Thursday, July 29, 2021

Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community Mary Mother of Inclusive Catholic Community Liturgy, Saints Louise de Marillac & Vincent de Paul , July 31, 2021, Denis Rigdon, Andrea Seabaugh, & Michael Rigdon Presiding, Lee Breyer & Joan Meehan, Readers 🎶 Linda Lee & Rick Miller

Zoom link for video - 4:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time         

ID 851- 0809-5506, Passcode 1066

(Andrea) Welcome to the liturgy of our Mary Mother of Jesus community. We are an inclusive Catholic Community where all are welcome at our table! Thank you for joining us today! We invite you to pray the liturgy and respond where it says “All.” 

All participants will be muted during the liturgy except the presiders and readers.

Please have bread and wine or juice nearby as we pray our Eucharistic prayer.

(Den & All): In the name ✝️ of our Creator/Sustainer, Jesus the Living Word, and the Spirit who calls us to share the Good News. Amen.

Sign of Peace (Den) Let us share with one another a sign of Christ’s peace ☮️

(Den & All): Christ’s peace be with you. Namaste. Namaste. Namaste.

Theme (Michael) Evangelizare pauperibus misit me. Caritas Christi urget nos.

Gathering Song 🎶: We Are Called

Opening Prayer (Andrea & All): O Holy One, protector of the poor, we give thanks for your Holy Spirit who sends women and men to share the Good News of your kindom, including Louise de Marillac & Vincent de Paul. We give thanks for this Wisdom-Spirit who impels us today to boldly proclaim your Gospel of peace and inclusive love in our homes, communities and world. Bless our celebration today as we honor our call to share the Good News. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Joyful Gloria 🎶

Liturgy of the Word

Gospel acclamation: All sing Celtic Alleluia 🎶

          (Michael 🎶) Now with the strength of your Word, send us to be your disciples, 

To bring all the world the Good News of your kindom. (Repeat Alleluia 🎶)

(Lee) A reading from the Good News according to Luke

Jesus came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, Jesus found the place where it was written,

   God's Spirit is on me;

      God has chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,

   Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and 

recovery of sight to the blind,

   To set the burdened and battered free, 

to announce, "This is God's year to act!"

He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. 

Every eye in the place was on him, intent. Then Jesus started in,

"You've just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.”

This is the Good News.  All: Let it be so!


Gospel acclamation: All sing 🎶 Celtic Alleluia

(Michael 🎶) Fed by the Bread of new life, filled with wine of compassion, 

Send us out to serve the poorest in your name. (Repeat Alleluia 🎶)

(Joan M) A reading from the Good News according to Luke.

Jesus now called the Twelve and gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure diseases. He commissioned them to preach the news of God's kindom and heal the sick. He said, "Don't load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment. And no luxury inns—get a modest place and be content there until you leave. If you’re not welcomed, leave town. Don't make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and move on.”

Commissioned, they left. They traveled from town to town telling the latest news of God, The Message, and curing people everywhere they went.

This is the Good News.  All: Let it be so!

Gospel acclamation 🎶: Alle, Alle, Alleluia.

Shared Homily. After homily starter: 🎶 Here I Am, God. (Michael & All):

I, the God of snow and rain, I have borne my people’s pain.

I have wept for love of them, they turn away.

I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone.

I will speak my Word to them. Whom shall I send?

Here I am, God. Is it I, God?

I have heard you calling in the night.

I will go, God, if you lead me.

I will hold your people in my heart.

Please share your spirit-filled reflections and re-mute when you finish.

Profession of Faith. (Jack & ALL):  

We believe in God, the creator of the universe, 

the fountain of life, flowing through every being. 

We believe in Jesus the Christ, who reflects the face of God, the fullness of humanity. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the breath of God in the cosmos, 

who calls us to loving service without counting the cost. 

We believe in our global communion with all in the circle of life. 

Amen to actions on behalf of justice, compassion, equality & healing for all in our world! Amen

Prayers of the Community

. (Ann) Mindful of God’s unconditional love for us, we bring the needs of the people to our merciful God. 

