The National Catholic Review
Building ‘a profound theology of womanhood’ for the 21st century

The frustration and ambivalence a growing number of women feel toward their church springs from a tension that has long been at the heart of the American Catholic experience—namely, the lack of connection between life in a society that adapts easily and quickly, and faith in a church that measures change in centuries. In no aspect of Catholic life over the last half-century has American innovation collided more spectacularly with church tradition than in regard to the changing roles of women.

Between the early 19th century and the late 1960s, the average Catholic woman in the United States could envision far more opportunities within church structures than outside of them. Religious life offered Catholic women access to education, meaningful work and leadership in ways that were inconceivable in secular circles. In the last half-century we have witnessed a historic reversal of this pattern. Transformations for women in American society have far outpaced transformations for women within the church. While religious life still offers many opportunities, Catholic women increasingly accustomed to wide-open doors in American life grow progressively discontented when they see their church roles as limited.

During a press conference on his flight from Rio de Janeiro to Rome in July, Pope Francis told reporters, “That door is closed,” when asked about women’s ordination. He was echoing a statement made by Pope John Paul II in 1994. For many, the prohibition on discussing women’s ordination is troubling. But to my mind, in terms of advancing conversation about women and the church, the door that Pope Francis is keeping closed may, in the long run, turn out to be far less significant than the window he has opened. Just before his statement on women’s ordination, the pope observed: “[W]e have not yet come up with a profound theology of womanhood…. All we say is: they can do this, they can do that, now they are altar servers, now they do the readings, they are in charge of Caritas…. But there is more! We need to develop a profound theology of womanhood.”

With those words, Francis may well have restarted a conversation that has been stalled for almost five decades. As it happened, in the process of trying to reopen or seal shut or avoid altogether a conversation on the subject of women’s ordination, the church in the United States has let fall by the wayside many other valuable topics with regard to women and the church. In 1983, for example, U.S. bishops set out to write a pastoral letter in response to concerns of women. They were acting on a recommendation of the National Council of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Women in Society and in the Church, which was formed in 1972 amid concerns about sexism in the church and culture and in response to women’s desire for fuller participation in the church.

Over the following nine years, four drafts of the document were submitted, all of which were voted down. Eventually, the bishops gave up, farming out a few topics to subcommittees but ultimately letting the project slip away. This was far from the only attempt to launch a sustained conversation about women and the church that never completely got off the ground. In parishes, in dioceses, in Catholic universities, discussions about women in the life of the church either stumble over the obstacle of ordination or founder amid fear of criticism or controversy.

In his recent interview with Jesuit journals worldwide, including America, Pope Francis made his point even more strongly, insisting that “[i]t is necessary to broaden the opportunities for a stronger presence of women in the church.” He is suggesting that it is not simply permissible, but in fact essential, for Catholics to engage in a multi-faceted conversation about what it means to be a woman in the church. I agree. In response to an earlier question on that Rome-bound flight, the pope explained why he had not discussed church teaching about abortion and same-sex marriage at World Youth Day. He had decided, he said, to focus on “positive things that open up the path to young people…. Besides, young people know perfectly well what the church’s position is.”

If a “positive path” is indeed the goal, a more nuanced conversation about women and the church stands to open one up to young Catholics. I teach a course at the University of Notre Dame called “Women and American Catholicism.” On the first day of class a few years ago one student informed me that she had enrolled merely out of curiosity: “How,” she wondered, “could a course on this topic last any longer than two weeks? Considering that women are unable to be priests, what could we possibly have to talk about for an entire semester?”

This student was a senior who had attended Catholic schools all her life, yet she viewed the complex history of women and the church through a single lens. This same student privately confided that she was having a crisis of faith as she considered her options beyond graduation. Like many of her classmates, she combined prodigious talent with a deep sense of vocation, and the astonishing range of professional opportunities that awaited her stood in stark contrast to what she saw as her sharply circumscribed options within the church. I have lost touch with this student, but I hope she and many of her peers heard Francis when he insisted that “the role of women in the church must not be limited to being mothers, workers, a limited role….”

Women’s Work

In mentioning women’s roles as “mothers” and “workers” Francis unwittingly supplied two excellent points of departure for thinking about what a “profound theology of womanhood” might include. My thoughts on both subjects are by no means intended to be comprehensive, and I offer them as a historian of American women, a mother of three and a Catholic whose faith has been shaped by a half-century’s worth of feminist theology—a body of literature too often misunderstood or overlooked, and one with which any credible new theology of womanhood must engage.

