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Prayer blog: In celebration of her

Beth Doherty  |  10 March 2016

‘My strength returns to me with my cup of coffee and the reading of the psalms’ wrote Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. These words were likely written between 1960 and 1975.

‘Let that presence (of God) settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love’, wrote Teresa of Avila, in the 1500s. 

‘The Lord desires mercy, not sacrifice. And no matter what I do to check off a box and puff up my chest, what God desires is a chest beat in humility. What God desires is a chest filled by a heart of pure love, a chest assured by God’s constant presence throughout the day. So the next time we are tempted to make time with the Lord just another thing that stands between us and a “successful” day, let’s remember this truth’, wrote Olivia Wilde last week on Blessedisshe.net.

These are a few of snippets of praying women. On International Women’s Day it seems appropriate to honour and name some of the struggle and beauty of being a woman of faith. Women are spiritual. Catholic parishes in Australia according to Church Life surveys over the past decade or more boast that 66 per cent of the people in the pews are women. So that is two thirds. Statistics also suggest a correlation in terms of work. UN figures show that women do two-thirds of the world's work, produce half of its food yet earn 10 per cent of its income and own one per cent of its property (The Guardian). 

One thing women across the world have in common is busy-ness. When I lived in Central and South America in 2014, the women of the poor barrios of Asuncion and Managua were some of the hardest working and fervently praying I’d ever seen. Whether they were apostolic or contemplative religious or single mothers of six, they worked and prayed.

Busy-ness can be a blessing and a curse. Over the past weeks, I have been leaving the house, often while it’s still dark, to start the crawl down the Monash Freeway to work, listening to audio books and pressing play on my phone to the latest podcast from pray-as-you-go. It’s been a busy few weeks, and yes, busy-ness can be energising if there is joy in what we are doing, but it can leave us with a sense of desperation and inadequacy.

Recently, I was reminded of the very unique gifts of women in an intensive and blessed moment. It is 10 years since I studied the Young Catholic Women’s Interfaith Fellowship, a course that continues to today. More than 50 women from around Australia have done or are doing this course. I gathered with my cohort, (the inaugural ones, the ‘first among the faithful’) for our anniversary, where we assembled fittingly at the tomb of St. Mary of the Cross MacKillop and shared our stories. We are all working and praying women.

We all still practice our Catholic faith and while our preferences for worship are as varied as our personalities, we love our Church. Among us are a school principal, a community organiser, a social worker, a director of pastoral life, a journalist, a director of mission, and some mothers and school teachers.

One of the women had her eight-week old baby cocooned in a beautiful Guatemalan wrap as she facilitated a one-hour sharing and reflection session on women and leadership in the Church, which was an opportunity to share our learnings from the past ten years.

And it was good.

It was imperfect and profoundly moving.

It was a microcosm of the body of Christ, a celebration of the Church. In Spanish, the Church is ‘La Iglesia’. The word is feminine and has feminine pronouns. The pronoun we perhaps don't recognise enough in English is the Church as ‘she’.

So, my prayer then, this week, is one of hope. I thank God for my busy-ness. I recognise that I, as a woman am too busy not to pray.

My Grandmother Phyllis Doherty was an Anglican for half of her life and converted to Catholicism after my Dad and his siblings would come home after Catechism class and say: ‘Don’t worry, Mum. God will forgive you for not being a Catholic.’

A Catholic worker of the best kind, Grandma Phyllis founded one of the first women’s conferences of St Vincent de Paul with others in her parish, yet always maintained that Grandpa was the ‘Holy Joe.’

In her kitchen, arguably her place of prayer, she had this lovely poem called ‘the Difference.’ As she prepared toasted sandwiches or a more elaborate roast or mince pies, there it was:

'I got up early one morning and rushed right into the day; I had so much to accomplish that I didn’t have time to pray. Problems just tumbled about me, and heavier came each task. “Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered. God answered, “You didn’t ask.” I wanted to see joy and beauty, but the day toiled grey and bleak. I wondered why God didn’t show me; God said, “But you didn’t seek.” I tried to come into God’s presence; I used all my keys at the lock. God gently and lovingly chided, “My child you didn’t knock.” I woke up early this morning, and paused before entering the day. I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.'

This blog is a mish-mash of thoughts that needs more time and more prayer. But it’s Sunday and it’s a day of rest. Sunshine and reading and singing and washing and stockpiling meals is on today's to-do list. So is my parish where I’m on the roster to lead music. Even as a 30-something with a cat and no toddlers at my feet, I’m ever reminded of the need to sanctify the work but also seek rest.

Beth Doherty is editor of prayer and spirituality at Jesuit Communications. She blogs at iJoyfullysing.com.

 

 

Topic tags: people’sstoriesoffaith, women’sspirituality, ourrelationshipwithgod, thecatholictradition

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