*We bring to the table the members of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. We pray for the success of their annual meeting and liturgy this evening. May they have the strength to follow the Spirit in their ministry to the people of God. 

Response: Compassionate God, you hear us.

*We bring to the table the thousands of our fellow citizens and those around the world who are suffering from the current covid surge. We pray for health care providers everywhere who are once again overwhelmed as they provide covid care. R 

*For the members of our MMOJ community who are receiving treatment for serious health problems. We pray for their strength, comfort, and healing. R 

(Joan M) We pray for those remembered in our MMOJ book of community petitions, especially…. R 

(Ann) And for what and whom else shall we pray today? (Please unmute to offer your prayer, then remote.)

(Ann) Holy One, you faithfully listen to our prayers. Strengthen us as we respond to the needs of your people and work to bring the reign of your love to our community and to everyone in our world. We pray in the name of Jesus the Christ. All: Amen

We offer our gifts at the table.  🥖 🍷 

All Sing 🎶: Seed Scattered and Sown

Eucharistic Prayer. All Sing 🎶: We are holy

(Den & All): As we do in this place what you did in an upstairs room, send down your Spirit Sophia on us and on these gifts of bread 🥖 and wine 🍷 that they may become for us your body, healing, forgiving, and making us whole. And that we may become for you, your body, loving and caring in the world until your kindom comes. Amen.

We remember Jesus. (Andrea & All with hand extended in blessing):

On the night before he died, Jesus sat at the Seder meal with his companions. Reminding them of what he taught, he bent down to wash their feet. 

Jesus returned to his place at table, lifted the Passover bread 🥖 and spoke the blessing, then broke the bread saying: “Take and eat, this is my very self.” (Pause) 

Jesus then raised the cup of blessing, spoke the grace, and offered them the wine🍷 saying: “Take and drink of the covenant made new again through my life for you and for everyone. Whenever you do this, you remember me.”

(Den & All): Remember, gracious God, your Church throughout the world. Make us open to receive all believers and to share the Good News with them. In union with all people, may we strive to create a world where suffering is diminished, and where all people can live in health and wholeness.

Thru Christ, with Christ, in Christ, in union with the Holy Spirit, all glory is yours, gracious God. (All sing 🎶The Great Amen

Prayer of Jesus. (Andrea & All) Let us pray together as Jesus taught us:

O Holy One, who is within, around and among us, 

We celebrate your many names. 

Your Wisdom come, 

Your will be done, unfolding from the depths within us.

Each day you give us all we need. 

You remind us of our limits, and we let go. 

You support us in our power, and we act with courage, 

For you are the dwelling place within us,  

the empowerment around us, 

and the celebration among us, now and forever.  Amen

(Den & All): This is Jesus who liberates, heals and transforms us and our world. 

All are invited to partake of this banquet of love. We are the Body of Christ. 

(All receive🥖🍷)

Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Person 🎶

Prayer of Thanksgiving (DidacheInstruction, 100CE)

(Michael & All): For the thanksgiving, give thanks this way: First, for the cup🍷: We thank you, Abba God, for the sacred vine of David your son, whose meaning you made clear to us through our brother Jesus, yours ever be the splendor. 

(Andrea & All): And for the bread 🥖 fragment: We thank you, Amma God, for the life and wisdom whose meaning you made clear to us through Jesus, yours ever be the splendor. 

(Den & All): As this fragment was scattered high on hills, but by gathering was united into one, so let your people from earth’s ends be united into your single reign, for yours are splendor and might through Jesus Christ down the ages.

Prayers of Thanksgiving. Introductions. Announcements.

Extend your hand & join this Irish blessing 🎶

(Andrea): Go in the peace of Christ. Go out to share the Good News with everyone!

All: We will do so! Alleluia!

