Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fascinating Ideas

So, I've kept right on running since my last blog entry.  In fact, I have run ever day including and since Thanksgiving Day (on which I did the 5K Turkey Trot) and every day but one since Saturday November 22, the day before the Philadelphia Marathon.  With all that running I am up to 2123.1 miles and trying to aim for a total of 2222 at the end of the year 17 days from now.

In any case, this morning we went to the early mass at which we heard Fr. Burnham tell us about how we should be the light in our worlds and how we are faced with accepting who we are.  He made the observation that it has been human nature ever since the story of the Garden of Eden when everything was provided in abundance, to always reach beyond and to try to reach what was intended to be limited and not available.

Then, I attended the "Parent Connection" activity for parents while children are at religious education in the St. Pius X parish.  This was the third time that the director of religious education has led a session like this.  Today's session was the smallest (only 4 parents) but it was, nevertheless, a great session.

The topic was how to talk with our children about the role of women in the church.

What was most interesting to me was the fact that there was a clearer explanation of the Catholic church's position at present and the fact that it was not the result of a statement made under papal infallibility.

What was even more interesting was the way the director of religious education recast the question.  Yes, we can ask whether having women be ordained in the Catholic church would help to minimize the shortage of priests the Catholic church faces at the moment.  However, the even more important questions could be "what is the role for everyone who is not an ordained priest?" and "how should women be included in higher levels of decision making in the Catholic church?"

There are a few roles that only priests are eligible to perform in the Catholic church.  But, our parish is a great example of how the role of administering a church and leading a church community can be undertaken by a woman (we have had a female pastoral life director for over a decade) while the priest focuses more specifically on the sacramental aspects of his work.

What I also thought about was the ways in which I had experienced women in important roles in my spiritual life throughout my life and the ways in which I have chosen to express this.

Clearly, my tattoo shows St. Sebastian (a man) depending on Irene (a woman) to rescue him after he was shot by archers.  I have reflected multiple times on how, in my life, I have been helped in general (as well as in my spiritual life) by women.

My mother recommended strongly that I join the Newman Student Association at Penn State.

Many of my closest friends in Newman were female.

There was an important female ministerial presence in my experience at both Penn State and Michigan.

The people with whom I have had the deepest conversations about faith and life in Baltimore have been women.

The pastoral life director already mentioned.

All but one of the individuals who has led the children and/or youth ministry program at St. Pius X in our time here have been female.

Obviously, my wife has been a great influence on my spiritual life.

I have written about it.

I show it every time anyone can see my right calf.

And so, I don't have any reason to suspect that women cannot be as important a light to the world in the priesthood of all believers as men can.  In fact, my experience points to women being just as important.

So, my own outlook says there is no reason to think that women cannot be an important part of spiritual life with unique insights that could add something important to decisions made by the Catholic church.  I will continue to rely on women in my life to help with my own spiritual journey.  I don't feel a strong need to debate whether women should be ordained in the Catholic church.  That is a debate for another day.  What I do think is that the church should continue to redefine ways in which to involve women in the most important discussions and most important ministries of the church.  If anyone ever needs convincing of the importance of women in spiritual life, in shaping spiritual life, in making decisions about how to strengthen spiritual life, in making decisions about how to minister based on spiritual life, and to be the light for the world that Fr. Burnham suggested this morning, I have a long list of testimonials I could provide. 

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