Friday, May 26, 2017

Sublime Sounds at ordination

The ordination of Catholic women in Minnesota on May 7 began with a stunning interruption of murmurs in the expectant congregation. Sublime sounds of a single vocalist quieted us with an exquisite performance of Bobby McFerrin’s 23rd Psalm. Its inclusive God-language filled my soul as much as the beautiful sounds.
She restores my soul, She rights my wrongs,
She leads me in a path of good things,
And fills my heart with songs.
The vocalist, I learned, was Catherine Fierro, professional singer and daughter of Rose Henzler, one of the newly-ordained. Cate’s daughters also sang during the Mass.

This psalm was only the beginning of musical treats. Maria Annoni, the other newly-ordained priest, informed me about the music director, Beth Kaiser:
Fellow musician, friend, and collaborator on many things liturgical, Beth coordinated musicians from the Grand Rapids area, Duluth, the Twin Cities, Elk River, and the St. Cloud area. She pulled all these gifted people together to make one sound—and what a sound it is.
Instrumentalists included flutist Julie Ellis, violinist Jean Leibfried, trumpet player Charlie Leibfried, percussionist Gregg Ciurleo, organist A.P. Hopper, and pianist Jeanne Cornish.
Director Beth Kaiser said,
I have had the privilege of working with all of the Duluth musicians (singers and instrumentalists) for various liturgies throughout the past 20+ years.
 There is no place I would have rather been than with this very special gathering of music ministers and serve as music director for such a joyous occasion.  And, the assembly... wow!  How wonderful to hear them raise the rafters in song.  THIS is what liturgy is supposed to do. Liturgy is SUNG PRAYER.  And, I believe this is what we experienced, fully.
Gender-neutral language in womanpriest Masses always refreshes me because I suffer from lord-talk in typical liturgies. It is a relief to hear, “Creator . . . Holy One . . . God, our Mother and Father.”
Bishop Nancy Meyer opened with the sign of the Cross,
We gather joyfully for this ordination in the name of God, Source of Being, Eternal Word and Holy Spirit.
At most Masses, I find particularly annoying the recitation at Communion,
Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and soul shall be healed.
It returns Catholics to the unhealthy attitude of the past when self-contempt was encouraged. At womanpriest Masses congregants recite,
Jesus, you make us worthy to receive you.
By your word we are healed.

Despite their significance as boosters of justice for women, womanpriest ceremonies are attended by few young people. Gray heads prevail. It does not distress me, because I believe we are entering a new spiritual paradigm. Young people in tune with the emerging paradigm move to non-traditional ways of satisfying their spiritual needs. Who are we to say our way is better? 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Women Priests Ordained 2

Last week I featured Rose Henzler, one of two new Catholic women priests. Also ordained on May 7 was Maria Annoni, who experienced young adulthood during the exciting days of Vatican II. She took to heart its message, “WE are the church.”
At an early age, Maria rejected the traditional ministry of women—doing the servant-work of cleaning, cooking, etc. while male ministers took the honors of standing before others and proclaiming the Word. Maria did not join the altar guild but chose to minister by using her musical talent.

She spent 30 years as liturgy director in her music ministry, 21 of these in a Catholic parish, until she was let go because she had a partner of the same sex, another music minister. Though heartbroken, Maria persisted. 
She earned a Master of Theology degree at St. John’s University in Collegeville and prepared to become a Roman Catholic woman priest.  Today, she continues to serve in an Episcopal church as a musician and has her own community, Spirit of Christ, the Healer, which supported her desire to become a priest.

Maria and Rose, like all Catholic women priests, experience opposition from Catholic officials. I find this supremely ironic. The very definition of “minister”—to tend to others, to nurse, to care for—describes the ages-old work of women. Women also excel in building relationships. Many and diverse studies confirm the tendency of women to seek harmonious connections. Women are less comfortable with aggression, they notice sooner that someone is upset, they step in to sooth hurts.

The experience of women in sensitively managing relationships could enhance the ministry of priesthood, but women are the very members of the human race barred from it. The gender that has demonstrated its talent for tending to the needs of others and for bringing people together is barred from ministry. Those who give birth, who nourish babies and young ones—Mothers—are barred from ministry. Those most experienced in ministry are barred from it.

In prehistoric cultures, women had central roles in religious ceremonies, and She, the bearer of new life, was imaged Creator of the world. Patriarchy denounced Her as an abomination, declared God Lord and Father, and excluded women from priestly functions.

But Jesus ordained no one, and he broke his culture’s social norms by publicly interacting with women as equals to men. Abundant evidence shows that women were ordained in the early church.

Roman Catholic Womenpriests return the Church to standards set by Jesus and the first Christians. They act as a powerful force for gender justice and thus justice for all. For a quick read on the case for women’s ordination, read The Time Is Now.
* Contact me if you'd like a print copy.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Women Ordained on Sunday

Two more priests for the Catholic Church, which laments its shortage of priests, were ordained on Sunday, May 7, in a beautifully uplifting ceremony (more about this next time). Rosemarie Henzler and Maria Annoni would be happy to relieve the severe shortage of priests, but bullheaded, stubborn sexism will not allow it.

Some prominent Catholic women do not support ordination for women because they think it endorses clericalism. Sandra Schneiders is one, as the previous post indicates. When she spoke at Newman Center in St. Cloud, she made fun of women being ordained by likening them to goldfish devoured by sharks.

But the notion that ordained women are subsumed by or unwittingly endorse clericalism was invalidated on Sunday by newly-ordained Rose Henzler. She kindly granted me permission to publish her tribute to her mother.
My mother modeled for me how to persist against injustice in all forms but especially in my church—how to speak truth to power. As she was born in 1901, I’m thinking she probably never heard the phrase “speak truth to power,” but she practiced it.

She was blessed with an amazing mezzo soprano voice, and in 1921 when a young WWI soldier, who happened to be Protestant, heard her singing, it was love at first sight . . . or sound, I guess. When he asked her to marry him and she accepted, there was quite a “kerfluffle” (her word). She was forbidden by her pastor to marry “outside the faith.” He would not allow her to enter into a “mixed marriage!” Nevertheless, she persisted, and on August 19, 1922, he married them in a “hush-hush” ceremony in the church rectory so as “not to give scandal.”

They gave no scandal for the next 49 and a half years!

Soon she was singing not only at Mass and in Catholic weddings and funerals but for her new Protestant family members’ celebrations as well. The word got out and she was called in by the same poor pastor to discuss her egregious behavior. The bishop had instructed him to warn her that she could be excommunicated for her actions.

She answered simply that no matter where she sang, it was (in her own words) “for the honor and glory of God whether it is ‘Ave Maria’ or ‘How Great Thou Art’. I would do more harm than good by saying ‘No’ and I will continue to say ‘Yes’. So let him try it!”
Truth to power.

The threat never materialized and she continued saying “Yes” for the next 65 years and sang whenever and wherever she was asked, and not only for friends and family but when invited for priestly ordinations and even the installation of bishops.

My mother respected the clergy, but she had no time for clericalism, and her reputation for speaking her truth became known in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/ Minneapolis. She became the confidant as well as friend of many in the hierarchy, never hesitating to tell them when she perceived their actions to be less than charitable or loving. It seemed to me as a kid that there was always some priest or monsignor coming unannounced through the back door.
 She prayed—always—that perhaps somewhere among her numerous progeny there might be a priest or maybe two. Little could she know that when her prayer was answered, our God of glorious surprises said, it would be her baby girl.

Read on for the reason I enthusiastically endorse Sandra Schneiders’ theology, despite my disagreement on the issue of women’s ordination.