The Motomami Theology: “Segundo chingarte, lo primero Dios.”* Part II

*“God comes first. Fu*king you, a close second.”

In Part 1 of this post, I described my first encounters with Rosalía’s music and visual arts, which are controversial for many, but I find them wonderful. I mentioned how she integrated God, mainly Catholic references and images, into a story of love and suffering in El Mal Querer. But I finished emphasizing my surprise when I listened to the album Motomami, since she managed to combine reggaeton (sexual-indecent music) and her views of God.

So, here is my attempt to describe Rosalía’s theology in Motomami. (Before I start, let me say: yes, I heard every song multiple times collecting references of God or the Christian tradition, so I hope you enjoy it.) Rosalía understands God as someone who controls our destinies amid grief and joy. In Como un G she says “It’s sad when you want something, but God has different plans for you” (“Qué pena cuando quieres algo pero Dios tiene otros planes pa’ ti”.) In Diablo, she says, “What God gives, God takes back” (Si Dios te lo da, te lo quitará), referring to her fans who first loved her but afterward became haters. God also protects us from an evil former partner when she says in Despecha‘ “May God forbid I go back to you” (“Que Dios me libre de Volver a tu la’o). God also is our help and supports our choices. Rosalía brings this concept talking about her identity as a woman, her freedom and autonomy in Saoko: “I know who I am, and I don’t forget where I’m going. I’m driving while God guides me. I am mine and I transform myself” (“Sé quién soy, y a dónde voy nunca se me olvida. Yo manejo, Dios me guía.)

Continue reading “The Motomami Theology: “Segundo chingarte, lo primero Dios.”* Part II”

The Motomami Theology: “Segundo chingarte, lo primero Dios.”* Part I

*“God comes first. Fuc*king you, a close second.”

I went to Rosalía’s promotional concert for the Motomami album in Boston a month ago. I knew some songs from her 2018 album El Mal Querer (Bad Love), a musical masterpiece. That album made Rosalía a visible star in the constellation of musicians and composers in Hispano-American mainstream music. The album has a particular story that Wikipedia explains very well:

The album was written by Rosalía and co-produced with El Guincho on an initial low budget as an independent artist. Presented as experimental and conceptual, revolving around a toxic relationship, the album was inspired by the anonymous 13th-century Occitan novel Flamenca. Therefore, every song on the album is conceived as a chapter of the book. It served as the singer’s baccalaureate project, graduating from Catalonia College of Music with honors. [Read more here]

In El Mal Querer, Rosalía mixed electronics, contemporary dances and rhythms, and traditional flamenco sounds and movements in a beautiful musical and visual collage. Some musically conservative audiences characterized the album as the “profanation” of traditional flamenco music, but there’s no doubt that Rosalía brought the genre back to life and made it mainstream again.

Continue reading “The Motomami Theology: “Segundo chingarte, lo primero Dios.”* Part I”

Toward an Alternative Ecclesiology by Xochitl Alvizo 

I mentioned in a recent post that I would share a little more about my current research, as one of the aspects of my life I gained more clarity in during my recent process of regrounding was in the area of my research.

Two things stood out to me as I reflected on my work and scholarship: my concern for individual human dignity drives my work—it is an underlying thread in how I think and theologize. The second is that I want to make a major contribution to the theology of the church—I know I want to write a feminist ecclesiology. These two things are obviously related. I have witnessed enough of the ways that not only Christianity harms people, but how the church specifically is a conduit for the damages Christianity causes. At the same time, Christianity remains a living tradition, a shared story and language, and a community to which many are committed. So just as people are harmed by church, some are also nurtured and held by it. While it is true, then, that church indeed harms people and violates their dignity, often also justifying that violation on theological grounds, it need not do so and has other possibilities before it.

Thus, I want to contribute to a theology of church that is a grounded and liberating alternative to the problematic one to which people most often default or inherit. A queer, feminist, anti-racist, and decolonial ecclesiology.    

Continue reading “Toward an Alternative Ecclesiology by Xochitl Alvizo “

Spill that Tea: Catholic Nuns, Meghan Markle, and Theological Feminism by Anjeanette LeBoeuf

I wrote a piece in March 2021 regarding the British Royal Family and their horrendous treatment of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. On August 23, 2022, Meghan released her first podcast episode for her series titled “Archetypes”. The first episode had guest speaker, famed legendary tennis player Serena Williams. They talked about the misconceptions of ambition and the two-edged sword that women have to endure in society when striving to be their best in a male centric world. And for many of us within Religious and Theological spaces, the disparities that women, queer folk, and non-binary peoples have endured in society are also tied into the misconceptions and harmful archetypes found within religious spaces.