Closing 🎶 When the Saints go marching in


If you want to add an intercession to our MMOJ Community Prayer book, please send an email to Joan Meehan  

If you want to invite someone to attend our liturgy, please refer them to the day’s liturgy at      

To support our community, please send your check to:

Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community

St Andrew UCC, 6908 Beneva Rd, Sarasota, FL 34238

Friday, July 23, 2021

Mary, Mother of Jesus Catholic Community Liturgy, 17th Week of Extra-Ordinary Time July 24, 2021 - Presiders: Kathryn Shea, ARCWP, and Lee Breyer, Readers: Cheryl Brandi and Ann Cooke, Music Minister: Linda Lee and Rick Miller

Zoom link for video - 4:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time         

ID 851- 0809-5506, Passcode 1066

Theme: “Get Used to Different”  

Welcome and Gathering 

Lee: Welcome to our Zoom liturgy at Mary Mother of Jesus, an inclusive Catholic Community where all are welcome.
-We invite you to pray the liturgy and respond where it says “All.”
-All participants will be muted during the liturgy except for the presiders and readers.
-Please have bread and wine/juice nearby as we pray our Eucharistic prayer.
Whoever you are,
Wherever you are,
Just as you are,
You are welcome at this table. (Integral Christianity by Paul Smith)

Let us now take a few minutes to collect ourselves as we prepare to focus our minds and our hearts on our knowledge that we are all one, brought together at this time to transform ourselves and our world through love; love for our Holy One, love for our neighbors, love for ourselves, and love for our planet.  Let us begin our liturgy by expressing this love through song.  

Gathering Song: Tear Down the Walls by the Many

Opening Prayer

Kathryn: Oh Holy One, we are delighted to gather with you and one another today as we share this sacred space and as we celebrate our oneness in you.  You told us on many occasions to “love one another, as I love you.”  In this time of great turmoil on our planet, we need to more fully embrace and act upon your words.   As we gather today, may we be ever more mindful of our call and responsibility to Be love for one another.  We give thanks for our Brother Jesus, who being both fully human and divine, showed us how to Be love; how to tear down walls; and how to “get used to different”.  We rejoice that you have given us all we need to bring the true kin-dom of our Creator on Earth.  It is in our hands now, and we are ready. We live with the comfort of knowing you walk with us on our journey and that you continue to teach us through Spirit Sophia, Holy Wisdom.  And to this, we say, AMEN.

A Joyful Gloria: Linda Lee Miller and graphics by Rick Miller

Liturgy of the Word

Kathryn: First Reading:  Excerpt from the book, “We Make the Road by Walking” by Brain McLaren – 


Cheryl: IMAGINE YOURSELF IN GALILEE, on a windswept hillside near a little fishing town called Capernaum. Flocks of birds circle and land. Wildflowers bloom among the grasses between rock outcroppings. The Sea of Galilee glistens blue below us, reflecting the clear midday sky above. 

A small group of disciples circles around a young man who appears to be about thirty. He is sitting, as rabbis in this time and culture normally do. Huge crowds extend beyond the inner circle of disciples, in a sense eavesdropping on what he is teaching them. This is the day they’ve been waiting for. This is the day Jesus is going to pass on to them the heart of his message. 

Ann: Jesus begins in a fascinating way. He uses the term blessed to address the question of identity, the question of who we want to be. In Jesus’ day, to say “Blessed are these people” is to say “Pay attention: these are the people you should aspire to be like. This is the group you want to belong to.” It’s the opposite of saying “Woe to those people” or “Cursed are those people,” which means, “Take note: you definitely don’t want to be like those people or counted among their number.” His words no doubt surprise everyone, because we normally play by these rules of the game: 

Do everything you can to be rich and powerful. 

Toughen up and harden yourself against all feelings of loss. 

Measure your success by how much of the time you are thinking only of yourself and your own happiness. 

Be independent and aggressive, hungry and thirsty for higher status in the social pecking order. 

Strike back quickly when others strike you, and guard your image so you’ll always be popular. 

Lee: But Jesus defines success and well-being in a profoundly different way. Who are blessed? What kinds of people should we seek to be identified with? 

The poor and those in solidarity with them. 

Those who mourn, who feel grief and loss. 

The nonviolent and gentle. 

Those who hunger and thirst for the common good and aren’t satisfied with the status quo. 

The merciful and compassionate. 

Those characterized by openness, sincerity, and unadulterated motives. 

Those who work for peace and reconciliation. 

Those who keep seeking justice even when they’re misunderstood and misjudged. Those who stand for justice as the prophets did, who refuse to back down or quiet down when they are slandered, mocked, misrepresented, threatened, and harmed. 

