Friday, November 24, 2017

"The Prophet Who Set All Women Free" by Rev. Claire O'Brien, Deacon, ARCWP, Heart of Compassion Faith Community, Windsor, ON (24 Nov 17)

We know Jesus in many ways: through grace, through faith, through spending time with Him in prayer, through Scripture, through the teaching and preaching of others and their music, art and poetry, which often deeply inspires us, through our developing, personal relationship with Him, through meditation and contemplation and through ways such as academic study, e.g., reading the opinions and the findings of expert historians, archaeologists and others, including people like members of the Jesus Seminar, whose expert work shines a light onto the way of life in the time of the historical Jesus, as well into the life of Jesus, Himself.
Scripture scholars and linguistic experts make enormous contributions to our knowledge of Jesus. I truly love learning about the historical Jesus and the more I learn, the more I feel I know Jesus even better. I am very grateful to Scripture scholars and people like the recently deceased Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, as well as Elizabeth Johnson and many others, for what I have learned from them about Jesus.
Elizabeth Johnson writes of Christians casting our lots in with Jesus “taking cues from his preaching and praxis as to the pattern of one’s own life, drawing hope from his destiny, in a word, being a branch on the Christic vine” (p.161). What a lovely image that is, to “be a branch on the Christic vine”.
Branches draw life from the main part of the plant, they grow stronger, longer and far-reaching. They belong together, each complementing the other. That is the ideal way for a Christian to be rooted in Jesus---to be belong and to be attached to Jesus, like the branch belongs to the vine and is attached to the vine. However, if we don’t have a deep, committed relationship with Jesus, we will never be able to be a strong branch bearing fruit in His name. In order for this to happen, we need to know Jesus and the more we can learn from experts in various fields about the historical Jesus and His world, the more we will know and appreciate Jesus for Who He was and what He did during his life on Earth.
Elizabeth Johnson writes that the research being done on Jesus is making a difference to “the high doctrinal Christology supported by a literal reading of the gospels” (p.162). She continues by stating, “It is painting new pictures of how Jesus interacted with his world and providing new categories of how he can be understood” (p. 162). This is, indeed, wonderful progress and great news! Most people who call themselves Christians seem to retain an old-fashioned, outdated, childhood concept of Jesus.
I’m convinced the real Jesus was nothing like that image people have of Him. New information and a new understanding of Jesus and His world are just what we need! The more, for example, experts tell us about the way life was in Palestine of old, the better we can understand just how radical and different Jesus was.We can imagine and picture Him better in the world in which He lived, if we know more about life in that world. Research into the historical Jesus provides us with so much information on this.
He lived in a very strict, patriarchal religious society where women and children were considered nobodies. The Pharisees and their cohorts attempted to enforce hundreds of laws, many of them purity laws. Jews became ritually impure when they touched someone who was considered to be unclean. There were a variety of ways to make yourself unclean. For a man to touch a woman he was not related to would make him unclean and if that woman was bleeding or had leprosy or had touched somebody who was dead, that was even worse! Men did not associate with women in public and they most certainly did not have conversations with them! Jesus, the devout Jew, the Son of God, simply ignored all that and just went about doing what He had to do: touching, relating with, talking to, healing and consoling women…and making Himself ritually unclean in the process!
Women were an important part of His ministry. Why did He do such things as touch a girl considered by all except Jesus to be dead and raise her to life, and heal a hemorrhaging woman? He did this and similar things to show compassion and solidarity, love and care, to restore crippled lives to wholeness and women to the fullness of life. I also believe that He wanted to show the religious leaders, particularly the Pharisees and His own followers, that people were far, far more important than the religious laws that controlled their lives. He healed their spirits as well as their bodies and He gave them the understanding and compassion they needed to become whole.He gave them dignity and forgiveness, as well as friendship and love.
Let us consider for a few minutes the healing of the bent-over woman. She had been crippled for eighteen years. During all of that time, she was in pain and could not do all the things she had once done so easily. Any one of us who has had a fracture, surgery or an accident can easily relate to that! Her life was so completely different from what it should have been. Was she dependent on others for her shopping from the market and her water from the well? Probably. Was she scorned, considered useless and a burden and ignored by her husband, because she could no longer clean the house and fetch the food and water or because she found making love painful or difficult? Most likely. Was she ignored by her neighbors, as she wasn’t able to join them in their daily walks to the well and their other activities? Maybe.
