Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Conflicting Feelings of a Roman Catholic Woman: Remaining Faithful

A Roman Catholic woman religious friend shared the following reflection with me. Touched by the honesty of the inner struggle she described so authentically, I impulsively asked her if I could post it here, and she agreed. We anonym-ized the circumstances a bit because I think this could represent what goes through the minds of many Catholic women in many Catholic worship services.

What on earth happened? By: A Catholic Woman

A week ago Sunday, we went to the 11:00 Mass as usual, but it wasn’t usual. No “Celebrating Vacation School Liturgy” or Baptisms, but lots of young men in black and close to the altar.

It was a display of “Church Macho” - the seminarians and priest Vocation Directors all of the dioceses of our state plus our bishop and his special deacon/liturgical master of ceremonies –“ Mr. I’m in Charge of this Liturgy and Don’t You Forget It."

At first, I was surprised and puzzled as to why they were there. Then I learned that they had been staying at a nearby conference center and meeting there as a group. This was their Sunday liturgy.

And it was THEIR Sunday liturgy. However, I was glad to see that we had girl servers – all girl servers, and several women communion distributors. However, all the rest was “the guys”.

Then I got angry. It seemed to me like an “in-your-face” “young-boys’ club” up there on the altar and in the front sections of the pews. No strutting around or puffing out one’s chest, but just a kind of “we-take-it-for-grantedness” that you (the non-priest, non-seminarians common folk) are happy to see us and, not only happy, but honored to have so many of us with you today!

Then I felt a smoldering sense of injustice and anger. How dare you! How dare you put yourselves above us! Where is your humility?

The bishop, in his homily, surprisingly to me, spoke of humility to this “boys-men’s club”. I almost – almost – stood up and cheered. Now, I’m thinking; the proof will be in the years to come, to see if the American clerical culture will indeed change and become humble.

Then I felt humbled. Here I am, puffed-up and angry. I need to get my feelings and ideas in line with the Jesus of the Gospel.

I will pray for them and I will pray for me. I have a righteous anger, but I need to handle it in a way that doesn’t worsen the situation for me or anyone else.

Photo: Parishioners greet seminarians in the vestibule of St. Augustine of Canterbury Church, Kendall Park, following Mass Jan. 2. The Mass honored seminarians — future priests of the diocese — during the Year for Priests. — Frank Wojciechowski photo, Diocese of Metuchen, NJ website.


Big Mark 243 said...

This was more of an example of what is wrong at the foundations of the church. As society evolves, it learns that the reducing of women in worship is either wrong interpretation or an outright mistake.

It does not make logical sense to think that mankind can grow and be 'blessed' if only one half of it contributes to its development, intellectually or spiritually.

Fran said...

This really spoke to me- thank you for posting it and thank your friend for sharing it in this sacred space. I put it on my FB page for others to see.

I understand these feelings and I struggle with them every day myself.

Thomas said...

Sometimes it's a pretty delicate balancing act: we want to have high self-esteem without being arrogant, humility without being doormats.

I try to have sympathy for people that lose their balance, 'cause I do it all the time.

Sherry M Peyton said...

As someone who is again struggling with my own issues with The Catholic Church, I can deeply sympathize with this. sigh....

Border Explorer said...

Thanks, Friends, for your compassionate, empathic responses to this very personal post. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to address a group of seminarians on the topic of leadership in the Church. I was a bit taken aback when a couple of the seminarians expressed shock and amazement that women in the Catholic Church might feel like they are at all "second class" members. This seemed to be new information to them. I was as shocked by their response as they had been by my sharing.

Tim said...

This moved me, Billie. Thank you for passing it along. While the RCC remains the most blatantly gender-biased, I think the church as a whole has a ways to go yet--because our culture still associates authority with masculinity.

I grew up with a woman pastor who also happened to be my mom. So I got a good behind-the-scenes look at how denominations that appoint women to pastoral roles can regard them as less-than-equal to their male peers. This Daddy obsession is one of the reasons the Church has crept along while the society it serves dashes ahead.

Dave Dubya said...

I was raised Catholic. My mother never complained, of course, but I would question the rules. I was young and had bacon on a Friday away from home. I felt guilty and wondered why God would consider that a sin. She simply pointed out it was more important to understand and live Jesus's message than to respect all the rules. Over the centuries rules change. The Gospel does not.

Unfortunately the Church has an institutionalized authoritarian foundation to work through.