As my ordination draws near, I’ve had the time to ruminate on a name for our future community’s Roman Catholic church. Originally, I chose the name “Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth,” as I want it known that God is She, not only He; yet neither. . . . In order to express some equality between men and women, we need to acknowledge that God is She . . . that to get to God as neither, God must be named as She. In polite company, we must be able to say and acknowledge She without everyone cringing.
It is only the first paragraph, yet I have digressed. . . .
I picture the unnamed woman in Luke 7:38, “As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” For some time, it was thought that she was a prostitute and that she was also Mary Magdalene. This notion came from Pope Gregory in 531 AD who conflated this repentant sinner with Jesus’ best-known female companion. This was hardly surprising, as women are always being confused, condemned, and forgotten, then disappeared. We were then and still are now treated as interchangeable, like batteries.
Let’s try to pull it together, a name for a church community: The Unnamed Woman Catholic Church. Nope – needs to appeal to a wider audience. First Believer – too Protestant. Saint Jane Doe, too crime scene! Think. . . Think. . . who was that woman who was the hero (we don’t say heroine anymore) in the Old Testament? Jael? Okay Saint Jael (Ya-el). Oh, we can have a lovely processional hymn:
From the Song of Deborah and Barak in Judges, chapter 5 (begin music)
Most blessed of women be Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite,
of tent-dwelling women most blessed.
He asked for water and she gave him milk;
she brought him curds in a noble’s bowl.
She sent her hand to the tent peg
and her right hand to the workmen’s mallet;
she struck Sisera;
she crushed his head;
she shattered and pierced his temple. . . .
There he fell—dead.
Oh, my! What am I thinking? I need help. Let me call my sister Michelle. My dear childhood friend, confidant, and soul sister is very excited about our church idea. Okay, she wants to meditate on it, but for now she is getting, “Shedding Light,” “Shining a Light,” “Returning to Light.”. . . She’ll get back to me. Let me call Beth, my dear friend, who was so excited about the idea of our community that she is creating an inspired logo in fabric art. She says, “Mary of the Universe” . . . “um, too New Age” . . . “okay, try googling . . .” I quickly write down all her suggestions.
Sprawled in my oversized, comfy chair, as the warm sun shines through the somewhat salt-sprayed, speckled window onto my matronly, placid face, in a place between sleep and awake, two images float through my consciousness. One image is of the unknown woman humiliating herself in perpetuity with the hope that she will be lifted up from outside of herself; and, the other is of Mary, Queen of Heaven, resplendent in all her glory. We’ve been on our knees long enough; heaven has manifest. Being humble before God is internal, it’s about standing in the truth of who you are without shame. As I drift away, She tells me to move on, create content, tell fun stories.
And so I do.
(This first appeared in Leading, volume 5, Spring 2021, The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priest’s Newsletter, ARCWPSpring2021.pdf.)