Wednesday, October 23, 2013


My furthest memory of an ironing board was that of a place to crawl under and imagine myself being hid in a space between the kitchen and living room.  My mother pressed many things so the ironing board could not be folded up and put too far away.  In those days it was not uncommon for me to see her ironing my brother's under shirts, us girls' bras, and even socks.  Pillowcases were ironed and placed in a tri-fold until taken out on Saturdays when bed linens were changed and washed.  Of course, in those days the irons weren't the magical steam spouting light weight appliances of today.  They were heavy and sat on a metal stand at the end of the board along with the misting bottle and spray starch.  It was quite a chore for our mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers but there was something about watching a woman iron and starch a shirt for someone she loved that appeared sacramental.

Last night I was ironing my husband's shirts and began thinking about my life around the ironing board.  I have my mother's board which keeps reminding me on occasion that wood does not last through too many lifetimes.  Soon it's springs will stretch too far and its wood piece that catches on a large tack of some sort and holds up the board itself will no longer catch and it will not be able to stand.  It, like the women who have appreciated its usefullness, will have to go away and within a few generations be forgotten.

There was another time this past year that I was standing at the ironing board pressing a man's shirt.  It was a beautiful lavender colored shirt that belonged to my son in law.  He had died suddenly a few days before and I had asked my daughter if I could take the clothes he would be buried in and press them for him.  I knew how much he liked his clothes to look clean and pressed when he was dressing for work or other special occasions.  It was the last act of kindness that I could give to him.  In the time it took me to press his shirt, pants, and tie I felt the holiness of God that comes with loving someone to death.  This ironing was a simple act but it was an act placed in the spiritual realm of "doing unto others". 

As I recalled this moment last evening I wondered if I had also pressed my mother's green dress that was chosen for her burial or if she, maybe, had pressed her mother's dress or my grandfather's dress shirt, pants, and tie.  I also couldn't help but wonder who else's clothes I may iron for this same purpose and who it will be that will lovingly press mine.  Sacraments are like that.  They can wash away sin and initiate like that of baptism or they can sanctify and make ready like that of annointing of the sick.  Their holy and life changing grace comes from our loving Father in Heaven who abundantly gives to us ways in which we can be in relationship to and reach Him.  The saints who have left their legacy of wisdom for us assure us that anyone who opens themselves up to God's goodness within these earthly activities, even that of ironing, will surely discover a depth of holiness that exists within the very act.  

St. Paul challenges all of Christ's faithful followers to learn to pray ceaselessly.  With my mother at her ironing board during the course of so many of her life's challenges and happy moments I am sure that prayers are embedded within the grain of its wood.  I know that when I stand by its side and I shake out a uniform shirt for one of my children or I begin pressing my husband's shirts for work, or tablecloths to be used to bring color to the spring gardens I can feel my spiritual self coming forth slowing down the busyness of my day and bringing to me deep thoughts of life and God.  May God be praised for its utility, its memories, and the many prayers prayed at its side.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Soul's Voice

I began my research today to educate myself on the "theology of women".  The first book I perused stated you cannot look at the history of women without seeing oppression, victimization, isolation, abuses, and powerlessness.  This was hard for me to read.  Intellectually I certainly know that this is a true representation of the history of women within humanity but, I suppose, I began to realize just how deep sin can distort God's creations and I felt very sad; sad for all women who have been treated in their lifetimes in ways that were unjust, lacking in mercy and respect, and especially for those who have experienced the force of demonic madness.  I knew in my heart that this was not the direction I should begin in for it would stop me as surely as I had begun.

It isn't that I am cowardly and unwilling to face these realities, it is because I know in my feminine being that it isn't a portrayal of the fullness of the story.  Women have been persistently trying to survive and survive well while feeding, in some way, their created dignity.  Some were good, some bad, some holy, some lazy, some carefree, some delightful, some vicious, some leaders, some radical, etc.  Within our human history we will certainly find individual lives lived.  Choices will have determined one's movement towards or away from God even within the oppressions of time, state, and church. I know that it is this picture of the whole woman, complete with her choices of holiness or sin, that I needed to begin with.  It is "she" with her authentic being created and known by God before her birth.  Through God's grace and mercy within her sinful humanness she is also full of goodness, possibilities, and spiritual gifts and God places her upon the earth to desire Him, do His will, and bring His presence of compassion and care to all "others".  Through God's sacrament of baptism her original sin is washed away but her tendency towards sin remains.  She will have to make her way, as we all do, through the experiences and choices of her life working within the framework of what she is given as a child and what she accepts as an adult.

Some would say that I should begin my journey with the awareness that there should be no differentiating between men and women.  A theology of humankind should be sufficient citing "neither male nor female ...".  I understand the desire for a "sex free" theology where differences cannot be used to separate and diminish but there is a difficulty with that and I think it begins with the awareness that to get to that spiritual point of understanding "all" within the goodness of God, we, as human beings, need to first start at the bottom and work our way up the spiritual ladder of enlightenment.  That means that we need to start with the creation of men and women, accepting the truth of differences established within Genesis, the Holy Scripture of God, and with interest, desire, and prayer seek to uncover God's Truth as we move upward into His mysterious infinity.  We need to ask Him if it be His will to bring us greater awareness of His creation "woman" and if so, reveal this to us through His Word, His Tradition, and His relationship to women through His Spirit and her spirit.  This honors God and with trust in His perfect justice we are then able to move forward in our discovery.