I often hear the Catholic Church celebrated for all it does to affirm mothers in their vocation. I might quibble that what we read in official documents or hear in pulpits about motherhood could be more accurately characterized as “glorification” rather than “affirmation,” but I accept the larger point. Still, what I crave most from the church is an embodied theology of motherhood that attends explicitly to what it means to shelter another human being within one’s own body, to give birth to and to sustain that person and to remain indelibly connected with him or her for a lifetime.

I call to mind, for example, the visceral reaction I had a few years ago when I went to an Advent prayer service in a campus chapel, and noticed that the rector had replaced the matched-set statue of Mary in the Nativity scene with a simple, wooden figurine of a pregnant woman. Until that moment—hard to believe—I had never imagined Mary as a pregnant woman, and seeing her as such deepened my devotion to her. In the same vein, a profound theology of womanhood might encourage more use of scriptural metaphors comparing God to a woman in labor or a nursing mother. What comforting access to the divine that would provide for women struggling with the pain of childbirth or the exhaustion of new motherhood; what powerful reminders to all believers that God’s love for us is so fierce and unrelenting that we will never be abandoned, no matter how often we behave like needy infants, petulant toddlers or self-absorbed teenagers.

Acknowledging the sheer physicality inherent in motherhood is not the same as defining a woman by motherhood or, for that matter, by any other physical relationship. This arena provides ample room to rethink Catholic teachings about womanhood, which often appear to define women exclusively through their connections to other human beings—to identify them, in other words, only as mothers, wives or virgins. Not only does this persistent tendency do a grave injustice to the many Catholic women who are neither mothers nor wives, either by design or by default, but it also does all women a disservice by intimating that their relationship to their creator must be mediated through others.

Considering the category of women as “workers” also opens up a rich field for re-imagining their role in the church, quite apart from any discussion of holy orders. A good start might be to develop a theological framework that would recognize and reward women—on this earth—for the often invisible and un- or under-compensated labor that has long sustained the church and will do so long into the future. This would almost certainly lead to a less adversarial relationship between the hierarchy and some women religious, whose communities have served for decades as an ecclesiastical work force in this country and who continue to do much of Christ’s grittiest work in the world.

A profound theology of womanhood must also incorporate the legions of women who are not vowed religious but who make up most of the pastoral work force in parishes and dioceses. What would it mean, practically and symbolically, for church leaders to allocate as many resources to lay ministry training programs as they do to diaconate formation? What would it mean for church leaders to commit to creative visioning about female leadership in the church, to appoint the most competent women to visible positions of power in nonsacramental roles at every level, in parishes, in dioceses and even the Vatican?

To that end, perhaps it is worthwhile to urge our new pope to take another page from his namesake. Francis of Assisi listened to, collaborated with and learned from a woman of deep faith. There are plenty of modern-day Clares who would welcome the opportunity to be encouraged and supported by this Francis, as they minister and lead out of the same spirit and call.

Kathleen Sprows Cummings is the director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

Comments

Michael Barberi | 11/5/2013 - 3:31pm

JP II was completely clear about the ordination of women. So was Pius IX on slavery. Note that this papal proclamation was issued in1866, just after the bloody U.S. Civil War.

“Slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles of slavery and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons.... It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given”.
Pius IX (Instruction 20 June 1866 AD). J.F.MAXWELL, ‘The Development of Catholic Doctrine Concerning Slavery’, World Jurist 11 (1969-70) pp.306-307..

Tim O'Leary | 11/6/2013 - 2:00pm

Michael - You have amazingly missed the completely different way both popes are speaking. Many Protestants make the same mistake, thinking that Catholics believe all things popes say have the same protection from error by the Holy Spirit. Pius IX is making a statement on natural law (which I believe is wrong), not defining a doctrine. Popes can certainly make erroneous statements, as individuals. But note that Pope JPII is using words related to his office and his charism as pope, with phrases such as "in order that all doubt may be removed" and "in virtue of Our ministry of confirming the brethren" and "We declare that" and "to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."

Second, you prove my point that if Pope JPII's definitive statement was somehow reversed, then commentators like you would use that reversal to call into question any doctrine they disagreed on. It would introduce a relativism into all teaching.

