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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

There's something about the women . . .

Today is the Feast of The Annunciation. Which never, ever fails to make me giggle.

I mean, really! The old, probably celibate, boys who put the liturgical calendar together clearly knew nothin' 'bout birthin' babies, Ms. Charlotte.

After it was determined that the Nativity of Our Lord would be December 25th (but more recent scholarship has put it sometime in March, interestingly enough), why then, the date the Angel appeared before Mary to tell her she was "with child" had to have been 9 months prior.

I get that. What makes me giggle is that it is 9 months to the exact day. March 25th. Any woman can tell you that it simply doesn't work that way.

Then again, no one really listens to women anyway.

Or, when they do, there's hell to pay.

To wit: Ruth Kolpack, the Roman Catholic scholar who was fired by her bishop because of her 'feminist views'. Her's is a most recent case, but she's got a great cloud of witnesses that surround her.

I was taken by this interview over on NCR.

The Pope is in Africa and, much to everyone's surprise, has been talking a lot about the role and status, the "rights and dignity" of women in Africa in general and the RC church in Africa in particular.

NCR reports: "In a speech on March 18th to the bishops of Cameroon, Benedict called upon African Catholics to defend “the dignity of women and their particular vocation in the ecclesial community and in society.” In Angola, the pope denounced “the special yoke of discrimination that women and girls often endure.” The working paper for the upcoming Synod for Africa also highlights the dignity of women."

The nun pictured here,Sr. Anastasie Bekono, of the Religious Order of Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary, Cameroon. She and a novice, Grace Atem, were interviewed for the article, which reports an interesting tension:

". . . .religious life in Africa is often more ‘conservative’ than in the West. Bekono, for example, expressed shock that a religious sister might defend a woman’s right to choose abortion, and neither African supported the idea of women priests. Yet both expressed frustration that women are under-represented in leadership positions in the church, a sentiment they often share with sisters elsewhere, and Bekono voiced deep admiration for the foreign sisters she knows. Regarding women’s communities in Europe and the United States, she refused to join the critics: “They may have changed their lifestyle, but not their faith.”

In her Blog "El Rio Debajo El Rio" Clarissa Pinkola Estes has written an interesting article about RC nuns entitled, "The Consecrated life: The Rock Pile."

This, she says, is in response to an earlier essay entitled "Nuns: The civilizing force of the church."

It's a wonderful piece, a great addition to this article, "If they really mean it, it's about time," written by Sr. Joan Chittister in her blog, "From where I stand."

She writes: "From where I stand, if the church really wants to support women religious, it's about time for a statement that says again, "These are great women living a great spiritual life and doing great things." Let's hear it: loud and clear. After all, if religious life for women disappears -- or, conceivably, begins to function outside the boundaries of the institutional church -- it will not only affect religious women -- it will also definitely affect the church in the modern world."

So, this day is to celebrate women - women like Mary and Ruth and Anastasie and Clarissa and Joan - who have the impossible vocation of staying and leading where they are not wanted. Of not only being "smart enough" but are, indeed, smarter than some of their ordained male leaders. Of speaking truth to power when their voices would be silenced. Of being wise enough to know when to say 'yes' - and, if necessary, 'no'.

No wonder God chose a woman to be the vehicle through which salvation would come into the world. That makes perfect sense to me.

But, the date . . . not so much.


FranIAm said...

I loved reading this post - thank you so much.

As for the Annunciation, I love this image. It takes the whole "little lady dressed in blue" image and tosses it. The shock and perhaps even horror on Mary's face gets me every time.

Rather than the piety of the day, I tend to focus on the power of yes. I also think it is the eternal yes of creativity, not some homage to virginal purity.

Your highlight of and insights about Catholic women touch my heart deeply. The whole notion of some back seat of superficial piety and purity does no woman any good at all.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I think the image on Mary's face is absolutely priceless. That's what my face would look like had I had the same experience. I also think that focusing on the women named in this little piece is one way to focus on the power of 'yes.'

You, my dear, are another.

Jim said...

What if Mary had simply said 'no!' Something to contemplate on this oddly chosen date.


Anonymous said...

Fran, thanks for this picture. It is so much more believable than most other artistic representations of this event. And Elizabeth, once again you have put it all together so perfectly!

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

RE Rosetti, in Stockholm at the Nationalmuseum; the former Royal Collections, there is just now an exhibition of the Pre-Rafaelites.

The first ever in Sweden.

But I shan't be seing it before next week, due to my stay in Leeds with Grand'mère, DP and the others ;=)


Well done. Amen. Brava! You go, girl!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Jim - My dear friend Ed Bacon once said: "I'm so glad Mary didn't wait for the formulation of a Doctrine of the Incarnation before she said 'Yes' to God."

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Whitey - sometimes things fall right into your lap, you know?

Goran - I'm sooooo jealous.

Thanks, Susan.

FranIAm said...

I am insanely jealous - can I go to Leeds this second? And bring Elizabeth and others with me?

I say yes to that idea, it is my fiat!

Anonymous said...

It certainly is an interesting community that gathers here. I am proud to be part of such a great crowd of witnesses!

Anonymous said...

Well, aside from the fact that I, too, am giggling at all this (exact day?!)...LOL


please pray for April, who is bearing a child with a hole in heart and may have to be induced soon...(daughter of my adminstrative assistant, Penny). Will it be today?

J. Michael Povey said...

March 25th used to be called "Lady Day" in England. It was one of four "quarter days" each year, days on which property closings were made.

The great Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy wrote a poem entitled "Good Friday Falls on Lady Day" - which indeed it does every now and then

MadPriest said...

So, this day is to celebrate women

This reminds me of one New Year's Eve back in the day. It had just gone midnight and my mother was on the phone in the hallway speaking to a woman friend.
Then in a loud voice, she said to her friend, "I'm going to make sure that this year is going to be about me for a change."

At which point, my father, who was siting in the lounge with the rest of us, shrugged his shoulders and, with a resigned voice, full of the experience of his years, said, "Oh no, not again."

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Your father is a very wise man