Whereas others only saw the bent-over woman, Jesus saw beyond that. He saw the multiple burdens: the anguish, the isolation, the loneliness and the physical, mental, emotional, social and psychological burdens her infirmity had caused and, by extension, He saw and still sees the burdens of all kinds carried by all women. What joy, gratitude and marveling must have been in the thanks she offered to God “for showing her such tender mercy through the kindness of this prophet and teacher, Jesus of Nazareth” (p.216). Without Jesus research, most of us would not understand the deep significance of most of Jesus’ encounters with women. If only we could read more of His encounters with women. Perhaps, due to archaeological research and finds and future academic scholarship, one day we will.
Referring to the kinds of relationships Jesus had with women, Elizabeth Johnson writes,“Study of Jesus’ relationships during his public life reveal his lack of fear of women and a strong interest in their flourishing. No word of disparagement passed his lips, nor did he see women as a lesser class of human being” (p.219). This would, indeed, be something the men of today’s world, in particular, the male hierarchy of the R.C. Church and all controlling men, should aim to imitate!
Jesus made the women He met flourish! He treated “them with grace and respect, he healed, exorcized, forgave, and restored women to shalom, being particularly attentive to those most in need: the newly dead little girl, the widow whose son had just died, the impoverished widow who gave all she had to the temple, the adulterer about to be stoned” (p.219). He restored dignity to women whose dignity had been taken away by the men of the patriarchal society in which they lived. He even told the religious leaders of His day that prostitutes would enter the Kingdom of Heaven before they would! I can just imagine the outrage with which the Pharisees reacted to that remark!!! No wonder theJewish religious authorities wanted to get rid of Him! They made several attempts which failed and then they finally succeeded. Jesus did not die on a cross at Calvary to free us from our sins, as the Church has taught for about one thousand years. ‘Jesus’ suffering resulted “from his free loving fidelity to his prophetic ministry and his God.” What may be considered salvific in such a situation is not the suffering endured, but only the love poured out’ (p.173).
Jesus did so much for women throughout His ministry. No wonder women loved Him and travelled with Him, helping Him in His work in whichever ways they could. All of us who love deeply know the joy of working alongside and relieving the burdens of a person we deeply love; that is how it was for those women who were fortunate enough to be His disciples. It was the women who were the strong disciples, not the men! We don’t know a lot of the names of these women, as the writers of the New Testament were all male and males of those times usually totally discounted women, so, given that custom, it is surprising that we even have one name of one woman, but, fortunately, we do.
Mary Magdalene, of course, is the best known name of His female friends. There were several Mary's mentioned by name, as well as a Veronica (in the Gospel of Nicodemus), a Martha, a Joanna and a Susanna. It was the women who financially supported His work and it was the women who stood by His cross, unlike the male disciples who mostly went and hid for fear of being arrested themselves. Jesus must have had such deep trust in Mary Magdalene in order for Him to have given her such an important mission on the morning of His resurrection.
If we, as modern women, could rewrite the gospels, how different would be the stories contained within them! Women of the time of Jesus would be given the prominence they deserved. What we do know from the research that has been done outside of the domain of Scripture scholarship is that Jesus loved women, was loved by women and had extraordinary friendships with women, extraordinary from the perspective of the type of relationships which were normal at that time. Jesus gave dignity to women, as well as His friendship and love. As Elizabeth Johnson writes, “Theology in women’s hands has discovered Jesus Christ as compassionate friend, liberator from burdens, consoling friend in sorrows, and ally of women’s strivings (p.223).” She goes on to say, “He brings salvation through his life and Spirit, supporting women’s efforts to realize how beloved they are in the eyes of God” (p.223).
This, then, is a major part of our mission, to seek out the women who are still oppressed and raise them up to a better life, a life where oppressed women can, like the bent-over woman, stand up proudly, straight and tall and reach out to others and inspire and raise them up too. May Jesus send us His Spirit to renew us and energize us to notice women who are still oppressed and to seek them out and serve them and bring them to wholeness. “Woman, you are set free” (Luke 13:12) echoes down through the centuries as a promise from Jesus. We are the ones who represent Him now in the world and He relies on us to work to set others who live in bondage of any kind free.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I Give Thanks for You and for All My Blessings