Third, slavery has been an active topic ever since St. Paul and the book by Fr. Joel Panzer (the Popes and Slavery) and the following link http://catholiceducation.org/articles/facts/fm0006.html summarizes the history of the matter, including the many popes who spoke out against slavery in no uncertain doctrinal terms.

Michael Barberi | 11/6/2013 - 6:28pm

Tim,

Debating you often ends in disagreement. You like to pick a few ideas that will suite your argument and ignore any argument that others posit. For example, you say that JP II said "We declare that" and "to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful"…..but ignore the profound dispute over the term "definitive teaching" that was imposed on the Church in 1998 as mentioned in my comment to Shelia. I refer you to "Receiving The Council: Theological and Canonical Insights and Debates" by Larislas Orsy, S.J.

Apologists for the Church over the issue of slavery are numerous and I have read some of them. However, they don't tell the complete story and ignore the fact that while some popes condemned "unjust slavery" no pope condemned slavery per se, until Leo XIII in 1891. As for what Pius IX said, this was followed by a formal statement issued by his Holy Office (e.g., the CDF today) giving the pope's teaching added weight of a so-called truth. In past centuries, there were papal bulls issued in support of the morality of slavery as well. See "Slavery and the Catholic Church", John Francis Maxwell.

The ordination of women may never become a reality in the RCC. However, there is hope because like many other teachings the book is not completely closed.

This wil be my last comment.

Tim O'Leary | 11/6/2013 - 10:17pm

Michael - it is curious that you use the word hope for a change in doctrine. Imagine if someone said they hoped the Church would change its teaching on the Real Presence, wouldn't that be a strange way to use the virtue of hope? It seems that you hold a secular source of knowledge as more fundamental than Church doctrine on faith and morals and you hope the Church will conform to that source. You might have it backwards.

Michael Barberi | 11/4/2013 - 4:01pm

This issue of the ordination of women, Eucharistic reception for divorced and remarried Catholics and certain other teachings are not finally settled as truth for the majority of Catholics merely because the Magisterium said so. I refer readers to my comments (addressed to Shelia below) on the term "definitive" as a new category of teaching instituted in 1998 which continues to be a highly disputed and controversial promulgation.

Tim O'Leary | 11/4/2013 - 10:36pm

Here is the wording from Saint Pope John Paul the Great: "Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of Our ministry of confirming the brethren. We declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."

This is as clear as one can get. And it didn't occur way back in the murky past, but only a few years ago. If the Catholic Church reversed this teaching, it would be a laughing stock to the whole world. It would end any credible evangelization. Millions would lose faith and millions would be eternally lost, not on this doctrine but on many others. But, I am not at all worried. Because, the Holy Spirit is protecting the Church and He will not abandon us.

President Obama said "If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what." So, he told a bald-face lie, over and over, meant to deceive the voters. There is no way around this. It dwarfs all previous political pledges because of its multiple reiterations, it's use when we have documented evidence that he knew otherwise, and because millions are now suffering because of the lie, financially and even worse. I use this contemporary example to show how such a reversal of authoritative, definitive and declarative statements would do to one's credibility on everything else.

So, let's forget trying to make a new religion and focus on how best to live the Truth, to understand the Truth as humbly as possible, to teach the Truth with great pastoral sensitivity, but never to lose the Truth. Millions of souls depend on it.

Tim O'Leary | 11/3/2013 - 11:26pm

This very interesting article seems rightly focused on discerning the true way to follow Christ and His Church on the path to holiness. But, I am afraid most comments below are about something other than serving the Truth. When the Magisterium speaks definitively, it should be settled for Catholics. Moreover, the teaching should bring some relief to the mind on disputed questions since there is now a clarity in what is true that was missing beforehand. One should try to discern how to follow the definitive teaching, not to find out how to find ways to avoid following the teaching. A very different spirit is involved in the latter than the former.

When Pope Francis said ordination was not possible for women he was simply doing what a faithful Catholic should do. He humbly listened to the definitive teaching and accepted it, no matter what his prior views might have been on it. He has more freedom now in being certain of the teaching, and can focus on discerning how best to implement this true teaching in the best possible pastoral way. This is the way it should be for all faithful Catholics.

On the specific issue regarding Catholics who have had a secular divorce, I hope some way can be found for those who cannot avail of an annulment (surprising how so few try this path, according to the other article on America it is less than 20% of self-identified Catholics) to live a more sacramental life. Of course, there is no obstacle to those who do not remarry (or, more accurately, they have the same obstacle as the rest of us - fidelity to the moral law as understood by Christ's Church).