Continue reading “Spill that Tea: Catholic Nuns, Meghan Markle, and Theological Feminism by Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

Remembering Rosemary Part 2 by Janice L. Poss and Theresa A. Yugar

Editor’s Note: A more formal memorial to Catholic Feminist Theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether was posted here at Feminism and Religion at the time of her passing. Now we are delighted to share these memories of her by two scholars, Theresa A Yugar and Janice L. Poss, who knew her well, especially in her last months. Therese’s reflection is below and Janice’s will appear tomorrow. As Janice notes in her post, “More than any deep theological concept, doctrinal exegesis, or other hyper-scholarly thought, she taught me simply by being who she was – a woman – and she gave me the ultimate gift, the gift of herself.” Through these posts, Theresa and Janice pass on some of Rosemary’s wise and caring gifts to our FAR readers. Part 1 was posted yesterday. You can read it here.

Janice, Theresa with Rosemary

Almost five years ago, Rosemary Radford Ruether suffered a devastating stroke that left her partially paralyzed and no longer able to speak or write, activities that were integral to her life as a writer, teacher, activist, and scholar. During her difficult last years Janice and I learned new ways of engaging her that were academically stimulating and fulfilling for her. We became advocates for her during her disability as she had been an advocate for us. Thus, out of pain grew blessings.

Janice and I dedicate and share with you these two short reflections that reflect our struggle to find our way without her. We know there will be many more reflections composed and shared by others whom she mentored, influenced and touched. Now—in the midst of our grief and sadness at her loss—we offer our personal memories of how she enriched our lives every day until she passed from our midst at 2pm, on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

Continue reading “Remembering Rosemary Part 2 by Janice L. Poss and Theresa A. Yugar”

Remembering Rosemary Part 1 by Janice L. Poss and Theresa A. Yugar

Editor’s Note: A more formal memorial to Catholic Feminist Theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether was posted here at Feminism and Religion at the time of her passing. Now we are delighted to share these memories of her by two scholars, Theresa A Yugar and Janice L. Poss, who knew her well, especially in her last months. Therese’s reflection was posted yesterday and Janice’s is below. As Janice notes in her post, “More than any deep theological concept, doctrinal exegesis, or other hyper-scholarly thought, she taught me simply by being who she was – a woman – and she gave me the ultimate gift, the gift of herself.” Through these posts, Theresa and Janice pass on some of Rosemary’s wise and caring gifts to our FAR readers.

Janice L. Poss, Rosemary and Theresa A. Yuger

She’s gone, but not forgotten. She is there, presence felt. The Spirit, as they say, works in mysterious ways. I knew about Rosemary for several years after attending two presentations  on feminist topics that she gave at Loyola Marymount University in 2005 and 2008. In 2006, I also recall hearing about her while organizing the first Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP) Mass in Los Angeles. Once I entered Claremont Graduate University as a Ph.D. student I heard quite a bit about her because my colleague and friend, Theresa Yugar, mentored me through orientation until she graduated. Occasionally I would see Theresa and Rosemary at Pilgrim Place when I attended Women Church Services. Although Rosemary was still teaching one class a semester, I could never attend because I was working full-time.

Continue reading “Remembering Rosemary Part 1 by Janice L. Poss and Theresa A. Yugar”

From the Archives: Rape is Not a Political Platform – Rape is a Violent Crime! By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Moderator’s note: This marvelous FAR site has been running for 10 years and has had more than 3,600 posts in that time. There are so many treasures that have been posted in this decade. They tend to get lost in the archives. We are beginning this column so that we can revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted August 23, 2012. You can visit it here to see the original comments.

Just when you think you have heard it all, here we go again – another politician with “open mouth-insert foot” syndrome.  Discussing his zero-tolerance policy for abortion, Missouri Representative Todd Akin made the following statement last Sunday about pregnancies that result from rape:

“from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare.  If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.  But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something.  I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Continue reading “From the Archives: Rape is Not a Political Platform – Rape is a Violent Crime! By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

From the Archives: Brigid, Archetype of Inspiration and Activation by Stephanie Anderson Ladd

Moderator’s note: This marvelous FAR site has been running for 10 years and has had more than 3,600 posts in that time. There are so many treasures that have been posted in this decade that they tend to get lost in the archives. We are beginning this column so that we can all revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted February 1, 2014. You can visit it here to see the original comments.

