unity

At vigil Mass on Saturday, while we were praying the Nicene Creed, a thought flashed into my head at the second filioque – and the Son – wondering if it will be removed when the Orthodox and Catholic churches are reunited. Its insertion in the creed was one of the reasons given for the schism in 1054 – and one in which the Catholic side was almost assuredly in error. I certainly have no problems with dropping it…

What is more enlightening for me than the thought itself this weekend but that it coincided with Francis’s visit to Turkey. I hadn’t had the chance to keep up with news from the visit over the weekend but was catching up on some of the coverage through NCR today, reading about how Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had both spoken very strongly in favor of unity in the immediate future. Talks between the two churches have been ongoing for decades and I share in the hope that this unity will come soon.

Francis made very clear that all the various churches that make up the Catholic and Orthodox communions would retain their own identities, that unity is only in profession of faith together. Bartholomew spoke poignantly about how unity among Christians is already evident in the lives of those being persecuted for being Christian, whatever their denomination.

So, I guess the Catholics would not have to drop the second filioque, but I think it would be a nice gesture.

inclusion

This morning’s service was one of the most inclusive I have attended in a long time. I won’t name the church or the priest, who was a visitor, for his protection, as the freedom with which he treated the mass texts would land him in hot water with the bishop, although, interestingly, I doubt Pope Francis would bat an eye.

The gospel story (Mathew 15:21-28) was about the Canaanite woman who begs Jesus to save her daughter who is tormented by a demon. At first, Jesus ignores her and the disciples want her to be sent away, yet she persists in her request. Jesus finally says that he has come only for the children of Israel, that it isn’t right to throw the children’s food to the dogs. She answers that even the dogs eat the scraps from the master’s table and Jesus says that her daughter will be healed because of her faith.

I think, though, that what the woman exhibited more strongly than faith was maternal love. I’ve been in the situation of having a sick daughter and know what it feels like to pursue anyone or anything to help your child, even if you have to go against society’s norms to do so. A woman in that culture would not be permitted to approach and talk to a Jewish man, much less follow after him, calling out and begging, but she did it to save her beloved daughter.

In Matthew’s account of the story, even Jesus is a bit slow to recognize that God’s love is universal, that this woman and her daughter are as precious and valuable as Jewish persons are. The priest made this point clear, not only through his homily but also throughout all the prayers of the mass, weaving in references to God’s love for all beings and our own call to love and care for every person without regard to any difference of belief, ethnicity, race, body size, ability, or any other characteristic.

I so appreciated the message and the elegantly consistent way in which it was woven into the mass. That I knew that he, like the Canaanite woman, was bending the rules to do so, was a satisfying delight.

One, Two, Three Popes…

From an Italian blog that I follow. I hope that Francis will find the wherewithal to follow the example of John XXIII. It is said that, had he been elected instead of Benedict after John Paul II’s death, he would have chosen the name John. Perhaps that is a sign of things to come.

Attenti al Lupo

++ PAPA FIRMA DECRETI, WOJTYLA E RONCALLI SANTI ++ http://www.Ansamed.info

The canonization of both John XXIII and John Paul II will take place this Sunday, April 27, in Rome, and the event is expected to attract million of people to the epicenter of Catholicism.

Though both popes will be elevated to sainthood on the same day, their impacts on the Catholic Church and its more than a billion followers worldwide could not be more different.

I am not sure many people remember John XXIII, who after all, died in 1963. He was a stocky little man with a prominent nose and a gentle voice. he was considered a “transitional pope”, being 76 years old when he was elevated after eleven ballots to the Throne of Peter.

Regardless, during his short-lived papacy (just under five years), he did much to open the Church not only to the world but also to the future. In calling the Second Vatican Council…

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Letter on women’s ordination in the Catholic Church

Below is a letter that I wrote on one of the topics that is nearest to my heart, the call of women to ordination in the Catholic Church:

Dear Father,

Yesterday, my 23-year-old daughter and I were in attendance at 7:30 Mass. We are local, but not parishioners. When you began the homily saying that you were continuing a series on the sacraments with Holy Orders, my daughter put her hand out for me to clasp, because it is a very sensitive topic for us, especially in regards to women’s ordination, and we knew that we might wind up leaving together in tears. That we did not is a testament to your pastoral sensitivity on a very fraught topic.