Michael Barberi | 11/2/2013 - 8:20pm

Given the wet blanket that Archbishop Muller has thrown over the issue of divorce and remarriage, I have very little hope for any foreseeable change in the other teachings that plague Catholic families and divide the Church such as: contraception, ordination of woman, artificial reproduction technologies, frozen embryo adoption, same sex unions, et al. God help us.

PHYLLIS ZAGANO | 11/2/2013 - 9:58am

"What would it mean for church leaders to commit to creative visioning about female leadership in the church, to appoint the most competent women to visible positions of power in nonsacramental roles at every level, in parishes, in dioceses and even the Vatican?"

The above is an oxymoronic statement. The locus of governance and authority in the Catholic churches is the clerical state, to which, historically, both men and women have been ordained as deacons.

Michael Barberi | 10/29/2013 - 8:58pm

I don't like to throw a wet blanket on this most important subject. I truly believe that women should occupy positions of authority in the RCC including being part of the ordained priesthood. However, in today's Commonweal Magazine, there is an article entitled "A Chat with Pope Francis". It was the first interview PF have given to a lay Catholic publication.

Below is one of the questions posited by Commonweal Magazine (CW) and the answer that Pope Francis (PF) gave.

CW: And the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood…?

PF: Not a chance. Next question.

sheila dierks | 10/30/2013 - 3:09pm

Michael,
thank you for your encouragement for authority for women in the church. No wet blanket there. The one thing I would invite you to is the possibility of imaginative listening. There are two questions embodied here:

1. Is it possible for the Spirit to invite women into ordained priesthood, as we believe She does for men?

2. Is it possible that "never" is a way-too long time for us to know the ways of the Divine in the heart of human history?

So even if your answer is no to the first and no to the second, how damaging can it be to invite women who believe they have heard this invitation to tell their stories? How would their stories enliven our conversation? What might we discover from their yearning to be of priestly service?
And how might YOUR imagination be engaged?
Blessings of the moment and the future,
Sheila Dierks

Michael Barberi | 10/31/2013 - 4:04pm

Sheila,

Thanks you for your comments. They were excellent.

My answers to both questions is "yes".

We live in a divided Church and in a crisis of truth regarding a host of important issues facing the RCC today.

Unfortunately, JP II's "definitive" proclamation against a female priesthood is a major stumbling block even for Pope Francis (PF). It is far to early to determine what PF will do especially in the up-and-coming Synod on the Family that he said will be convened after the Curia and other issues are settled.

I hope that the sacrament of reconciliation and Eucharistic reception will be open to the divorced and remarried Catholics. I also pray that the doctrine of contraception will be responsibly reformed.

As for women religious, I would hope PF will appoint women to key Curia positions and allow them to be Deacons of the Church. That would be a good first step toward an eventual ordained priesthood.

Women can teach the Church about true unconditional love, that a paternalistically celibate and male-dominated clergy is incapable of understanding.

sheila dierks | 11/1/2013 - 12:24pm

Michael,
This continues to be a fascinating conversation.
Theological ideas have been put forward as definitive and later gradually laid aside as new understandings emerge (cf Pius XII "definitive" allocution to midwives (1951) on the primary purpose of marriage. Remember Augustine's teaching on women "How can a woman be an image of God, seeing she is subject to man, and has no authority, neither to teach, nor to be witness, nor to judge...?) It takes a while, change happens gracefully as we grow in our awareness . especially where justice and compassion are being more fully comprehended. It is my experience that the Spirit is con-spiring in this matter!
While I honor the progress that Francis might make in appointing women to the Curia, and "allowing" them to be deacons, I also trust women who are called, and, trusting the call, step forward to fulfill their responsibilities to the people of God. Jesus did not create a priesthood, but instead, offered the humble invitation, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am." Lovely invitation, indeed. Thank you for your views!

Michael Barberi | 11/1/2013 - 6:05pm

Shelia,

It was only in 1998 {with the promulgation of the Motu Proprio Ad tuendam fidem}, that JP II introduced into, and imposed on, the church a new category of teaching, called "definitive" and explained it as not infallible but irreformable. I ask you: how can a teaching be called irreformable and not be infallible?