Brigid, Goddess of the Fire, greets us on Brigid’s Day, February 1. She is a Celtic sun goddess whose light burns brightly, illuminating the darkness of the land, of a heavy heart, and the dark night of our soul. With her shining light to guide us, we are lifted out of the Underworld darkness where we tend to descend in Winter, to the light of the World above, teeming with life as Spring begins to unfold her wet wings.

Brigid is a beloved goddess throughout the British Isles, particularly Ireland, where she is seen as the Mother of the Land and Her people. As a feminine archetype, she activates our solar, active nature. Much like the sun rising from below the Earth’s horizon, she urges us to come out of hiding and shine our light on the world. This may be done in a quiet manner, such as sitting by the hearthfire and doing needlework, finding inspiration by a walk in nature and writing a poem, moving about the kitchen making soup, getting busy with an art or craft project, or in big ways by taking on new roles as healers, artists, and leaders and calling others to join us.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Brigid, Archetype of Inspiration and Activation by Stephanie Anderson Ladd”

Poem: In These United States- The Court Supreme By Marie Cartier

We have nine justices usually but one of our most beloved, and notorious,

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, RBG, has gone to the Summerland, across

the Rainbow Bridge, to the afterlife—wherever that is for her, she’s

gone there. May her memory be a blessing. May her memory be a revolution.

And we are left with eight, five conservatives and

three liberals. RBG was liberal. Our current Pennsylvania Avenue occupant has already

nominated someone to replace RBG. This someone believes that god

speaks to the wife through her husband, the wife is submissive to the husband in all things,

she must submit in all things to her husband.

Sigh. As someone joked, this someone is walking through and slamming shut,

all the doors that RBG kicked open.

This nominated replacement believes that a woman has no choice in the matter of pregnancy,

and being gay is (once again) a sin in the eyes of the law, as well as her church.

This RBG replacement is Catholic, I guess.

I’m Catholic, too.

Maybe you’ve seen that meme on social media?

“I’m Christian. Oh…classic Jesus or Republican Jesus?”

That’s a joke: Ha. Ha.

Continue reading “Poem: In These United States- The Court Supreme By Marie Cartier”

Judaism or Christianity: Which Tradition Is More Open to Feminist Change? by Carol P. Christ

Jill Hammer’s recent post on midrash surrounding the Biblical figure of Eve (Hava in Hebrew) sparked me to muse again about the fact that, despite its patriarchal roots and overlay, Judaism is a much more flexible tradition than Christianity and, therefore, much more open to feminist change.

Part of this is due to the fact that Judaism is midrashic while Christianity has been and remains a doctrinal tradition. Midrash is a form of Biblical interpretation that includes retelling the story to fill in the blanks and to answer contemporary questions left unanswered in the original text. Jews consider the Torah (the 5 books of Moses) to be the “Word of God” though opinions vary as to what this means. In the rabbinical tradition, the Torah is interpreted through the Talmud which is an extensive collection of discussions and disputes that draw on Biblical texts in relation to contemporary (to the rabbis) questions. Midrash included in the Mishnah (a collection of teachings that preceded the Talmud) and the Talmud are considered part of the “oral Torah.” which is also “the Word of God.”

The Talmud is considered to be authoritative, but it includes conflicting interpretations that were never resolved into a single definitive view. Though different Jewish groups have declared certain views to be normative, other groups have disagreed. There is no central authority (such as a Pope or council) to resolve these disputes. Though some Jewish groups disagree strongly with the beliefs or practices of others, in Judaism as a whole an attitude of “live and let live” leads to inclusion rather than exclusion. Indeed. The Talmud records that in the midst of a particularly vehement dispute between two rabbis, a voice intervened, stating: “These and these are the words of the Living God.” (Quoted by Judith Plaskow in Goddess and God in the World.) Continue reading “Judaism or Christianity: Which Tradition Is More Open to Feminist Change? by Carol P. Christ”

A Sword Will Pierce Your Own Soul by Mary Jane Miller

On Holy Ground is a collection of icons for this age of climate change. The collection of iconography opens with an image of Mary of Swords inspired by the number seven. This sacred number is associated with intuition, mysticism, inner wisdom, and a deep inward knowing. The ancient church speaks of seven deadly sins and seven holy attributes, and seven sacraments. The composition places the planet Earth beside Mary as she bows her head having been told, “ a sword will pierce Your own Soul ”
Mary of Sorrows or in this case, Mary the softener of Evil Hearts tilts her head lovingly towards our planet Earth. Seven swords pierce her heart; indicating the fullness and boundless sorrow, pain and “sickness of heart” that would have been experienced by Mary the Mother of Jesus at His crucifixion.
Muslims pilgrims circle the Kaaba in Mecca sevens times, and Egyptians had seven gods.