 I sing Alleluia with Jan Phillips and the Gospel choir in the youtube video attached here in thanksgiving today for my many blessings, family, friends, health, home, the international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement and for all of you. 

Namaste, I honor the Divine Presence in you and say thank you. 
May your day be filled with thanks-giving and joy!

Thanks for following me on blogger, FB and twitter. 

I share the following wise words from C.S. Lewis that may come in handy during a Thanksgiving meal or anytime for that matter:
..."remember that the dullard and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship."  C.S. Lewis Weight of Glory, 14-15.


"Mt. Airy activist’s book blasts Catholic Church leaders" by Len Lear, Chestnut Hill Local

“One thing you should know is that I’m not angry with the church,” said DiFranco, who says Mass at the Community of Saint Mary Magdalene in Drexel Hill. “I got over that a long time ago. I feel sorry for them, actually, because they are working against history, and this time history is going to win.”
by Len Lear
“I belonged to St. Vincent de Paul Church (in Germantown) for 20 years or so. St. Vincent ‘s is the only parish I ever attended within the institutional church that ever addressed racism and poverty as part of the gospel. Sadly, they could not address misogyny, which is why I eventually left. The institution, as you might know, treats people who support women’s ordination with a very heavy hand, frightening people who might speak up otherwise.
“This, of course, also compromises the gospel. Pedophiles are treated better. This is true even under Pope Francis. Priests who have supported women’s ordination have not yet been reinstated. While Francis calls for a ‘deep theology’ of women, he ignored the deep theology developed by women over the past 50 years. He appears blind to the decreasing numbers of male clergy. Because of this, the parish closings will continue.”
These are the opinions of Eileen DiFranco, 65, a Mt. Airy resident for the last 41 years and author of the recently published book, “How To Keep Your Parish Alive,” about her experience founding an “outside-the-pale Catholic community” (her words). In the book she offers parishioners of parishes slated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to close “a way to remain open, albeit in a ‘resurrected’ fashion.”
DiFranco, a long-time critic of the church hierarchy, explained her views at a book signing event Sunday, Nov. 12, at 15 Westview St. in West Mt. Airy, the site of an “intentional Eucharistic community, Sanctuary of Peace.” This is one of the relatively new communities that exist outside of the traditional Catholic Church. There is another similar community that meets in Flourtown.
“Almost all of us were observant Catholics who could no longer support an institution that covered up child abuse and continues to regard gay people as lesser human beings,” said DiFranco. “These new communities are not hierarchical; they ordain women and use non-sexist language. We are men and women, gay and straight. I think these small communities might be the future of the church.”
DiFranco, a mother of four children, grew up in Port Richmond and attended Nativity BVM grade school, Hallahan High School and Immaculata University. She has an R.N. from the Chestnut Hill Hospital School of Nursing (now closed), an M.A. Ed. from Arcadia University in Glenside and an M. Div from the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia in Mt. Airy.
Two years ago DiFranco retired from the School District of Philadelphia, where she worked as a school nurse for 25 years. She currently substitutes two days a week. After belonging to the women’s ordination conference for some years, a friend and former Catholic who is now a Lutheran pastor, suggested that she attend the Lutheran Seminary, which she did.
