Wherever there are cruciﬁed peoples and pharaohs standing on the necks of the oppressed, there will be a need to hear the signiﬁcant message of Guadalupe. From the midst of the poor comes our call to conversion and faith. To believe in Guadalupe is to believe in the poor and the God who stands among them. The Guadalupe message then and now calls for response: a response of faith, conversion, and participatory transformation.
In 1631 the Vatican Inquisition called her “a heretic, a schismatic, a rebel against holy Church” and had her thrown into prison. In 1951, some 320 year later, Pope Pius XII called her “that incomparable woman given…to the Church in one of the darkest, most bloodstained periods of history.” Her name, Mary Ward, is not widely recognized in the modern world. But it ought to be. She might well be the model and patron saint of every woman or man who dares in good faith to dissent on particular declarations of official Church policy. Ward’s dissent was deliberate, quite public and increasingly controversial for more than 21 years. It was also extraordinarily effective.
Essay by Robert McClory and prayer by Christine Schenk, CSJ
Joan of Arc was not only young and female, she was also a peasant and illiterate. Still, none of these “limitations” ever stopped her from following her call, as crazy as it might have seemed to the rest of the world. In fact, she doggedly pursued it as if her eternal life depended on it. She has been described as strong-willed and purposeful, bordering on stubborn. Those qualities are highly prized by independent young women today, and the fact that they are held up in a young woman from our history is encouraging.
The destinies of Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Jean Donovan, and Dorothy Kazel were joined together in just the last months of their
lives. Murdered together by National Guardsmen in El Salvador in 1980, their deaths became a martyrdom for the church of the poor in El Salvador and for thousands of Christians in the United States. Who are these women, and what led them to this fate, the “same fate as the poor,” as the Maryknoll Sisters called it. What were they doing in El Salvador? How did they understand their role as missioners, and why did this lead them into conflict with forces of a military government that killed them? And what, after all, does this have to say to us?
Essays and prayer adapted with permission from Religious Task Force on Central America and Mexico.
Scholars generally regard the twelfth century as an era of renaissance and spiritual renewal. However, Hildegard saw it as a time when scripture was being neglected, Christian people were ill-informed, and the clergy were “lukewarm and sluggish.” She understood her mission as a prophetic one, in which she, a weak woman, was called to bring justice to a “womanish” age in place of priests who were failing in their responsibilities. Hildegard penned one of the highest praises of women to emerge from the Middle Ages: “O, woman, what a splendid being you are! For you have set your foundation in the sun, and have conquered the world.” Because women have been created so splendidly by God, they ought to adorn this splendor when they come to worship the Creator. Hildegard claims that these ideas were not her own, but came from the “Voice of the Living Light.”
Essay by Dr. Joan Nuth and prayer by Christine Schenk, CSJ
In the spring of 1838, in a small chapel on St. Claude Street in New Orleans, Henriette Delille, a free creole woman of African descent, and Fr. Etienne Rousellon, a white priest, served as godparents to fourteen-year-old Marie Therese Dagon, a free black catechumen. This simple tableaux had been repeated many times, through many generations, by other creole women of color and other white priests who also performed the baptisms. It is perhaps the best explanation for why, against nearly insurmountable odds, Henriette Delille was ultimately successful in founding the U.S. Church’s second black order of nuns, the Sisters of the Holy Family.
While never identifying herself as a feminist, Edith opposed a male dominated curriculum taught solely by men. She lobbied for an educational system more supportive of women’s distinct nature and quest for wholeness. After the First World War in Germany, most women worked outside the home, usually in response to economic need. In opposition to the encyclicals of Pope Pius XI, Edith supported women’s right to full employment. As a philosophical pioneer in the nature of women’s psyches, she lectured extensively on women’s vocations, affirming their unique gifts as greatly beneficial to society. Edith believed that there was no profession that could not be practiced by a woman, and that the “natural” vocation of wife and mother could not be considered her only vocation, since all are called to be perfect in the image of God. Even in the most mundane job, Edith asserted, women can have an impact using their interpersonal skills, creativity, and capacity for service.
While Brigit’s life is shrouded in myth as well as in history, there is much that the thoughtful Christian can take from her story. Foremost is her apparent ability to stand at the threshold of shifting cultural paradigms and, like the wise householder of scripture, bring forth good things, both old and new. As a preeminent bridge builder between ancient and new ways, Brigit’s story is strangely compelling for earth’s peoples in the second millennium CE. More than ever we are required to respect the religious understandings of people different from ourselves.