Continue reading “A Sword Will Pierce Your Own Soul by Mary Jane Miller”

The Feast of Santo Tomas by Sara Wright

This morning I went up to the village plaza in Abiquiu to watch the dancers parade around the church with their saint who is also honored at this village festival held every year at the end of November.

This is one of the two Native American festivals that is honored each year by the genizaros who are mixed Spanish and American Indian people who embrace and practice the Catholicism that was once forced upon them.

This eclectic community is made up of descendants of Native American slaves. Those captured in warfare were brought here, converted to Catholicism, taught Spanish and held in servitude by New Mexican families. The young women and female children endured the usual atrocities perpetuated on captive females including rape at the hands of their captors. Some New Mexican male genizaros gained their freedom by serving as soldiers to defend frontier villages like Abiquiu from Indian raids. By the late 1700s, genizaros comprised one-third of the population of New Mexico. Ultimately these non – tribal peoples were assimilated into New Mexican culture.

The dances are beautiful to witness with the smallest female children dressed in predominantly white regalia some wearing a rainbow of ribbons, the young girls were dressed in red and white and had red circles of war paint inscribed on their cheeks, some of the older women also wore red, many carried turkey or eagle feathers in their hands. Most wore face paint.

Continue reading “The Feast of Santo Tomas by Sara Wright”

Celibacy Is the Lynch-Pin of Male Dominance according to Matilda Joslyn Gage by Carol P. Christ

Matilda Joslyn Gage

Matilda Joslyn Gage was an activist in the nineteenth century struggle for women’s rights equal to Susan B. Anthony, and a writer and theorist equal to Elizabeth Cady Stanton. That she is not remembered is due in large part to Susan B. Anthony’s efforts to write her out of history.

Matilda Joslyn Gage was also a scholar of women’s history unrivaled in her time. In Woman Church, and State, Gage argued that “the most grievous wrong ever inflicted upon women was in the Christian teaching that she was not created equal with man.” (page 1) From this it follows that feminists must never lose sight of the role Christian teachings have played and continue to play in the unequal treatment of women.

According to Gage, women’s position in church and state did not improve in the Christian era. To the contrary it declined! Gage proved this thesis in chapters titled: The Matriarchate, Celibacy, Canon Law, Marquette, Witchcraft, Wives, Polygamy, Woman and Work, and The Church of Today. Continue reading “Celibacy Is the Lynch-Pin of Male Dominance according to Matilda Joslyn Gage by Carol P. Christ”

Where’s the Love by Gina Messina

In a recent post I wrote about finding God in music. I confess, I cannot remember the last time I set foot in a church. As a woman, I continually grapple with the foundational messages of Jesus and Catholic Social Teaching and the disconnect with the power structures that seek to control the ways we love and find justice. I long to participate in the culture I grew up in, but cannot support the weaponization of the tradition. 

Lately, I’ve come to realize that the messages I connect to I find in music. There are particular songs that offer me the guidance, philosophy, and ideas around meaning and purpose that I resonate with. One of those is “Where’s the Love?” by the Black Eyed Peas.  

I’ve been listening to it on repeat lately because it is the sermon I need to hear; it speaks to me and even though it was recorded quite a while ago, it is still relevant. I think it is fair to say that in our current socio-political culture, people are “acting like they got no mamas.”  And by the way, I include myself in that statement. Like anyone, I sometimes get so caught up in believing that my way is the only way, I forget to listen to what others have to say.