“Then, my colleagues and classmates told me to pursue ordination,” she explained. “I met with Patricia Fresen, a Roman Catholic Women Priest bishop, who asked me if I’d like to be ordained. And so I was. Another interesting story is how Patricia’s treatment by the church differed from the way the church treated pedophile priests who were often given stipends and paid health insurance by their dioceses. Patricia was thrown out of the Dominican order after being a nun for 40 years with no means of support. It ruined her health.”
In 2007 DiFranco became one of two female pastors at the Community of Saint Mary Magdalene in Drexel Hill. DiFranco had been ordained along with seven other women by a group called the Roman Catholic Womenpriests at a ceremony in Pittsburgh in 2006. Her ordination prompted then-Philadelphia Archbishop Cardinal Anthony Rigali to send her a letter stating that she was going to become a public scandal.
In 2010, Roman Catholic Womenpriests officially responded to Vatican comments that listed the ordination of women priests as “delicta graviora,” placing it in its list of most serious crimes against Roman Catholic canon law, the same category as sexual abuse of children by priests.
“They’re doing a terrible job,” said DiFranco about the male priests who have led the church since its inception about 2,000 years ago. “I don’t have to leave [the church] because we have disagreements. Mature people should be able to talk about disagreements … we’re changing the model of the Roman Catholic priest.”
Even as a 6-year-old girl, DiFranco questioned some church traditions. Why couldn’t she be an altar server? “I felt like if the boys could do it, I could do it. I thought, ‘I’m just as smart as they are.’” But “questions weren’t really encouraged,” she said about voicing her opinion. She learned “This is the way God wanted it. What could you say?” She was a member of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Mt. Airy but left 31 years ago
and then attended St. Vincent de Paul for 20 years.
“I admire those who speak truth to power,” she told us in an interview last week. “Church and state likewise like to think that they are special and not worthy of criticism. You might have seen that in Archbishop Chaput’s recent letter to the Inquirer. The church refuses to recognize the harm they have knowingly, willingly and ruthlessly done to women and would rather become a small group of like minded people rather than change and follow the gospel.
“This is the reason I wrote my book. The church is not acting in the best interest of either the people or God or the gospel when they close down parishes following a business model rather than a Jesus model. The people should keep their parishes open in a new, resurrected mode without the consent or approval of the bishops. Catholics have done this for millennia while the church smeared them, persecuted them and often killed them.
“My book is a handbook for those brave souls who are willing to break the bonds of what I consider to be an anti-woman, homophobic church that hurts people.”
DiFranco now celebrates Mass at the Community of Saint Mary Magdalene, which has been in existence for 10 years. They meet every Sunday in the McBurney Chapel of Drexel Hill United Methodist Church and every Saturday, 5 p.m., at Epworth United Methodist Church in Palmyra. “Nobody can excommunicate you from the love of God,” said DiFranco.
For more information about the Community of Saint Mary Magdalene, visit For more information about Roman Catholic Womenpriests, visit DiFranco can be reached at


