Friday, April 10, 2009

A Catholic Feminist's Meditation on Holy Week

When you say that you're Catholic, it's almost as loaded as when you say you're a feminist. Almost.

When you say that you're a Catholic feminist, well, that's when the furrowed brows come out to play.

I've been both Catholic and feminist all my life, I've just only known about the Catholic identity a lot longer than the feminist. But, both have always been there, the development of one consciousness with separate feeding tubes.

I've hesitated to blog much about faith. In rare surges of courage, I'll post a thought or two about my spirituality, but the fear of scholars and other forms of judgment have paralyzed my writing on spirituality. Often, I convince myself that writing with emotion and with truth is spiritual, and it is, but writing ON the topics of feminism, faith, and spirituality is entirely different.

The questions come swiftly every time I want to write about being a Catholic feminist. Maybe I don't know enough. Maybe it'll leave a bitter taste in non-Catholic, non-believers blogmouth. Maybe I'll find something in my exploration that will make ME question my faith even more.

Being a womyn of faith is a funny thing. Often times, my experience of being a Catholic feminist runs into conflict. Many equate being a person of faith with being a person of certainty.

Oh, the irony!

Faith, for me, is about attempting to shut down every sensory tool in my body and listening only to what moves wordlessly within me. Faith, for me, is not about being right, but about relationship. Moving with a Creator, not following rules, is a hard concept to grasp. Speaking through prayer, not just reciting prayer takes a certain level of clarity and trust. Sometimes those grains are as small as seedlings, but I trust that the presence of those seedlings, no matter how tiny, are important. Critical even.

For much of my life, my friends have turned to me to inquire about my faith, its twists and turns and volatility. At times, I think a lot of people assume it's an ongoing, painful road where I am barefoot, bleeding, and sorrowing the passion of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ.

Two of the two heaviest words in a feminist's vocabulary.

Faith, if you center it in relationship, will never be stable. I will never be stable. How many relationships of love are barefoot, bleeding, and sorrowing? They have moments that mirror that description. There are those dark, dark hours of tragedy, death, illness, and loss that cannot be humanly reasoned or understood.

And there is living room dancing as well.

There are moments in that relationship where I dance by myself. Salsa, ballet, my own version of hip hop...MY moves that express joy, release, and euphoria. There are moments like that, too.

The swing between the two is faith, a constant searching for a Deeper, a More.

Relationship, the kind that I am looking for, is not meant to be justified to those who don't believe. That relationship is what I need, period. G*d is both noun and verb, an infinite and endless collaboration with a mysterious Being.

I feared writing about this. I feared that there would be no place for it in my writing.

Over the years of desiring to write about Catholic feminist spirituality, I felt small tugs on my shirt. Like a small toddler looking up at me and trying to get my attention. I would feel small tugs on my shirt that whispered, "if it's a part of your life, it will be a part of your writing."

But fear is paralyzing and it makes your life spotty with a haven for shadows.

I lived with the whispers for the majority of my life. The function of writing, the function of truth-telling eventually leads you to a path of fullness and strength. Writing, to work its peaceful and powerful effects, needs more light than shadows. It needs courage to talk about the shadows and dark corners.

Faith has always been a part of my life and the denial of that faith is a denial of my feminism. It is a hypocritical fallacy to declare my own feminism with no hint of my faith. I don't think anyone would have a problem with my declaration of spirituality. What most people have found conflict is, specifically, when I say I have a Catholic faith.

Immediately, thoughts jump to one topic: abortion. Women's rights. Reproductive health.

And while I think those conversations can frame enriching and enlightening learning, it also detracts from the millions of womyn and men who are within the Catholic faith who are striving, yearning, torturing themselves to express the conflict of being a person of faith and a person of the world. That conflict needs relationship and the need for expression encapsulates more than just the pro-life argument or the Church's stance on gay marriage and sexuality.

What I am saying is that I want to write about my faith without fear. And I hope/think that I have come to a point in my life where I can have faith IN feminism and my feminism in my faith. For me, the two have never been disjointed.

The Tridium of Holy Week are the three most significant days of the Catholic faith and begins today. I plan to blog about my feminst spiritual perspectives on it this week.

I hope you can join me in a spirit of reflection and meditation.


  1. I'm really glad you posted this, Lisa. I freeze up when trying to talk about my religion, too.

  2. I actually read this early yesterday morning, and it was on my mind as I walked the stations in my hood with thousands. thousands of primarily immigrant Latinos, many undocumented singing songs about how walking with Christ and with Mary pero these songs were also protest songs, songs about truth and justice and I found myself wanting to cry because it really was overwhelmingly beautiful.

    So thank you for this. I have been going back to church after a long absence because La Mapu, my older daughter has expressed an interest in joining the Catholic community, and my own relationship as a Catholic mixed with spritulism and afro-Latino Caribbean religious practices is so complicated.

    So again thank you for this. It's a hard balance that I am struggling with as well.


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