elements that remind us ‘ there is nothing new under the sun.’ The latest Madonna wannabee, and I am not referring to the Blessed Virgin, is untalented, lacks creativity, and is essentially a glorified prostitute. I felt it necessary to view her latest trashy video, Alejandro, due to the barrage of public controversy overtaking the media. It takes alot to shock my senses, but I felt uncomfortable even watching the video. She parades around naked demonstrating musically, once again, that she is talentless. She is documented posturing in a variety of positions, with a variety of persons, simulating copulation. In her gravest moment of spiritual profanation, she essentially fellates a string of rosary beads. Her sacrilegious porn video deserves no further attention or criticism. So needless to say, I am not remotely concerned about Lady Gaga’s identity crisis, anymore than she is concerned about my salvation. If one does not stand for thus represent authentic Christian charity, which is not always nice ( consider Jesus in the temple with the money changers), we act in the ‘temptation of mercy’; and we fall for everything the world feeds us even if unknowingly. Man was born with a herd instinct, the desire to follow a leader. Without the Christan connection, anyone is susceptible to following satan’s dangling carrot of deception, for it appears to be valid nourishment, and being considerate of Lady Gaga’s wayward behavior is spiritually dangerous in my opinion. Like the article explains, Gaga always finds a way to make it into the news, and the attention is on her, the self. The Christian dies to self, and compels attention toward Him. Nobility is the catholic platform, alongside the rejection of evil. I desire to issue a gag order on the Gaga, and to not contaminate this beautiful website any further by the slightest intimation of ‘her’ name. Let us Hail Mary instead.

  5. Dear Randy and Deacon Mike:

    Yes, I’ve heard of her, but have obviously missed most of what she has done, or not done.

    I will be in the minority in my comment. Frankly, to even speak of someone who seems to need a good psychiatrist, or perhaps an exorcism, in the same breath (article) as Our Blessed Lord is offensive. Old fashioned, perhaps, but it speaks to the shock value some need to read an article, or even say a prayer.

    Everyone is entitled to approach their faith in their own way, but we have all the saints, and those that were sinners at one time, like St. Paul. We don’t need to add Lady Gaga to that sacred mix.

    Sadly….Caroline

  6. Caroline, respectfully I disagree. Everyone is entitled to their opinion; you have yours and on this issue and we are not in alignment. Katie did a good job of utilizing Lady Gaga as an example of what not to do. I think it is important to some times use recognizable symbols or icons of the world in which we live to find the truth and beauty of our faith. Katie found that truth and beauty even in comparison to Lady Gaga, for which I commend her. Even in the end, Katie is praying for her and encouraging a change. I also know Katie Peterson to be rock solid in terms of her theology experience and training; more so than me and most everyone else I know.

    Caroline, your opinions are valued. Please keep them coming.

    In Christ,

    Randy

  7. Dear Caroline,

    I believe you missed the thrust of this article. We can often learn about ourselves by observing others, not because we are alike, but by highlighting the differences.

    I can assure you that many of our children have heard of Lady Gaga and are much more aware of her comings and goings than their parents. Articles such as Katie’s serve to equip us as parents to counter the culture. They also help us to refocus on what is good by deflecting the noise of the prevailing culture. I doubt very much that Our Lord was offended or saw offense in this article.

    Other writers before Katie have referred to and even highlighted the antics of those who do not embrace our beliefs for the purpose of equipping Christians to grow in holiness. I am thinking of writers such as C.S. Lewis who wrote the Screwtape Letters that focused on devils; St. Jerome who wrote extensively about Helvidius who denied the Perpetual Virginity of Mary (St. Jerome apparently shared your distaste, but was ordered to write on the subject anyway by the Holy Father) ; and St. John the Evangelist who pointed out in Sacred Scripture the false teachers of his day.

    In my view, Katie’s piece was a master stroke against the Culture of Death and Selfishness.

    God Bless you.

    Deacon Mike

  8. Oftentimes what highlights and reveals beauty, truth, and all that is noble, is the landscape of contrast that it exists upon. The human eye could not spy the stark whiteness of an egg, for example, unless it were revealed by the defining comparison of darkness. The goodness of God becomes all the more viable and desirable for the human person when underscored by such a circumference of blatant evil. Vacillating within the confines of the ‘cyclothymic tension between Heaven and Hell’, as I call it; sometimes the pressure forces us to see and thus choose one extreme or another. We can only hope and pray that more will choose the benevolent alternative. Unfortunately, our senses have been deadened collectively speaking as a culture due to overexposure to sin and immorality. It is everywhere. For so many the shock value has been burned out, so the latest trend of the scandalous, provocative, and hence controversial takes it to a higher extreme to get the same effect, similar to drug addiction. Human beings now have sensory addiction due to the assault upon the interior by profane influence. Sensory overload and abuse, and excessive saturation of the sense perception on the part of the mortal, in my opinion, is the greatest destabilizer of one’s mental state. So we can take the Gaga to a psychiatrist for all her issues, but if she doesn’t root the sin from her life, she would be wasting her money and making someone else rich. Exorcism at this point would not be appropos either, for it is not a magic bullet. Deep conversion accomplished by daily prayer, repentance, sacramental frequency, is the only remedy for all of us. Jesus loved the sinner, so my prayer is to ask God to teach me how to love the sinner. Truthfully, our Father is big enough to endure the scandal of being mentioned in the same breathe as Lady Gaga, for he sent His only Son to die for her too; not just the practicing church militant. Divine Mercy states, the greater the sin the greater the mercy; and by degrees the relationship of forgiveness is inverse. The further away we wander from God, the greater the increase in His love, concern, and mercy for us. Thank you Jesus. Personally, I do tire of the daily presence of Gaga in the media, and I think selective prudence and minimal attention is the mandate for discussing her in the catholic arena. Peace.

  9. She caused a stir in April by having the gall to admit she is living a celibate (if not chaste life). A major scandal in todays culture. Just shows how counter cultural Catholic ideas can be.

    >”I can’t believe I’m saying this — don’t have sex. I’m single right now and I’ve chosen to be single because I don’t have the time to get to know anybody,” she said while visiting England to help promote MAC’s Viva Glam campaign, which supports global HIV and AIDS projects. “So it’s OK not to have sex, it’s OK to get to know people. I’m celibate, celibacy’s fine.”

    May God bless Miss Germanotta

  10. lady gaga is quite frequently compared to madonna and even though there may be similarities, I think there is an injustice. Madonna went out of her way to attack the Church and its ideas. She also insulted Jesus Christ on many occasions. Lady Gaga, though she may no be devout, would NEVER condemn Catholicism. She respects everyone’s beliefs. I fact, she defended her parents when an interviewer asked her if she was brainwashed by her families religion. She responded by saying that Catholicism promotes only good and told the interviewer that she didn’t appreciate her comment.

    Many of her videos, however distorted they may be, are ofter symbolic. In fact, lady gaga always endorses the symbol nature of her videos and says that the public nowadays has the inability to comprehend complex thought and is surface oriented. She makes her videos strange so people have many layers of material to consider. For example, in her video for Alejandro, which I consider to be her “worst” video to date, she has an upside-down cross printed into the crotch of her outfit, and she also swallowed a Rosary. In the video, she represents pop culture, desecrating religion. The upside-down cross on her crotch is condemning promiscuous sex.

    she may be confused, and she may be insane, but I couldn’t love her more… I pray for her all the time, and that her message of anti hatred, anti bullying, and acceptance, and anti ignorance spreads reaches more people.

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