We are in the midst of a political civil war and are so busy yelling past each other, we’ve forgotten how critical unity is to shaping a healthy government that serves its purpose – caring for the people. Continue reading “Where’s the Love by Gina Messina”

It’s Time for Nuns on the Bus to take to the Road Again: Getting Beyond Being “Pro-Birth” to Protecting all at the Margins by Dawn Webster

Author and daughter, Dr. Sheela Jane Menon, Assistant Professor at Dickinson College, PA

The country desperately needs to see the Nuns on the Bus on the road again. I just watched Radical Grace, nearly three years after my daughter and son-in-law gave it to me as a Christmas gift. My tardiness made me feel guilty, but despite the passage of time, the film still feels very timely.  Three years after the cancer that is 45 entered the White House; three years after the corruption and cruelty he unleashed has metastasized into key branches of government; three years after Catholics  have witnessed the heart of the Gospels ripped out the way children have been ripped from the arms of their parents at the southern border, this documentary about how a few nuns risked their place in the church to fight for justice tells me we need the leadership of the nuns more than ever.

Catholic voters from the heartland gave 45 the keys to the White House.—60 percent of them voted for him. Many justified voting for a man with Donald Trump’s appalling sexual, business, and racist history by pointing to his supposedly “pro-life” stance. Continue reading “It’s Time for Nuns on the Bus to take to the Road Again: Getting Beyond Being “Pro-Birth” to Protecting all at the Margins by Dawn Webster”

May is the Month of Mary by Mary Jane Miller

 Mary Icons

There are three classic prototypes of Mary Icons, their collective messages point toward a new contemporary kind of trinity. Perhaps the concept of Mary is still undeveloped, as our society has changed her message is still provocative and meaningful. It has been through contemplating her image, and painting icons of her that I have come to realize a deeper mystical message. Her popular iconography may have the keys to how we are to care for creation and one another in the world.

Mary Icon of the Panagia

Mary looks directly at the viewer, beckoning us towards poised stillness and constant prayer with palms extended outward in total surrender to what she receives. She contains the Creator of the Universe in her womb.

Mary Icons of the Theotokos

She is the feminine energy which tenderly nurtures Jesus to become a teacher, rabbi, master and lord. She is the icon which reminds us to love one another, to love life, and to love creation.

Mary Icons of the Hodegitria

Mary becomes a mystical location where we can be taught to give ourselves to God and one another. There, held by the church tradition, we like Mary are called to release to the world what we most love and cherish.

Continue reading “May is the Month of Mary by Mary Jane Miller”

A Moment of Change in Our Church by Janice Poss

On September 12, 2018, Roman Catholic Bishop David O’Connell helped move the Episcopate into a new day. A healing Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Claremont, California was celebrated for the victims of clergy sex abuse. They were humanized, spoken about reverently, prayed about to heal, to sacredly be acknowledged in their pain, to be known how priests and bishops were guilty and had their direct part in the hurtful abuse of children. This Mass was said in the hope of healing our collective wounds, I believe it has helped turn a new chapter in our church.

The service did not stop at the end of the mass: Bishop O’Donnell had an open Q&A with the people in the pews who came, many attending had been abused, not all by priests, but others. Among them were a man abused by a woman when he was four years old, a woman whose sister was abused by a priest, a woman abused from six years old until twelve by a male.  The victims were all a part of the prayers said for this healing mass dedicated to the victims of clergy sexual abuse, particularly from the recent revelations of sex abuse by the Grand Jury in the Pennsylvania dioceses. Continue reading “A Moment of Change in Our Church by Janice Poss”

Clerical Male Mess! by Janice L. Poss

“I am sorry!” “I am guilty of sex abuse” “I have hurt many young children!” “I have ruined lives!” “We are sorry for hiding sex abuse in the Church!” “We are criminals!” “We want to make amends!” We, in the pews, have yet to hear true contrition, instead we hear how the Church needs healing. True, but where is remorse from those who perpetrated and covered-up the crimes? To heal, we must hear from them.

Remorse, a contrite heart, admitting grave sin, deceitfulness, criminal behavior, the global Catholic Church has not yet confessed this loud enough. Why? Why is male clerical privilege so deeply ingrained in the construct of In Persona Christi that none of these guilty perpetrators of crime are able to directly tell Catholics worldwide that they truly, in their hearts grieve for our church and grieve for what they have done to our children? Where is their sensitivity for children? Continue reading “Clerical Male Mess! by Janice L. Poss”

In the Shadow of Santa Rosa by Sara Wright

Last night I had a nightmare.

I am dressed in a white cloak that obscures all but my face. The robe is splattered with paint and blood. I am awash in every color of the rainbow and dripping paint. I have been raped by strangers and no one is accountable.

