This week I’ve been thinking a lot about Catholic women, the ones I know a little about, such as Dr. Mary McAleese (former President of Ireland), Dorothy Day, the poet Fanny Howe, the theologian M. Shawn Copeland, Sister Stan Kennedy and Sister Corita Kent (whose artworks are featured here — and thanks forever to É. for introducing me to this fantastic artist!), or the Beguines, who created their own communities; and ones I know less about, Catholic nuns abused and abandoned by the church; or ones I know of, who, like a dear friend’s mother, work steadily and unglamourously to change the misogynist structure of an institution that goes back two millennia. They look and they don’t turn away, even if it’s painful to examine all of the ugliness, the abuse, neglect and mistreatment of women; they do not, to protect the sanctity of their own religious identities, pretend that the abuses aren’t real; instead they say, “I will do what I can.” It matters, of course, if they themselves are the victims of such abuses, and I don’t believe there is any moral superiority in taking on the Church, or implicit inferiority in turning away from the site of abuse and towards something truly nourishing — but what interests me is HOW do they keep going? What is the kernel of courage that sustains queer Catholic women who might, in another reality, be incredible pastors, for example? It is too easy to say “their faith.” Look at the cover page of the 2021 Liturgical Calendar of the Dioceses of the United States of America. What kind of star dust and ambrosia and unicorn horns is that faith made of?
This week I’ve been reading about a change in canonic law that took place in January of this year, “allowing” women to be lectors and acolytes in the Catholic Mass. Making it official, really, because women have already been doing this in many churches, though, always subject to permission from the local priests and bishops. That gap between the authority of the Church, willingness to remain within the institution, and another kind of authority, which is not personal power, but it does involve both the person’s will and surrender. And action.
For consistency, here is the Catholic reading for this Sunday. We are still on love, so.
For the pure pleasure of it, I would like to sit with images this week, rather than text! I was browsing through Sister Corita Kent’s artworks yesterday, and it gave me such joy. I also enjoy knowing artists who work as she does. As I am writing this, the page that holds the collection seems to be down, but I hope you can at least see some of the pieces within the Corita Art Centre website.
Coffee Hour is a lightly facilitated, gently theological online space where you are welcome, no religious commitment assumed or expected. It happens every week at 1-2pm Irish time. The password changes (today it is: SisterCoritaKent); the video conference link is: https://meet.jit.si/CoffeeHourWithFriends2021