Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

February 20, 2009

Catholic Feminism--Biblically Considered

I thought I might post a little meditation on the subject of 'Catholic Feminism' brought by Julian a couple days ago. Of course, we have named this blog after two great Biblical women, Martha and Mary. But I want to consider a lesser-known (and unnamed) woman from the Scriptures. The synoptic Gospels tell of the healing of a woman -- St. Peter's mother in law. You can find the story in Mt. 8: 14-17; Mk 1: 29-34; Lk 4: 38-41. You should be familiar with the story. Jesus has begun his public ministry of healing, and he enters Peter's home to find his mother in law sick with fever. He touched her hand, and she was healed. She immediately rises and began to attend to their needs.

Now the typical radical feminist might be irate at this story. The first thing Peter's mother in law does is wait upon Peter and his friends when she is healed?? I mean, really, couldn't she just have a break -- shouldn't she have gotten something to eat first?? Shouldn't they have attended to her needs? There's a nagging little radical feminist tucked away somewhere thinking that, I promise you. Because (and you might find this incendiary), deep down inside radical feminism, I think there is an inordinate selfishness and lack of charity toward a sense of otherness. I know that's quite an accusatory judgment to make, but just consider that the icon and theme song of radical feminism today is the right to choose an abortion, and you might just catch what I am getting at.

But I think this story so spectacularly gives us an example of a Catholic feminist. What an honor it would be to wait upon the Lord, to attend to His needs, to serve Him and the men He personally chose to spread His Word to all nations!!!! (An aside: I think here of a song written by a Christian singer Brooke Fraser. She writes in a song called 'You'll Come' with these lyrics: "I have decided, I have resolved, to wait upon You, Lord. A Mighty Deliverer, our Triumph and Truth, I'll wait upon You, Lord." Though Brooke is not a Catholic -- she is with a large Evangelical church in Sydney, Australia called Hillsong -- her music is full of amazingly Biblical and Catholic themes. I'd recommend her song "Lead Me to the Cross" -- it's one of my favorites!) I would JUMP at the opportunity to wait upon Christ. And what better way to show one's gratitude for healing and love for Christ than to serve His every human need. How lucky His mother was to be able to nurture him as a child, to nurse the King of kings and Lord of lords. Sometimes, I feel more affinity with Martha than with Mary. Making guests comfortable, being conscientious of their needs, and attending to them makes me happy.

And isn't that part of embracing our feminine spirituality? Attending to others, serving them, making them happy - deep down, don't we all spiritually desire that? Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think so. To deny women the fulfillment of their greatest spiritual desire destroys the root of who they are. I think that a critical element to an authentic feminism is the recognition that women are by nature 'other' oriented, and to attend to the needs of others fulfills them. So, I guess the question we will need to ask ourselves -- How, as Catholic women do we contribute to this understanding of an other-oriented female spiritually? How can we articulate it to other women, to encourage them to take action in a world that very often has denied them this fulfillment? How do we show women, as Julian so eloquently put it that "Christ - in fact expands the meaning of our womanhood beyond what it is in the natural realm?"

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