This morning I could not get this frightful image out of mind but I had the strong sense that it had an impersonal aspect that had nothing to do with me.

This weekend at the Pueblo of Abiquiu the community celebrates the feast day of the first official saint of the Americas, Santa Rosa, and I planned to attend…

The people of Abiquiu call themselves Genizaros. Representing Apache, Navajo, Comanche, Kiowa, Pawnee, Ute and Wichita, detribalized Native peoples from the Plains that were captured and traded during the Indian wars of 18-19th centuries, and sold to New Mexicans as slaves and servants where they were stripped of their identity, instructed in Hispanic ways, and baptized as Christians. The People survived by incorporating Hispanic and Christian cultural practices into a distinct Genizaro consciousness, one that is distinct from the Indigenous Tewa speaking peoples (descendants of the Anasazi) who also live here in six pueblos along the Rio Grande. Continue reading “In the Shadow of Santa Rosa by Sara Wright”

Open Letter to the Pope and all the King’s Men by Natalie Weaver

Dear Sirs,

It breaks me down.  My anger, my revulsion, my powerlessness.   I have been searching for the way since I was a child old enough to remember my mind.  For a time, I thought Jesus was a white guy knocking on my door after having seen a religious pamphlet placed under our windshield wiper.  I’m not sure he has blond hair anymore, but I still feel him knocking.  I have been in love with him for as long as I have been a self, so much so that I baptized myself as a little girl.

Somewhere along the way, I figured my little, lonely way wasn’t good enough, and I wanted a church home.  I finished a doctoral dissertation trying to find some place I could hang my hat.  I picked the Roman Catholic Church, despite what I knew of it and what I had to defend about its patriarchy and history to family and friends.  I loved the conversation, the so-called “Catholic Intellectual Tradition.”  I always felt myself to be a covert, a conversa, a definitive outsider, and someone not to be trusted entirely as a cradle Catholic might be trusted, yet I tried to be family. I’ve been bringing up my kids in the Church, volunteering, working in Catholic education, paying the boys’ tuition.  I do work-arounds, making excuses for the exclusion of women, defying the Church’s stance on sexuality with a critical repertoire of cross-disciplinary scholarship.  Lord, I even had to help my Seventh-Day Adventist mom with a hostile annulment process that was dropped on her unsuspecting by a horrendously insensitive marriage tribunal.  It wounded us all. Yet, here I have sat, until this.

Continue reading “Open Letter to the Pope and all the King’s Men by Natalie Weaver”

Forgive Me, Mother, For I Have Sinned: Earth, Ancestors, and the Role of Confession by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee

Ah, confession. I admit I never really much understood the Catholic practice of confession to a priest; as a United Methodist growing up, the idea of confession – while challenging – nonetheless seemed to belong squarely between myself and the (supposedly male) God that (apparently) loves and forgives us while still calling us to live into a more perfect vision of our individual selves and of the kin-dom. But to confess things to a minister? In a little booth? The very idea gave me the heebie-jeebies. Probably even more so since my father and/or stepmother were usually said minister. Well, that wasn’t a common Catholic thing either, I suppose.

I took confession very seriously, however. I firmly believed that we have all sinned and fallen short, and that we can and must do better – for our own lives and wellbeing, for our loved ones, for humanity, and for the whole Creation. Confession was like the first step toward healing – like a diagnosis; without admitting what was going wrong – or what was inadequate – how could we take steps toward what was right?

Continue reading “Forgive Me, Mother, For I Have Sinned: Earth, Ancestors, and the Role of Confession by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee”

On Belief and Action by Ivy Helman

29662350_10155723099993089_8391051315166448776_oMy birthday was last Wednesday.  Perhaps more than any other time of the year (yes, even more than Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), the days and weeks leading up to my birthday are filled with personal reflection.  Not that religious and secular new years don’t give me pause to reflect, but I think the lack of buzz around this personal event seems to offer me more space and time to think.