I dare to share my personal experience. I anticipate to say, for me it has been a great liberating wealth.
No matter what I have been taught, in the past, here the most important thing is to discover the work of the Spirit that encourages and liberates me.
I was taught and learned from the Catechism of Father Astete sj:
 "P. Why did Jesus Christ institute the sacrament of Baptism? R. Jesus Christ instituted the sacrament of Baptism to forgive original sin, and also the personal sins committed by the baptized person. " (1).
I asked: "What is original sin? they answer me:
"Original sin is that which we inherit from our first parents, and through which we are born without sanctifying grace, and subject to the disorder of our bad inclinations, to ignorance, to sufferings and to the danger of eternal death" (2)
I believe, I will never understand, why children of God, small, helpless, have to carry something that they have not committed? If they were adults, there they would understand, but not because they are the fault of their ancestor, but because they have already done something, consciously.
I have another question no less interesting, which appears in the Catechism of the Christian Doctrine:
"P. What obligation do their parents have regarding the baptism of their children? A. Parents have a grave obligation to have their children baptized very soon so they will not be in danger of dying without the grace of God. "He saw, in passing, a man born blind. And his disciples asked him: Rabbi, who sinned he or his parents, so that he was born blind? Jesus answered: Neither he sinned, nor his parents; it is so that the works of God may be manifested in him "John 9: 1-3" (3).
Nobody can be forced to baptize, except as an adult. The value of the sacrament as an encounter, how that discovery would have a different dimension, when one discovers it, through the rite, the symbols and the accompaniment of the community. No magic, no mystery, but yes, with the heart and an open mind, towards a commitment to change, without resentment, without grudges, correcting the past, living the present.
I keep reflecting and I find the text of 1 Peter 3:21:
"For you, all this is a symbol of Baptism that now saves you, which does not consist in washing the dirt of the body, but in the commitment to God of a clean conscience; for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. "
Here, take my ministry flight!
Women and men within the Church, we have been baptized, the same rite, the same symbols (oil, candle, water). Not to "discuss" equality between men and women, and less to generate competition with male clergy.
It is a pity, the amount of ink that has run, teaching, about Baptism, as something magical, obligatory and necessary for salvation, that purifies, and cleans, making the Church, a board of refuge against evil, as a lighter , losing the "honor and glory to God", that as daughters and sons of the Godhead, we must announce him from the depths of our being.
It is impossible, without making a personal change, from within, the grace is automatically, without any personal effort, saying only: I believe, I accept, amen. The first time I met with myself, unraveling these tangles of patriarchal doctrine, was living in the midst of my Elder Brothers, the indigenous community Arhuaca. In the fullness of my youth, I traveled to them, to "save them", because saving them, even though I was one, saved my soul, according to what they had told me. It was something, nothing more than reality. They were, they who taught me, how to organize and live in community.
Picking up the threads, given to us by Vatican II, I would like to take advantage of them to try to weave a Baptismal Theology, with the eyes of a woman. It has been the sacrament of Baptism, which elevates my dignity as a daughter of God and as a woman, from the moment I accept and found myself in Christ, in full transformation:
"And it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life that I now live in the body, I live by my faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself to death for me. "Galatians 2:20
To accept Baptism is to accept it, not only as suffering and death, but to live it in its Paschal dimension, and to proclaim the Gospel, mission that does not exclude, nor marginalize, nor by race, nationality, condition of social class and less by sex (Marcos 7: 24-30, Gal. 3:28, Col. 3:11). In the Church, as the Body of Christ:
"There are different spiritual gifts, but one Spirit; there are different ministries, but one Lord; There are different activities, but the same God who executes everything in everyone ". 1 Cor 12: 4-6.
According to what we have just seen, there is no reason, for such a marked difference between the common priesthood, (deteriorated, and almost forgotten) and the ministerial priesthood. The fact of having received a call, and a different mandate, does not place me above the common priesthood, nor does it make me more holy. Both the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood are united by Baptism. Why are they separated? Is there not enough demand to share and live with the faithful, the wealth of Baptism?
I can not stay alone, in the rite, and less in the party. I can not do it static, but participatory, community. I feel that from my ministry, I must provoke the discovery of the Divine, make the fear of the "sacred" lose and take seriously the relationship with God Father-Mother, tender and filial, that protects and protects us.
From my feminine priestly ministry, I have to make known and vibrate the ministry of the common priesthood, because this is not a second class state, let alone pass unnoticed. When this is understood and lived, the meaning of the Church becomes stronger. The Church is democratized, breaking hierarchical, clerical and patriarchal schemes.
"But everything is done by the same and unique Spirit, distributing to each one as he wishes. As the body, being one, has many members, and the members, being many form one body, so also Christ. All of us, Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, we have been baptized in one Spirit to form one body, and we have drunk a single Spirit. 1Cor 12: 11-13.
We have been taught that by Baptism all the baptized, women and men are: priests, prophets and administrators (kings). Peter, in his 1 Peter: 2: 9 has no qualms in reaffirming it when he says:
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and an acquired people to proclaim the wonders of the one who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

