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What does it mean to a be community of love? Its something that I’ve been noodling over quite a bit this week and not just because it was the topic of Pastor Helen’s sermon last Sunday. I think that part of the reason that it has stuck in my mind so deeply is that there is such a great need in today’s world for God’s love.

Take a look at Ruth’s post this week. Two boys were thrown together as room mates. They may not have had a lot in common, but I’m sure they had some common ground. But all they saw were the differences and these differences became reasons to despise and attack.

But sometimes a lack of God’s love isn’t criminal although it is demoralizing. Take a look at Lori’s post.  Not only is there a lack of positive role models for women in the Catholic church, Catholic women are often left feeling like less than they should be. They aren’t built up. They aren’t cherished as daughters of God.

Yet Christians are called upon to create communities of love. “The Church is to be a community of love, where sin is forgiven, reconciliation is accomplished, and the dividing walls of hostility are torn down.” (The Calling of the Church, The Book of Order, PCUSA)

This may be what we are called upon to do, but so often it isn’t what we actually do. Instead scripture is used to build dividing walls. We spat with each other. We carry grudges.

Maybe that’s something we could try giving up for Lent. Any one have a grudge they’d like to lay aside?  

–SueBE

Female role models don’t exactly abound in the Catholic Church. On the one hand, we have Mary, mother of God. Ever see a statue of Mary? Does she look like a woman who gave birth and nursed a child or does she look like a twelve-year-old boy? If you agreed with the latter, you must be a church-goer. All the statues I’ve ever seen of Mary portray her as nearly sexless, with no curves and even less femininity. Saint John is prettier. But of course, Mary was a virgin. That the Bible never says whether she had sex with Joseph (who was her husband, after all) after the birth of Jesus doesn’t keep most people from viewing her as perpetually untouched — and therefore sinless. Mary is just about the only positive role model young Catholic girls have…and she’s not portrayed as a woman in any real way — certainly not in a way that a modern woman in a loving relationship can respond to. There are few (if any) husbands or boyfriends as understanding as Joseph. One expression of human sexuality and, well, you’re not like Mary anymore.

So, whom can we look to? Let’s examine the other Mary, Mary Magdalene. Again, nowhere in the Bible does it state that Mary Magdalene was a woman of ill repute. In fact, MM’s backstory didn’t come about until Pope Gregory, in the year 591, decided that three women named Mary mentioned in the gospels were, in fact, one and the same woman. Thus began Mary Magdalene’s association with bad girls. Of course we know that she reformed. But let’s face it; what do we primarily associate her with? Prostitution. Arguably Jesus’ most faithful female disciple — she who stood by the cross while He died, she who first discovered that He had risen — has gone down in history as a common whore. Who wants to be like her?

Where does that leave all of us women of faith who are neither virgins nor whores? Who do we have to look up to, to emulate? Most female saints are of the virginal sort, many losing their lives rather than relinquish their purity to some filthy man. Then there’s St. Anne, mother of Mary, and St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine — both married ladies and mothers to boot. What do we know about them? Not much, other than they gave birth to great figures of the Church. They are prized, seemingly, mostly for being the mother of Someone. Too bad.

Catholic boys and men have a plethora of choices for role models — from firebrands like Peter and Paul to contemplatives like St. John…tough guys, like Michael the Archangel and tender guys, like Francis of Assisi. Catholic women mostly have Mary or Mary. No wonder so many of us feel lost.

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