This year more than past years, I’ve been thinking about beliefs: what I believe in; how ideas and concepts that were important to me last year are less so this year and vice versa; how beliefs motivate me to act or not; what role belief plays in my life; why some beliefs demand solid resolve and others not so much; and so on.  I wanted to share with you some of my personal reflection. Continue reading “On Belief and Action by Ivy Helman”

In Light of Women by Mary Jane Miller

Why are so few women mentioned in the great feast days like Pentecost, the Last Supper, the Baptism of Christ, etc.? God made no commandment that they not be included.
Inquisitive women like myself have always been around Christ listening to His message. There they were, cooking and cleaning at the Last Supper, at the wedding at Canon and when He fed the five thousand. When Christ invited the children to come to him, you can be sure the mothers were there, too.
Beginning as early as the fourth century the dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to thwart the ascendant positions for women within the religious hierarchy and in christian societies in general. Yet, the underlying teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, – all call for the proper and equitable treatment of God’s children. Without a doubt, God and Christ love all of humankind with no gender bias. When women listen to scripture we naturally fill in the gap, or adjust the gap knowing in our hearts and souls, we are not inferior to men.

Continue reading “In Light of Women by Mary Jane Miller”

Catholic Bishops: Corporate Executives or Prophets? by Dawn Morais Webster

Dawn Morais Webster, the Pope off to his summer palace, Castel Gandolfo. He tells the world he will now become just a “humble pilgrim.”

This is a moment to drive the merchants of hate out of the Temple, as Jesus did.  But will the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) bear prophetic witness? Do they have it in them to proclaim the Gospel?

I am a Catholic from Malaysia who has lived in the United States for nearly two decades. I became an American citizen two years ago.  Every day I look for two of the Big Ideas –Catholicism and American democracy—to which I am forever tethered, to be rearticulated by new, principled leaders. And they are: not by those who command the pulpit or political power but by those who live the Gospel through their faith-inspired service to the community.  People like Sister Erica Jordan who asked House Speaker, the conspicuously Catholic Paul Ryan to explain how he translates Church teaching into health care and tax policy. He could not.

Continue reading “Catholic Bishops: Corporate Executives or Prophets? by Dawn Morais Webster”

Sexuality and Spirituality: Convergence or Alienation? by Stephanie Arel

stephanie-arelI just finished reading for review The Bloomsbury Reader in Religion, Gender, and Sexualityedited by Donald L. Boisvert and Carly Daniel-Hughes. Targeting an undergraduate audience, the text explores ways that religion, gender, and sexuality intersect and interact in a variety of religious traditions.

The book’s essays traverse a wide sampling of religious inheritance including indigenous traditions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and various Asian religions. The topics examined range from the culture of male love in Japanese Buddhism to various themes of love in Haitian Voodoo, from sexual desire in Beguine communities to Gandhi’s experiments in sexual chastity, and from the passion of St. Pelagius to the transgender performance characteristic of the Hijra identity in India. Among other things, the book offers a wide array of interpretations regarding how sexuality emerges in particular traditions and contexts. One is left with a feeling that nearly anything goes depending on which set of rules or religious mores a particular group of people follow. The variations presented in each chapter related to the interpretation of sexuality’s embeddedness in spiritual expression problematize the notion of the “normal” emerging in sexual desire and expression. Continue reading “Sexuality and Spirituality: Convergence or Alienation? by Stephanie Arel”

Writing Through the Body: Betty Smith’s A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Joyce Zonana

 TreeGrowsInBrooklynIn her 1975 manifesto, “The Laugh of the Medusa,” French feminist Hélène Cixous urges women to write: “Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it. . . . Women must write through their bodies, they must invent the impregnable language that will wreck partitions, classes, and rhetorics, regulations and codes . . .”

“The Laugh of the Medusa” remains a thrilling essay, challenging and inspiring women to “return to the body” and to language.  “Woman must write woman,” Cixous insists, “for, with a few rare exceptions there has not yet been any writing that inscribes femininity.”

Although Cixous may not have been aware of it, Betty Smith’s beloved, perennially popular 1943 novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of those “rare exceptions” that “inscribes femininity” in precisely the way she advocates. This autobiographical novel, so often dismissed as sentimental or as a children’s book, is actually written through the female body—which may explain its lasting popularity and power. Continue reading “Writing Through the Body: Betty Smith’s A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Joyce Zonana”

Remembering Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s Life and Legacy: Champion of Universal, and Non-Human Rights November 12, 1648/51 – April 17, 1695 by Theresa A. Yugar

She studies, and disputes, and teaches,
and thus she serves her Faith;
for how could God, who gave her reason, want her ignorant?

—Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Villancico, or, “Carol”, in celebration of St. Catherine of Alexandria (1692)

05.Yugar 1The reason for this blog, and for writing it on this day, is to celebrate and remember the life and legacy of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.