In an interesting 1999 exchange with Fr. Ladislas Orsy, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger stated that this category (e.g., definitive) is equivalent to the doctrine of the "second objects of infallibility". This doctrine states that a teaching is considered infallible if all the bishops in the world speak in one voice with the pope and such a teaching has been proclaimed for a long time. Well, if we believe that, then Humanae Vitae is not a definitive teaching because all the bishops in the world never have spoken in one voice with the pope about this encyclical. In fact, many Conferences of Bishops throughout the world disagreed with it. JP II's assertion at the conclusion of the 1980 Synod of Bishops "that all the bishops now agree with HV" was highly misleading and not based on the facts because many bishops spoke out for a reformation of this teaching at the Synod, but their voices fell of the deaf ears of JP II.

The reform of many teachings will take decades, in particular the ordination of women. Perhaps when a poll of worldwide Catholics is conducted for the up-and-coming Synod on the Family, the results will urge the Bishops and Pope Francis to reform certain teachings, especially sexual ethics, that are long overdue. This may be wishful thinking, many teachings that were once declared the truth by Popes and Bishops were eventually reformed.

sheila dierks | 10/23/2013 - 12:10pm

Kathleen, a fine article with some good suggestions for forwarding the just and wonderful cause of women (and, therefore, all people) in the Church.
A suggestion for you and for America, under the topic of creative visioning: invite women, Catholic women, who believe they are called to priestly ordination to tell their stories. What is it like to experience the ongoing invitation to ordination which cannot be answered within the boundaries of the Roman Church? What is it like to choose ordination in an other than Roman, Catholic Church in order to fulfill the invitation of the Spirit? How does such a woman balance Prophetic Obedience to the voice of the Spirit with the human interpretation of the Law ?
If one has chosen ordination, how is that vocation being lived out, spiritually and experientially, communally. How does she experience Sacrament, Scripture, Community, Divinity in new ways? What are her insights?
How is imagination, which is the gift of Spirit, lived out in the day to day experience of such a calling, whether accepted or refused?
There are now many many women who have said yes to discernment of their priestly call, a rich community, many of whom are well, superbly versed in Scripture, Sacrament. Many of them have already given decades of their lives in the service of the people of God. What do they know that the community as a whole does not? What will their stories teach us? How might all journeys be illuminated by such new understandings?
If we are to move forward in visioning female leadership in the church let us hear from the profound experiences of those who have gone before, at great personal challenge, to do the work to which they believe they are called. What harm can be done by such a series of stories? How might America, and the world that is church, be blessed by such insights, such journey stories? It would be an act of worthy courage to step into such wonderful possibility.

For full disclosure: I am an ordained priest in the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, honoring a call I experienced consistently from the age of six, discerned, educated (MA Theology) ordained at the age of sixty-five and now in sacramental service in three Colorado communities.
Sheila Dierks

Mary-Cabrini Durkin | 10/29/2013 - 1:48pm

Sheila Dierks’s invitation to listen to women’s stories is an invitation to listen to the Holy Spirit. By our Baptism, we all share the Spirit’s indwelling, as the Spirit continues to unfold truth within the Church. Women’s experiences are 50% of the Church’s experience.

I hope that venues such as America magazine will support the call by Pope Francis for the Church to deepen its self-understanding.
Mary-Cabrini Durkin

