War on Women

Angelico's Agony in the Garden

Long before the chairman of the Republican National Convention compared every women to caterpillars, I found this strange piece of artwork that I’d never seen before. This was before the pope reminded us that Jesus only called as men to be disciples, so only men should be ordained. This was before my sense of being a woman was squashed like, well… a caterpillar.

Upon finding this piece of artwork by the Italian fresco artist Fra Angelico, I learned that there is a tradition around these women. It’s the story we will hear tonight as so many other Christian communities will remember how the disciples couldn’t stay awake as Jesus asked them to do. They were tired. They were sad. They were so many things — but this tradition offers a twist where the women stayed awake. 

Outside of Gethsemane, just beyond the gates, the women watched and prayed. Fra Angelico wanted to be sure you knew who these women were so he offers their names just above their heads. Martha holds her hands in prayer while Mary reads.I found this story here. I want to be sure to give credit where credit is due but my mind races with questions about what the women knew and how the women felt and what courage they garnered to stay awake while the others slept.

This is what we will ponder tonight when we gather for worship. What is it that the women saw? How did the women feel? What did they do that the men couldn’t imagine? We’ll remember the woman that anointed Jesus’ feet. We’ll remember that the women were there when Jesus invited the disciples into communion. We’ll remember the women that stayed awake outside the gates. While others might declare war on women, we know that there is something rare and precious about every person created by God. We know that there is something mysterious in the stories we share — and the ones that have not yet been told. Tonight, we’ll try to make room for the things we haven’t given voice to before. We’ll try to remember that everyone feels left out, ignored or trampled upon. We’ll make space for every one of those people because Jesus commanded us to love one another. Even caterpillars need to remember that they are loved. So do I. And so do you.

2 thoughts on “War on Women

  1. (cont. from above) That being said, we do love and respect our priests as representing Christ in a specific way and with a specific purpose. Catholics believe in the True Presence (transubstantiation)as I'm sure you are aware. The requirement that priests be male is a visible sign which re-presents sacramental and scriptural truths/realities. Rather than immediately jumping to the reductionist, and frankly prejudiced and anti-Catholic, conclusion that the stipulation that priests be men is merely the result of chauvinism and millenniums of male hegemony, perhaps we should attempt an experiment in exploring the significance of maleness to the priestly vocation sympathetically i.e. honestly try to understand the Catholic perspective without jumping to the regnant popular(perhaps politically more than theologically motivated) conclusions.

    Furthermore, the Pope's statement was issued to priests who are CATHOLIC. He was not attempting to mandate that protestant ministers be male, or imposing Catholicism on non-Catholic Christians. In this instance he was instructing the Catholic faithful, that's who this message was meant for, Catholics.

    Yesterday evening, we began the Triduum, the three most holy days in the Christian liturgical year, and you were right when you said, “We[should]make space for every one of those people because Jesus commanded us to love one another”. Catholics are deserving of that love too, and love implies an attempt at honestly understanding the other. Christusvivit!

    It's worth mentioning too as an aside that Blessed Fra Angelico was a faithful Catholic, and Blessed Pope John Paul the Great conferred beatification in 1982 in recognition of his holiness.

    Peace of Christ be with you,


  2. I can see where you might read my words as anti-Catholic but it was certainly not intended that way. It grieves me that any Christian tradition (Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, etc) would not recognize that Jesus made a space for those that were most under-valued in that time including women, tax collectors and so many others. He may not have called them as disciples in the canonical scriptures but I believe this calls us ever more to expand the love that Jesus offers. Prayers for you on this Holy Saturday.


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