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Biblical Women Omitted, Made Optional, or Consigned to Weekdays in the Lectionary

Quick Chart

This chart offers some concrete examples of the ways Biblical women, who are already marginalized in Scripture, are further marginalized in the Lectionary through omissions, optional readings, or assignments to weekday readings where few Catholics hear their stories of faith, courage, leadership, and ministry.

Name/StoryLectionary readingDayYearLection #Effect

Midwives Shiphrah & Puah 
Never heard

The lectionary skips over the story of these courageous women. The weekday reading of Exod. 1:8-22 (#389) skips from verse 14 to verse 22, thus excising the story of these valiant women who put their own lives at risk by defying the pharaoh’s law of death in order to uphold God’s law of life.

Exod. 1:8-14, 22 

Ord. Time, Week 15, Mon

1

389

Never heard
on any day

Miriam the Prophet 
Never heard

The prophet Miriam and her song in Exod. 15:20-21 is omitted from the Easter Vigil (responsorial psalm for third reading).  We do not hear her story in our lectionary.

Exod 15:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 17-18 

Easter Vigil

A, B, C

41 ABC

Never hear
Miriam’s song

Ruth and Naomi 
Never heard 
on Sunday

Ruth’s story is never heard on a Sunday.  The Book of Ruth gains only two weekday readings.

Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14b-16,22 
Ruth 2: 1-3, 8-11; 4:13-17

Ord. Time, Week 20, Fri
Ord. Time, Week 20, Sat

1
1

423
424

Never heard
on Sunday

Huldah the prophet 
Never heard

Huldah, who made history in 2 Kings 22, is excised. This woman, a 7th century BCE contemporary of Jeremiah, and one of the few women or men literally labelled a prophet, was consulted by King Josiah, the reformer. When an old scroll (now thought to probably have been the original form of Deuteronomy) was found in the temple by the priest, Hilkiah, the king ordered, “Go, consult the LORD for me, for the people, for all Judah, about the stipulations of this book that has been found….” (2 Kings 22:13) The royal delegation took the scroll not to Jeremiah but to Huldah, who verified the authenticity of the scroll and, as a prophet, spoke God’s warnings to the king. The verses referring to Huldah (verses 15-19) are neatly sliced out of the middle of the lectionary passage.

2 Kings 22:8-13; 23:1-3

Ord. Time,Week 12, Wed

2

373

Never heard
on any day

Esther 
Never heard 
on Sunday

Esther, a great heroine in a time of oppression, is proclaimed only in a Lenten weekday reading that records her prayer appealing to God for strength. No account of the bravery with which she saved her people from annihilation is given anywhere in the lectionary. Three other passages from the Book of Esther are found in the lectionary (in the Common of Saints, #737; and in Masses for Various Occasions, #821, #876), but not only might these passages never be used in the parish, all three are accounts of the prayer of Esther’s uncle, Mordecai.

Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25

Lent, Week 1, Thurs

1 & 2

227

Never heard
on Sunday

Judith 
Never heard 
on Sunday

Judith is a heroine who jeopardizes her life for her people. She is recalled in just two passages: Judith 13:18, 19, 20 (#709) is an optional responsorial psalm for the Common of the Blessed Virgin (“You are the highest honor of our race”).  Lectionary #737, in the Common of Saints (Judith 8:2- 8), praises Judith’s asceticism and physical beauty; it is recommended for proclamation on the memorials of saints who were widows. Judith’s initiative, determination and great courage in saving her nation are nowhere presented in the lectionary.

Jdt 13:18, 19, 20
Jdt 8:2-8

Common of BV
Common of
Holy Men and Women

709
737

Made optional
Distorts her role/value

The Mother of the Maccabees 
Never heard 
on Sunday

The heroism of the Maccabee brothers is recounted on the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, but the passage stops short of the tribute paid to their mother as “most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance” (2 Maccabees 7:20).  she is actually remembered by the church only on Wednesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time (#499) and only in Year 1. The sons and their brave mother are again separated in the Common of Martyrs (lectionary #713.2 and #713.3 deal with the sons, while #713.4 deals with the mother).

