When I first came upon this website, I was happy to see that there was a forum of women who were dedicated to supporting, deepening, and inspiring the lives of other women called to a life filled with Spirit. A feminist Catholic Blog? Yes! We need these spaces. After reading many of your posts, I am filled with both gratitude for this space, as well as ambivalence. It is from this complex place that I write to you today.
We need these spaces.
I've grown up Roman Catholic and have found a lot of comfort in the ritual and ceremony of my upbringing. I've always felt the immanence of the Saints, Mystics, Earth, and all of its beings; for it is all the creation of Divinity. Be that as it may, in those early years I have also found a lot of misogyny, incongruent actions from Church leaders around civil and human rights issues, and very rigid structure. I must add that I am a fervently independent woman. I have a partner of twenty years and children with whom I am very grateful to mother. However, I do not identify my spiritual divinity within my biological composition. In short, my maternity is not enough to fulfill my spiritual callings. While I honor maternity in its beautiful magic, I feel called for something in addition, as well.
I work with homeless populations within an urban setting among devout and faithful Catholics and it is through them that my curiosity has grown into a seeking of deeper relationship to the faith of my family lineage. In these beautiful beings I have the pleasure to work aside, I see the work of Christ as an embodied healer and activist alive within the hearts and the exchange of words and actions. I see the ministry of Jesus in each and every heart.
I am also a PhD student in Philosophy and Religion with an emphasis on Women's Spirituality. Having heard the call to seek out my Catholic lineage at this time has turned out to be a heart-wrenching experience, and as I write this in the vulnerability that I do, I hope that you feel the sincerity of my words. My feminism is intersectional, meaning I advocate for the autonomy in all living bodies in all expressions, and recognize the structures and systems that seek to re-enforce division, oppression, and racial inequality. Now, as I sit with feminist theologians, I am brought back to the faith of my youth. I am confused. I have so many questions.
I desperately want to find a place in the Church, but see no reflection of inclusivity within its walls and doctrine. I've tried. I always leave Catholic mass on the verge of tears, for what I experience as the perpetuation of a lack of voice. I would say that my divinity rests solely on my heart and action, not on my maternity/biology. Yet, this is the only aspect that I've seen presented. In the article explaining reasons for a lack of female priests, I found no solace. Again, maternity is the compliment to priesthood? That works only if you see things within a positivist/essentialist paradigm. No women apostles? Wasn't Mary Magdalene herself called "the apostle of the apostles?" There are so many assumptions regarding what a woman should be, most of which, do not come from the bodies of women. Can you be a feminist and a biblical literalist?
While it would be lovely to feel the support from the Priesthood on International Women's Day, I cannot help but feel that is a bit patronizing to women. Do we really need others to help us identify who we are? I understand, however, that honoring the ineffable amount of contributions made by women would be a lovely idea. In illuminating and placing such emphasis on maternity who do we leave out? What about LGBTQ community who offer the teaching that gender may not be as black and white/binary as has been constructed? I ask this, because I, too, identify as a woman who advocates for feminist ideas. I believe in women. I believe in the choice for women to decide how they express their divinity. What about the women being called to the priesthood? Would Jesus care as long as they were willing to love his flock? Are we not getting a bit too literal and rigid in doctrine?
Again, forgive me if I seem a bit fervent or accusatory. My intent is only to promote dialogue in search of understanding. I can only speak from my experience. My rekindled interest into the Catholic Church is through St. Mary Magdalene. I've prayed to her for years. Her image rests in my home in many places. I have felt her in meditations and I believe it is her push that I find myself writing this letter. In her example, we see another aspect of womanhood seldom celebrated.
Now knowing a bit about me and my story, do you think I have place in the Catholic Church?
Here is my question for you: Now knowing a bit about me and my story, do you think I have place in the Catholic Church? Knowing now the stirrings of my heart, am I to be condemned or patronized for my passionate need to be seen as an autonomous being outside who I birthed or my biology? This has got me in trouble before and was the reason I left the Church so many years ago. Do I have a place among you? Can our differences of femininity be witnessed and honored at the same table without trying to change the Truth of each others hearts?
I thank you for reading this far. I pray, with sincerity and love, for nuggets and insight.
God Bless you.
Jena is a Spiritual Feminist Scholar-in-Process searching for truth. She is earning a PhD in Philosophy and Religion with an emphasis on Women's Spirituality.