Three Wishes for the New Year: Peace, Kindness, and Dialogue in the Catholic Church by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Freyhauf, Feminism, Religion, Durham, Old Testament, Blogger, Bible, Gender, Violence, Ursuline, John Carroll While I sit and write this post, Christmas celebrations are concluded and I prepare, with the rest of the world, to embark on a new year; a year with my idealistic hopes and want for a better future for humanity.  So for New Year’s I am taking out my golden lamp and making three big wishes:  peace, kindness, and dialogue in the Catholic Church.


“True peace is not a balancing of opposing forces. It’s not a lovely façade which conceals conflicts and divisions…. peace calls for daily commitment.” – Pope Francis

Peace transcends governments and countries.  Peace should be a daily commitment that each one of us lives every day and practiced in each of our relationships. Looking forward to a new year, I hope to put this into practice and  we will see a shift in politics and attitudes that reflect an ideal of peace and reconciliation – not just nationally, but communally. 

With peace also comes reconciliation.  Fighting takes too much energy.   Making a point to reconcile with that relative or friend that you had a falling out with is a goal that has the potential to bear fruit and be restorative.


Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain

With peace and reconciliation comes kindness.  This wish is a large request and one that the Pope calls us to embrace.    A kindness is required that reaches the poor and oppressed, that reaches non-Catholics including atheists, and, that touches every race, class, and orientation. We do not have the right to judge – a sentiment that the Pope continues to reiterate.

According to Julia Baird, “even scientists are now touting the physical and psychological benefits of kindness, compassion, and selflessness.  Multiple studies now show: a single act of kindness can trigger dozens more … and repetitive acts of kindness can make people happier, and less depressed.” This is not a new revelation, but a reminder of the benefits of kindness – a reminder we need to carry into the New Year.

We should, however, remember help the homeless, the children, and the oppressed. This group of people is often ignored the news media, but lack of attention to a problem does not diminish it.  According to the Pope, scandals are the news of today, but the children without food are not news worthy.  According to Pope Francis, we should not “interfere in the lives of others” in a way that is malicious, like gossiping or being boastful.  This behavior brings hurt, bitterness and envy.  Kindness is necessary for a better future for all of humanity.

Dialogue with the Catholic Church

“Fifty years ago, Vatican II spoke of communications.  Let us listen to, dialogue with, and bring Christ all those we encounter in life.” – Pope Francis

Let us not focus on rituals and rules in the Church; rather, we need to focus on the people of the Church.  People,

after all, make up the Church – not brick and mortar.  Because of this, we need to focus on dialogue – a dialogue with each other, regardless of belief or life choices.  This dialogue should be rooted in a positive attitude and carried out with love and humility.  It should include a focus that reaches out to facilitate peace.  This dialogue should also include the discussion of women’s roles in the Church.  There are so many things to discuss.  The Church is a human church.  With the invitation to dialogue and re-address so many of the untouched or misinterpreted teachings of Vatican II, might we move forward and rebuild this Catholic Church on the shoulders of one who served the poor, loved everyone, and gave of himself?

What are your wishes for the new year?  I would love to hear from you.

From my family to yours, may you have a peace-filled, prosperous, and delightful 2014.

Michele Stopera Freyhauf:  Doctoral Student in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and a Member of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University as well as an Instructor at John Carroll University’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Adjunct Professor in Religious Studies at Ursuline College and the University of Mount Union. Michele has an M. A. in Theology and Religious Studies from John Carroll University,  and did post-graduate work at the University of Akron in the area of History of Religion, Women, and Sexuality.  She is also a Member-at-Large on the Student Advisory Board for the Society of Biblical Literature and the student representative on the Board for Eastern Great Lakes Biblical Society (EGLBS).  Michele is a feminist scholar, activist, and author of several articles including “Hagia Sophia: Political and Religious Symbolism in Stones and Spolia”  and lectured during the Commission for the Status of Women at the United Nations (2013). Michele can be followed on Twitter @msfreyhauf  and @biblicalfem.  Her website can be accessed here and is visible on other social media sites like LinkedIn and Google+

Categories: Catholic Church, General, Peacemaking, Politics

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11 replies

  1. His views on the poor are admirable and more power to him (and especially to the poor and those who work on their behalf)! Would that his views on women change! I’m not sure there is much hope of that, but who knows? Maybe he will meet one who stands up for herself and her kind!!!


  2. Carol,

    I totally hear your concerns here. I love Pope Francis – he is the only pope in my lifetime that I have been excited about. His continual focus on social justice for the marginalized literally brings me to tears. Finally, someone walking the talk. This said, I would love to see more focus on women from Pope Francis. I don’t think he is ignoring the issue all together; his acknowledgment that we need a “new theology of women” I think demonstrates that he recognizes this needs to be addressed. I am holding on to the idea that change takes time and that perhaps he will be a pope that builds a bridge to the future. But, for the first time in my lifetime, I feel hopeful and I think that is something…


    • Sadly, I fear that Mary Hunt was right that a “theology of woman” as the pope speaks of it is a theology that begins from woman’s difference that excludes her from the priesthood–and moves on from there to justify that exclusion. Mary was right that we don’t need a theology of woman, but rather the pope needs to familiarize himself with feminist theologies by women–and perhaps meet some feminists and actually listen to them and learn to care about the things they care about.


      • Carol,

        Good points. One of my faults is that I am an idealist. The pope’s actions, thus far, provides me with more hope than I have had for a very very long time. He hasn’t been pope for long, but positive changes are already occurring. I just hope it continues!



  3. Wow–I never thought I’d see a photo of the pope on a website devoted to feminism. Good for him. I totally agree with you about the importance of peace and kindness. Good luck with your dialogue with all the old boys serving in the lower ranks. I bet they haven’t changed. Maybe they could??


    • I never thought I would see the homeless invited into the Vatican, the pope washing a Muslim’s or Woman’s feet, or a pope hugging a man disfigured from tumors. Change is occurring in the Church – just not at a fast pace. I think any progress for the positive should be received in hope – after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.


  4. Personally I don’t see Peace in our near future! I would like to see kindness replace”tolerance” and dialogue to include mutuality for women. Pope Francis has given me and many others a sense of hope that the Catholic Church can change and become the
    loving Hands of God here on this earth. AND since God does not have hands, he needs both women and mens; and all hands are created equal


  5. No, there will be no real change for women in the catholic church, and putting a picture of the head of the catholic church on this feminist website is truly offensive to me as a lesbian feminist. These men have no intention speaking to women. Poverty is largely a women’s issue, forced childbirth affects women exclusively, and Francis is the figure head, and they play this dialogue game endlessly. They don’t fool me for one new your minute. This hope in males changing is rather cute, but completely and utterly deluded and magical thinking. ACTIONS, he is about maintaining the status quo on women, and women fall for the bait every time. Kindness, peace…. women have kindness women have peace, men…. don’t see much change there in the war, killing and rape department. So no, no peace in a war world. The pope on the cover of the advocate, the pope as MAN of the year on TIME (only 9 months on the job, but hey give the man a prize), the pope on a feminist website cover story. Can hetero women ever get a clue about this? But hey, they’re working for the enemy, and they think this is feminist. It isn’t it is a job, but it isn’t feminist. Women do jobs, women support these structures, obviously they get payback in some way for this, but as a lesbian, these men are clever enemeies that’s all they ever are.


  6. So I am not supposed to be able to wish and hope for something better?


  7. Great Post–I also never thought I’d see a photo of the pope on a website devoted to feminism. And I think His views are admirable. Thank you.


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