2 Macc 7:1-2, 9-14 (excised)
2 Macc 7:1, 20-31


Ord. Time, 32nd Sunday
Ord. Time, Week 33, Wed

C
1

156
499

Tribute to mother
never heard on 
Sunday

Deborah 
Never heard

Deborah in Judges 4:4-16 is the only woman who is both prophet and judge alongside two other men in Israel’s history – Moses and Samuel

Deborah’s story
is never heard

The Mother of Moses 
Never heard

The Pharoah’s progrom was an attempt to control the population of the Israelites, who were strong and growing in numbers in the land of Egypt (Exodus 1:8–16). There was rebellion against this murderous decree in many quarters. The Hebrew midwives refused to participate in the infanticide and deceived Pharaoh so they could avoid killing the baby boys (Exodus 1:17–19). Moses’ mother Jochebed hid Moses in a basket of bulrushes and set him afloat on the Nile River to preserve his life (Exodus 2:3).

Never heard on 
any day

Other First Testament Women 
Never heard 

Rebekah
Rachel
Leah
Tamar
Rahab
Abigail
Bathsheba

These stories 
are never heard

Female images for God

While male images of God are pervasive in the Bible and lectionary, female images are muted. Catholics hear about Lady Wisdom at least 3x each year (C Trinity, Prv 8:22-31; B20th, Prv 9:1-6; A 32nd, Wis 6-12-16: B 28th, Wis 7: 7-11; ABC 2nd after Christmas; Sir 24 1-12; ABC Easter Vigil, Bar 3:9-15, 32-4:4), but other female images for God are only heard twice (and both in the same year). Is 49:15, “Can a mother forget her infant” (C 8th Sunday) and Is 66:13, “as a mother comforts her child” (C 14th Sunday).  While images of God as King, Lord of Hosts, and Father are prevalent, what is proclaimed is that women are a derivative of men (B 27th Sunday; Gn 2:18-24), disposable by men (C 16th Sunday, Gn 18:1-10a), and dangerous (A 1 Lent, Gn 2:7-9, 3:1-7).

Female images of 
God are muted and
women are portrayed
as secondary or 
dangerous

Paul’s Female Co-Workers in Romans 16 
Seven of ten 
never heard 
on any day; 
Three relegated 
to weekday

In Romans 16, Paul introduces 10 women, 7 who are identified with active roles.  This lectionary reading only names three (Priscilla, Mary, Junia) and is consigned to a weekday where most Catholics never hear their names.  Further, the faith stories of Phoebe, Tryphena, Tryphonsa, Persis, Julia, Rufus’ mother, and Nereus’s sister are never heard on a Sunday or any other day.  

Rom 16:3-9, 16, 22-27

Ord. Time, Week 31, Sat

1

490

The female co-workers
(Priscilla, Junia, Mary)
of Paul are consigned
to one weekday, never 
heard on a Sunday,
while the rest
of the ten are
never heard on
Sunday or any other
day.

Phoebe 
Never heard

In the continuous reading from Romans, verses 1  and 2 of Chapter 16 are omitted from the lectionary, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deaconess [the Greek word is “deacon;” the revised NAB uses “minister”] of the church of Cenchrae. Please welcome her in the Lord, as saints should. If she needs help in anything, give it to her, for she herself has been of help to many, including myself.” Thus churchgoers will never hear in our liturgy of Phoebe, a woman who was a deacon. 

Rom 16:3-9, 16, 22-27

Ord. Time, Week 31, Sat

1

490

We never hear
the story of
Phoebe the
deacon.

Lydia 
Never heard 
on Sunday

Lydia–a wealthy businesswoman–accepted Paul’s message and was baptized, along with her whole household. She was the first Christian convert in Europe. She is the head of  her household and becomes head of this housechurch. Her story is relegated to a weekday and never heard on a Sunday.

Acts 16:11-15

Easter, Wk 6, Mon

1 & 2

291

Lydia, Paul’s 
first Gentile
convert is consigned
to a weekday,
never heard on 
Sunday.

Syro-Phoenician Woman 
Never heard 
on Sunday

Jesus’s mission focused on the Jews.  When approached by the Syro-Phoenician woman for help, he insults her.  Her faith response to his insult opens Jesus to a new understanding of his ministry – one that is open to Gentiles. He attributes this change directly to the woman’s actions. 