Michael Brennan | 10/22/2013 - 4:18pm

I am heartened and deeply moved by the pastoral, gentle, compassionate way Pope Francis has responded to the many challenging issues facing the Catholic Church, but “That door is closed” lands with a thud. Dr. Cummings does a great service by reminding us that "the average Catholic woman in the United States could envision far more opportunities within church structures than outside of them" for a long time prior to the 1960's; indeed, I heard a talk some years ago by Sr. Joan Chittister entitled "What's Right With the Catholic Church" in which she detailed the many ways in which the Catholic Church advanced the rights of women throughout history. The Church raised both men and women to sainthood with no difference in the level of sanctity, and provided for abbesses who ruled over their monasteries, and valued mystics who sometimes convinced popes to change their ways. But my concern is with the frequently expressed idea that the church "measures change in centuries" as if this is always a good thing or a necessary thing, as if it's clearly possible the Church will one day ordain women, but we must wait a few more centuries until the hierarchy is done kicking around the idea. Or that the Holy Spirit just isn't ready to imbue women with a vocation to priesthood in the Catholic Church, in spite of clear evidence that women are successfully serving as ministers and administrators and bishops in other congregations. We don't want to rush things - that's the message. And the deeper message is this: women need to know their place. It's quite analogous to the civil rights movement in which uppity Negroes were jostling for the right to vote and to sit at a counter at Woolworth's - some 100 years after Emancipation. As much as I love Pope Francis, I love truth and justice and the living Christ all the more, and we don't do the Pope or anyone else a favor by tip-toeing around the absolutely brutal, pervasive, stifling and damaging patriarchy that exists within the Catholic Church. Why, when we start to become aware of some injustice, some oppression, or some horror within the Church, is it necessary to cover it up 'for fear of scandal' and be silenced? I can't think of anything more consonant with evil. It speaks directly to the reason the pedophilia crisis was not addressed squarely until it was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the headlines of a Boston newspaper. So I affirm all the beautiful things that Dr. Cummings has to say about a mother's vocation - and I am confident she feels similarly about a father's vocation. I just don't understand why the wonderful gift and privilege of giving birth should in any way preclude a woman from presiding at Eucharist or being a leader in the Church - and I don't mean a symbolic leader, I mean someone who can make and implement decisions. Right now, every decision concerning the life of every Catholic in the world is determined by an all-male hierarchy and all male clergy, whose authority and influence is diminished with each passing year in which women are so pointedly and unnecessarily excluded from ministry and leadership. Dr. Cummings asks, "What would it mean for church leaders to commit to creative visioning about female leadership in the church, to appoint the most competent women to visible positions of power in nonsacramental roles at every level, in parishes, in dioceses and even the Vatican?" And I ask, why does she feel compelled to specify "nonsacramental"? Are sacraments so frivolous and unimportant? Are sacraments not at the heart of our Catholic theology? Are women, still, after so many centuries, just as unclean and unworthy as ever? What other message can we take away from this exclusion? And what does that say about the intellectual and pastoral and Christian witness of the men who run the Catholic Church? I appeal to Dr. Cummings and your readers, to the People of God that we are,and to the Pope himself, to OPEN THE DOOR. Jesus is on the other side, and he says “Be not afraid.”

Molly Roach | 10/24/2013 - 8:36pm

The evidence points in the direction of women being just as unclean and unworthy as ever after so many centuries. I am pretty well past impatience and a sense of betrayal into pure disgust with the lazy, self-serving logic of the so-called hierarchy of this church. My only consolation is that they will have to answer to God for it.

Joan O'Briant | 10/22/2013 - 2:30pm

This article was so enirely welcome. I have felt guilty,as a cradle Catholic, to have had these thouhgts,and feelings of rebellion at the treatment of women in the church. I don't hear anyone else I know express these feelins or thoughts. At 72, I have no desire to be a priest. But there must be younger women who would. I have been an altar server, an em and a lector-unthinkable when I was young! There are no good reasons why we can't serve as priests: Jesu wass a Jew; the jews have women rabbis. All four of my daughter-in -laws passed on converting because they felt the church was anti-women. I couldn't come up with a valid enough reason to change their minds. My grandchildre are being raised Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Lutheran. Thank you for letting me know I'm not alone nor sinful for feeling this way.

Christopher Rushlau | 10/21/2013 - 11:09pm

Let me share her sorrows intimated in this statement: ":God’s love for us is so fierce and unrelenting that we will never be abandoned, no matter how often we behave like needy infants, petulant toddlers or self-absorbed teenagers."
I was walking down the stairwell of an office building in Minneapolis/St. Paul (somewhere up there) while doing a project at Carleton College, and a woman was sharing the journey for a flight or two. I was tired, she was tired, I don't know, but it was like a conversation on a cross-country bus, compressed into a few seconds. I asked her what the secret of being a mother was, and she replied (in about 1978), "Enjoy your children."

Robert O'Connell | 10/19/2013 - 1:06am

Four points in in this comment touched me immensely: the distinction between glorification and affirmation of women, the author's thoughts subsequent to seeing the wooden figurine of a pregnant Mary, recognizing women as "workers" and collaboration with the Clares. We need to publicize Catholic women. An easy opportunity might be to talk about Virginia McCaskey, owner of the Chicago Bears, who was at Mass every weekday when I was an altar boy -- while also raising what would be 11 kids (and that was long before the McCaskeys had any money) but there are literally millions of amazing Catholic women we know so little about.

Recently by Kathleen Sprows Cummings

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