In 1994, I was exposed, by chance, to the life and writings of 17th century Novohispana feminist Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. I am the product of twelve years of Catholic education, eight years of which were in an all-women setting. Again, by chance, I learned about Sor Juana in a liberation theology class while studying feminist theology at Harvard Divinity School. In this class, I learned about Sor Juana’s bold advocacy of the right of women to be educated. This spurred me to learn more about this Catholic Latina theologian whom I would later discover was the last great author of El Siglo de Oro (Spain’s Golden Age), recognized in her era as an esteemed poet, mathematician, astronomer, and more. This was the beginning of my life-long passion to reclaim the legacy of Sor Juana and her-story within the Christian, non-Christian Western tradition, and in Spanish and Mexican history. Continue reading “Remembering Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s Life and Legacy: Champion of Universal, and Non-Human Rights November 12, 1648/51 – April 17, 1695 by Theresa A. Yugar”

Interreligious Friends after Nostra Aetate (Book Review) by Janice Poss

JaniceBook Title: Interreligious Friendship after Nostra Aetate
Editors: J. Fredericks and T. Tiemeier
Series Title: Interreligious Studies in Theory and Practice
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan US, 2015

“… the Jew prayed words of blessing … over his Roman Catholic friend. …Willebrands could not find … words to say to Tanenbaum at that moment. Of course, as is usually the case in friendships, words are not really necessary to express one’s deepest emotions.” – James L. Fredericks, p. 5


In 1965, at fifteen, I strategized to become a top women’s fashion designer.  I felt it accessible to me!  The Second Vatican Council’s documents had been published. Nostra Aetate was among them, I was clueless, I could have cared less about anything coming out of the Vatican –especially with a Latin title having no meaning for me — except a bejeweled embroidery that might have inspired a contemporary dress or jacket.  Nothing theological or churchy was in my purview as I exerted my independence from parental authority and had one foot out the door from being a practicing Catholic.  I had had enough of the disciplinary, androcentric, ‘Father’ God who was mean, hypercritical and presupposed that anyone practicing any religion other than Roman Catholicism was doomed forever to hell.  Salvation was not for everyone. Continue reading “Interreligious Friends after Nostra Aetate (Book Review) by Janice Poss”

Honoring St. Mary of Magdala by Gina Messina

Gina Messina-Dysert profileWhile I am joining the conversation a bit late, I find it necessary to comment on the significance of the “upgrading” of the celebration of  St. Mary of Magdala to a feast – on par with the male apostles.  While such a day that honors her is quite overdue, I am grateful to Pope Francis for acknowledging this incredible woman and her leadership in the Christian movement.

As we know from the Gospels, it was Mary Magdalene who stood at the foot of the cross with Mary the mother of Jesus, during his crucifixion.  When the male apostles ran in fear – and rightfully so – Mary of Magdala stood with Jesus refusing to disavow him and was a face of love for him to see during his darkest moment.

It was Mary of Magdala who was the first witness of Christ’s resurrection.  The very first Easter began with her and she was commissioned by Jesus to go and share the good news – to tell the other apostles – and that is why she is known as the apostle to the apostles. Continue reading “Honoring St. Mary of Magdala by Gina Messina”

Our Ladies of Sea, Earth, and Sky by Joyce Zonana

Sara and the Marys
Sainte Sara encompassing Sainte Marie-Salome and Sainte Marie-Jacobe

O Sainte Marie-Jacobe, priez pour nous.

O Sainte Marie-Salome, priez pour nous.

O gardeures de la Provence, priez pour nous.

The priest intoned the words in deep, liquid accents, his voice echoing from the ancient stone church in the remote village of Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, in the Camargue region of Southern France, where the waters of the Rhone River meet the Mediterranean Sea in a wild, wide, flat expanse populated by black bulls, pink flamingos, and white horses.

“O, Saint Mary-Jacobe, pray for us.”
“O, Saint Mary-Salome, pray for us.”
“O, guardians of the gates of Provence, pray for us.”

I could feel the words resonating through me, bringing sudden, hot tears. The people gathered in the small village square repeated the priest’s chant, their voices rising above the low, white-washed houses into the sunlit sky, out towards the shimmering sea where legend tells us the two Marys had drifted two thousand years ago in a boat without rudder or sail.

Continue reading “Our Ladies of Sea, Earth, and Sky by Joyce Zonana”

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