As events were unfolding in Egypt last week, I watched Al Jazeera live with tears in my eyes, with joy and hope and a prayer for justice and peace and life for all the people of Egypt. It was especially lovely to hear the stories of Muslims and Christians looking out for one another, protecting each other while they prayed. May this transition be life-giving, not only for Egypt, but for the world.
It was a great week for seekers of liberation. In Germany, a group of 144 theologians issued an open letter to the Roman Catholic hierarchy, calling not only for the ordination of women and an end to mandatory celibacy, but for more democracy in church structures. Another hundred or so have signed it since, and here’s the extra miracle: the German bishops, rather than condemning the letter, said they welcomed it as contributing to a necessary discussion. That gives me hope!
There were also a couple of articles about the new documentary about women priests, “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican.” Feminist theologian Mary Hunt writes of the dream of equality in church structures that was part of the vision of women’s priesthood from the beginning of the movement. She says, “women were very specific about the kind of renewed priestly ministry they would accept: one without clericalism, without mandatory celibacy, without hierarchy, but with the inclusion of all and a focus on social justice.”
Today women priests all over the country have started little communities – in their homes, or in borrowed space like we have at St Joe’s. I see these little churches as having a wonderful opportunity to experiment with ways to be more inclusive in our liturgies and our emerging structures. Here at St Romero’s, we already have a custom (that I learned from Deacon Caryl Johnson at a workshop in Baltimore last summer) of asking everyone present to extend their hands in blessing the bread and wine, and each other. This weekend I attended a funeral led by a Roman Catholic priest, where I learned another innovation: having the people who bring up the gifts lift the chalice and paten in offering as the priest says the offertory prayers. I love it!
I believe it is so important that church be a place where we each get the message that we matter, that our voice counts, our participation is needed. We are the church, all of us together – not just the leaders, not just the clergy. I hope that in the years ahead we can explore and discuss and help this unfold: how shall we be church together? How fast does change need to happen? How do we heal the world together, and how does what we do at church contribute to that healing? How shall we go forward in love?
One of our former students at St Joe’s posted a great quote on facebook on Valentine’s Day, that I think fits in this discussion. It’s from a Quaker named Isaac Pennington, who said in 1667: “Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying for one another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.” It fits, because our discussions about equality can get pretty rancorous. May we truly be church, the people of God, loving each other, and helping one another up with a tender hand!
One more quote, a paraphrase of Roy Bourgeois’ comment in one of the articles linked below:
I’d rather celebrate Mass at a soup kitchen and be free rather than not do something that I’m called to do!!!
Blessings and love to all, Chava
“The struggle for justice should never be abandoned because of the apparent
overwhelming power of those who seem invincible in their determination to hold on to it. That apparent power has, again and again, proved vulnerable to human qualities less measurable than bombs and dollars: moral fervor, determination, unity, organization, sacrifice, wit, ingenuity, courage, patience.”
- Howard Zinn
Save the date: Thursday, March 24, 5:30 pot-luck, 7pm Mass. Hope you can come!
And you are welcome to join us in practicing our Spanish on Wednesday mornings at 8 am at Pat’s Coffee Mug on Clinton Ave.
Links to those two articles on “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican”:
and while I’m at it, here’s a link to the wonderful article in the New York Times about the value of empowering women, that I referenced in my homily last Sunday:
have a blessed week, and come visit us some Sunday!
Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Church in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14603