These words of Peter, are taken up by the Church, in his Catechism (4) in the number 783, where it says:

   " Jesus Christ is the one whom the Father has anointed with the Holy Spirit and has constituted him" Priest, Prophet and King ". The entire People of God participates in these three functions of Christ and has the responsibilities of mission and service that derive from them (cf. RH 18-21). "
As a woman, I feel very honored, for having been called to the ministerial priesthood, called, that has not been made for me because I am a woman, but because I belong to the people of God. Call to exercise a service within the Church, within the most needy communities, in a society and culture like the current one, which challenges us to live in dignity and honesty the Gospel.
All my life, by family and formation I have served the Church. I felt the call, I did not attend it, until it was the community, with which I had been sharing, through prayer and biblical reflection, the one that asked me for the service. "We want a Eucharist, the Father does so much, he does not come ...", "My mother, she is dying, she needs the anointing of the sick ... I do not get a priest, because those that I have looked for, the one is in the University and the other He says it does not belong to his parish. "" Why do not you exercise? I'm not orderly, it was my answer.
It is the Community, the one that lives and knows their needs, it is they who want and must exercise the common priesthood. In the common priesthood lies the Church, she is the guardian by tradition and faith, the depository of the Truth. So far, they do not do it, because they have not been taught, they do not know it. They are not taught, for fear of losing power. They are the ones who must be administrators of the "goods" of the Church and not those who exercise the ministerial priesthood. That is why my ministerial priesthood is a service, it is not a range of authority and power.
"And whoever wants to be the first to become a servant of all. Because the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many "Mark 10: 44-45.
The mission of the ministerial priesthood, whether exercised by men or women, is very clear, creating fraternal relations in Peace and Reconciliation, far from the bonds of power, linked to politics and economy. Mostly based on serving!
Service in the Church is not obedience to constitutions, norms, nor canons. Service, as commitment and commitment within the Church, both in the common priesthood and in the ministerial priesthood, is not paper. It is new, creative, always new, as it is and should be the announcement of the Good News.
Vatican II, summons us and urges us to live the baptismal triad, in the following way, in LG 34:
 "Since Christ Jesus, supreme and eternal Priest, wants to continue his testimony and his service through the laity, he vivifies them with his Spirit and impels them incessantly to every good and perfect work. For those whom he associates intimately with his life and Their mission also makes them share in their priestly office in order to exercise spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men. Therefore, the laity, as consecrated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are admirably called and endowed, so that in them the most bountiful fruits of the Spirit may always be produced. "
Without excluding, without marginalizing, without misogyny, without homophobia, without despising and rejecting, the most important message in the mission of being a priest, prophet, administrator (king) assigned to men and women is equality between women and men, to reach fulfill the wish of our Heavenly Father-Mother:
"May they all be ONE, as you, Father, are in me and I in you; may they also be one in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me. I gave them the glory that you gave me to be ONE as we are. " John 17: 21-22.
So they present themselves to me; obstacles, prohibitions, repressions, ridicule and discredit, I assume with energy and courage my ministerial priesthood, supported by the phrase of Peter and John:
"Do you judge whether it is right in God's eyes that we obey you rather than him? Judge it. We can not shut up what we have seen and heard "Acts 4: 19-20.
Do not be afraid, to show the Glory of God, do not hide it, do not deny it. Show your Glory, is to give thanks, is to bless, and praise. Let us live our Baptism, either as a common priesthood or as a ministerial priesthood, which dignifies and makes us shine, we are a divine spark, we are the reflection of the Glory of God! 2nd Cor. 3: 7-8.

  1. Father Gaspar Astete, sj Catechism of the Christian Doctrine. p. 101. 6a. ed. Rionegro, April 1980.
  2. Idem. p. twenty-one
  3. Idem. p. 103
  4. ) Catechism of the Catholic Church
* Roman Catholic Presbyter.