 The second book I looked at began with the soul of a woman, her mystical creation by God carrying within it God's image of His goodness.  The author talked about how men and women, being co-stewards of the earth, cannot attain a full understanding of themselves without attaining understanding of the "other".  Within the first part of the Introduction I knew that this is where my journey must begin...the woman's soul and the mysterious within every woman's being.  Questions begin to erupt within me.  I have such a strong desire to sit with groups of women and ask them to tell me about their personal relationship with the Holy Trinity.  How does the Spirit move within you?  Have you had experiences where you knew in your heart that there was "more" to the story?  As you were giving birth did you sense the presence of generations of women who have come before you?  Question upon question, an eternal invitation to speak up and out about life in God and while doing so, grow in personal and communal faith in the One who saves us from the possibility of a dark and bleak life of sin where oppression and deception distort and destroy all hope and joy. 

As a teacher and student of theology and as a director of spiritual discernment I have discovered for my self that God has sent me forth to seek out the soul's voice in whom ever I encounter for it is here that I can be of greatest service.  Within that it means that I will have to address all of those people, states, and institutions, including churches, that may stand in the way of the soul's voice being heard, affirmed, and celebrated as the gift that it is.  The parallel journey is that this speaks to my authentic created self.  I have come to know her and to know her well.  Having given myself over to the will of God and the awareness of human life and salvation through Jesus Christ I have come to know the importance of pursuing the fullness of life I have been given that has from its earliest beginning been drawn into the light of the Holy Spirit and with this awareness look outward onto the landscape of humanity and do what I can to bring to life the soul's voice of each and every human being that I meet. Within this will be the soul's voice of the woman. 

So, upon this foundation of creation in God's goodness and continued life in relationship with God, I can look back upon the weaknesses of humanity written within the realities of its history and allow myself to look truthfully upon the landscape of today.  May I be energized by the Spirit of God for this mission and strengthened in faith and love to encounter the continued oppressions within the world's cultures, especially the culture of the Church, and be the hands and feet of Christ through Spirit-led words of wisdom. May all women feel the love of God today given from His Spirit to theirs for in His Truth He has lifted the creation of womanhood up and said "It is good". 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Who Are You Woman of Christ Jesus?

I was watching television recently and a commercial came on.  In this advertisement there was a beautiful young woman, probably around 28, who was dressed in a summer dress that swung with her hips as she walked past other men and women on the street.  The men, of course, turned to look at her as she passed by while their female partners kept walking towards their destination.  This woman, smiling as she went, then had the words "Modern Muse" placed over her as a title of "role".  At the end of the commercial the term used by the unseen speaker was "inspiring".  I was left "hmmmmm'ing" to myself wondering what it was about this woman that was supposed to be noticeably inspiring.  Was it the way the men were so inspired to notice her and possibly pursue her if the movement of their partner didn't remind them that they had been heading somewhere and with someone that apparantly mattered to them?  Was it the way that she had chosen her clothing and perfume that was supposed to inspire the public to purchase?  Was her beauty, like that of Helen of Troy, supposed to inspire speechlessness?  I wasn't sure and after many days of reflecting upon this inspiring woman I am still not sure. 

What I am sure about is that this ad does not sell truth to individuals who value truth; truth of dignity and inspiration, especially of women.  I have no finger to point.  The ad is doing what it was meant to do and that is to make a woman want to do whatever she needs to do to look like that, walk like that, dress like that, and smell like that so that she, too, can gain that type of reaction from men.  It is a billion dollar industry within our culture.  I only have a "call out" to my sisters in Christ to seek out the fullness of their created dignity and to present it as inspiration to all who come into relationship with them.  Young girls need to "see" and "hear" the women in their lives who will let them know in their individual ways what it truly means to be Spirit inspired and live inspirational lives as co-stewards of the earth and all that God has created to dwell upon it.

Beauty has been distorted in my life time.  My mother was beautiful with her downy head of white hair and her short stature and Jergens infused soft, nursing hands.  Her deep chocolate French eyes mesmerized me the day before her death.  She loved God and she loved her Catholic faith filled with Sacrament and holy writings.  She promoted prayer and reflection especially during Advent.  She brought comfort to all those she ministered to in her nursing career.  She was poor and yet had a sureness about her, most of the time, that spoke of knowing that many material things just did not matter in good Christian woman's life.

I never knew my grandmothers but I knew my husband's grandmother and mother.  They, too,were inspirational in their love for family, food, and acceptance of hard work.  They laughed and loved cards and good jokes.  They talked of hard times and perseverance.   They could demand silence from the children and yet be ver attentive at times of tears all the while teaching them ways to survive and survive well. 

I have also known Sisters of St. Benedict who helped me to learn through my early education.  I think of their inspiration fondly for the living of their monastic lifestyle kept me "wondering" about the choice of ways of living and loving God.  There was sternness and love; generosity of time and talent and willingness to explore the theology of God.

So many inspiring women....women of other religious families, women who own businesses, women who haven't been able to have children who have sought ways to bring some a mother's love, women who lead, and women who write.  Few of these women, though, have clarified their spiritual life's journey and given it to our culture and the world as gift.  It is time.  It is like a pregnancy that has become overdue.  Each day that goes by without its birth is a day of longing that affects all of us women and leaves us to the mass produced, commercially created inspiration of the muse.

Rise up women of God and let the world know who you are.  Walk, talk, and breathe God's direction.  Enter into discernment and grow in your understanding of His creation of you and the will He has for your life today.  Go forth and serve the Lord and inspire all who see you today.  AMEN