Mark 7: 24-30

Ord. Time, Wk 5, Thurs

1 & 2

332

This important
story of faith 
that changed
Jesus is never
heard 
on Sunday.

Lois and Eunice 
Never heard

Lection 2 Timothy 1:1-12, which is assigned to Wednesday of the 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II. Lectionary #355 neatly excises verses 4 and 5, including: “I find myself thinking of your sincere faith–faith which first belonged to your grandmother Lois and to your mother Eunice.”

2 Timothy 1:1-12

Ord. Time, Week 9, Wed

2

355

We never hear
about the faith
of Lois and
Eunice

Magnificat 
Never heard 
on Sunday

It seems incredible that the Magnificat, the beautiful and revolutionary song of Mary in Luke 1:46 – 56, is never proclaimed on a Sunday; it is found on a weekday before Christmas (#198) and on two feast days of Mary, the Visitation (#572) and the Assumption (#622). But by not assigning it to a Sunday, the lectionary seems willing to risk that not many Catholics will hear this marvelous song of praise attributed to Mary.

Luke 1:46 – 56

Advent weekday, Dec. 22
Feast of the Visitation 

1 & 2

198
572

This revolutionary
proclamation of 
Mary is never 
heard on Sunday

Woman crippled for eighteen years
Never heard 
on Sunday
 

The Gospel of Luke is the only one that narrates Jesus’ healing of a woman who had been crippled for eighteen years (Lk 13:10-17); yet this pericope is assigned to Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time (#479). Although Jesus recognizes her with the unusual status of “daughter of Abraham,” this touching story of her faith and Jesus’ breaking of the Sabbath law in the synagogue to heal a woman is not proclaimed on any Sunday.

Lk 13:10-17

Ord. Time, Week 30, Mon

1 & 2

479

Never heard
on Sunday

Mary Magdalene 
Never heard 
on Easter Sunday  
or any Sunday


It is well known that Jesus’ women disciples, led by Mary Magdalene, according to all the gospels were the first witnesses to the resurrection. Easter Sunday’s gospel in the U.S. lectionary (#43), however, stops just at the point of the beautiful story of Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene in the garden and his important commission to her: “Go to my brothers and tell them…” In fact, this appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene does not rate any Sunday of the Easter season but is assigned to Easter Tuesday (#262) and is used again on the saint’s feast day (always a weekday, never a Sunday) in July (#603). Peter and John’s race to the tomb in John 20:1 -9 (#43), though, is retold every Easter Sunday, and Jesus’ appearance to Thomas in John 20:19-31 (#44) is read on the Second Sunday of Easter every year.

John 20: 1 – 9

Easter Sunday

A,B,C

42-ABC

The story of Mary
Magdalene’s 
apostolic witness
is not heard
on Easter Sunday
or any Sunday

Mary Magdalene’s Apostolic Witness 
Never heard 
on Easter Sunday 
or any Sunday

Mary Magdalene’s commissioning by Christ and her apostolic witness is consigned to Easter Tuesday and her feast day (July 22).  It is never heard on a Sunday.

John 20: 11-18
Jn 20:1-2, 11-18

Octave Easter, Tuesday
Feast of Mary Magdalene

1 & 2

262
603

Mary Magdalene’s
apostolic proclamation
is never read on Sunday

Women with Hemorrhage 
Made Optional

Jesus heals this woman disregarding the taboos against women (speaking to a woman in public, being touched by a woman or being made unclean by the touch of a bleeding woman). Yet this miracle with all its implications can be sliced out of the gospel (Mark 5:21-43) in the optional short reading for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time in Year B (#99).

Mark 5:21-43 or
Mark 5:21-24, 35-43

Ord. Time, 13th Sunday

B

99

Made optional

Other early Christian women 
Never heard 

Mary, the mother of John Mark
Rhoda
Tabitha
Four prophetic daughters of Philip
Euodia
Syntyche
Apphia
Nympha
Claudia

Many of our foremothers in faith mentioned in the Bible (a text that is already patriarchal), are further marginalized by begin omitted from the lectionary.  This creates an over-emphasis on the stories of the male disciples and the under-emphasis on the stories of Early Christian women – a framework that distorts our faith tradition and undervalues women’s contributions, gifts, ministry, and courage.

Many Early
Christian 
women are
omitted from
the lectionary