I appreciated your statements about the theology coming along much later than the practice of Holy Orders for men only. The two theological defenses that you chose to share in your homily, that the Twelve were all male and that women priests would disrupt the imagery of the church as the bride of Christ, were presented in the most even-handed way possible. Thank you for not going into the whole “male as normative” line of argument, which flies in the face of the constant teaching that both male and female image God and that in Christ all are one. It also elevates maleness above other attributes. For instance, the Twelve were Jews, religiously and ethnically, but we don’t say that that is normative. I admit that the “Bride of Christ” imagery is problematic for me, as I don’t find it especially meaningful. I find much more power and dignity in the image of the Church as the Body of Christ, actively carrying divine love and service out into the world.

I also appreciated the historical context you included on the development of bishops, deacons, and priests in the early church, especially in being clear that both women and men served as deacons. There is also evidence of women serving as priests, presiding in early house churches. There are inscriptions and art depicting women presiders that has been recovered from early Christian burial sites. There is evidence of women, sometimes abbesses, who acted as bishops, into the Middle Ages. This history is not well-known, but it is very meaningful to those who do know it.

I appreciated you quoting Pope Francis saying that the church does not YET have the authority to ordain women, because that is much more hopeful than the statements of John Paul and Benedict. Given that the Pontifical Biblical Commission found no biblical reason that women could not be ordained, there is hope that the Holy Spirit will enable the Church of the future to recognize and accept through Holy Orders all who are called to serve, regardless of their gender.

I know a number of women who have discerned this call. As you said, you can’t know what it is like to have such a call but to be excluded from fulfilling it. The women that I know who felt called but who are vowed religious have all stayed with the Church, serving God and all people through the ministries that they are allowed to perform. Most of the other women that I know that felt this call to the priesthood or diaconate have withdrawn from active participation in the church because it is too painful to be constantly reminded of not being able to be what God has called them to be. Most of these women still identify as Catholic, but do not participate in parish life and worship. A few joined other denominations, including one who is now an ordained minister.

I myself have walked a fine, and perhaps cowardly, line of not knowing. From my early teens, I was involved in music and liturgy planning ministries. When I was a young mother, I had two dreams that I was a priest. I actually went to a discernment meeting in the diocese, back before they specified that you had to be either unmarried or a married man to attend. When we broke into smaller groups, I wound up going with the deacons, who shared that often the deacons’ wives would go to all the courses and training with their husbands, but that there was nothing that they could offer them in the end as their husbands were ordained.

Knowing how difficult it was for my friends who felt called to stay in the church, I decided not to try to discern if I was actually called myself. So, I have spent a couple of decades in this uncertain space. Of late, the deacon at the parish I most often attend has been ill and I find myself looking at the priest alone in the presidential chair and thinking that I could be there assisting as deacon. After a homily about the obstacles we face to saying “Here I am” to God, I went and spoke to the priest about these persistent thoughts of myself as deacon, knowing that, in some diocese, women are pursuing the possibility and that there is an international movement to restore women to the diaconate. I told the priest with whom I spoke that I knew there was nothing he could do in our diocese, but that I needed someone to listen, which he very graciously did. I appreciate his willingness to give me a time and space to share my situation with him and his support in the limbo in which so many women reside, not just on the question of ordination, but in the larger sphere of existing as a Catholic woman, especially a married one, when you are treated as somehow “other” in the one place in which you should be accepted in your fullness as a child of God.

He could neither do nor did I expect him to do anything about my dilemma. This applies to you as well, but I wanted to try to convey to you my thanks for your sensitivity in not causing me or my daughter any more pain than we already feel as women in the church. While my hopes of the “Yet” being in my lifetime diminish, perhaps it will be within my daughters’ lifetimes. We can only hope and pray.

In the love of God, the peace of Christ, and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit,
Joanne