Cheryl: Jesus has been speaking for only a matter of seconds, and he has already turned our normal status ladders and social pyramids upside down. He advocates an identity characterized by solidarity, sensitivity, and nonviolence. He celebrates those who long for justice, embody compassion, and manifest integrity and non-duplicity. He creates a new kind of hero: not warriors, corporate executives, or politicians, but brave and determined activists for preemptive peace, willing to suffer with him in the prophetic tradition of justice. 

Our choice is clear from the start: If we want to be his disciples, we won’t be able to simply coast along and conform to the norms of our society. We must choose a different definition of well-being, a different model of success, a new identity with a new set of values. 

Ann: Jesus promises we will pay a price for making that choice. But he also promises we will discover many priceless rewards. If we seek the kind of unconventional blessedness he proposes, we will experience the true aliveness of God’s kingdom, the warmth of God’s comfort, the enjoyment of the gift of this Earth, the satisfaction at seeing God’s restorative justice come more fully, the joy of receiving mercy, the direct experience of God’s presence, the honor of association with God and of being in league with the prophets of old. That is the identity he invites us to seek. 

That identity will give us a very important role in the world. As creative nonconformists, we will be difference makers, aliveness activists, catalysts for change. Like salt that brings out the best flavors in food, we will bring out the best in our community and society. Also like salt, we will have a preservative function—opposing corruption and decay. Like light that penetrates and eradicates darkness, we will radiate health, goodness, and well-being to warm and enlighten those around us. Simply by being who we are—living boldly and freely in this new identity as salt and light—we will make a difference, as long as we don’t lose our “saltiness” or try to hide our light. 

Lee: It’s hot in the Galilean sunshine. Still, the crowds are hanging on Jesus’ every word. They can tell something profound and life-changing is happening within them and among them. Jesus is not simply trying to restore their religion to some ideal state in the past. Nor is he agitating unrest to start a new religion to compete with the old one. No, it’s abundantly clear that he’s here to start something bigger, deeper, and more subversive: a global uprising that can spread to and through every religion and culture. This uprising begins not with a new strategy but with a new identity. So he spurs his hearers into reflection about who they are, who they want to be, what kind of people they will become, what they want to make of their lives. 

Cheryl:  As we consider Jesus’ message today, we join those people on that hillside, grappling with the question of who we are now and who we want to become in the future. Some of us are young, with our whole lives ahead of us. Some of us are further along, with a lot of hopes left and not a lot of time to fulfill them. As we listen to Jesus, each of us knows, deep inside: If I accept this new identity, everything will change for me. Everything will change.

These are the inspired words of Brian McLaren and we affirm them by saying:  All.  Amen.

Alle, Alle, Alleluia: Linda Lee

Gospel: The Calling of Matthew is an episode in the life of Jesus which appears in all three synoptic gospels, Matthew 9:9–13, Mark 2:13–17 and Luke 5:27–28, and relates the initial encounter between Jesus and Matthew, the tax collector who became a disciple.

Homily Starter – Kathryn Shea

Community Sharing

Communal Statement of Faith

Lee and ALL: We believe in the Holy One, a divine mystery beyond all definition and rational understanding, the heart of all that has ever existed, that exists now, or that ever will exist. 

We believe in Jesus, messenger of God's Word, bringer of God's healing, heart of God's compassion, bright star in the firmament of God's prophets, mystics, and saints. 

We believe that we are called to follow Jesus as a vehicle of God's love, a source of God's wisdom and truth, and an instrument of God's peace in the world.

We believe that God's kin-dom is here and now, stretched out all around us for those with eyes to see it, hearts to receive it, and hands to make it happen.

Prayers of and for the Community

Kathryn: We now bring our prayer intentions to the Table

Our response is: All: Holy One, we know you hear our prayers. 

We pray for our MMOJ intentions on our community prayer list. (Joan shares)

Our response is: All: Holy One, we know you hear our prayers. 

For what else should we pray?

Our response is: All: Holy One, we know you hear our prayers. 

Kathryn: Holy Mystery may we respond to the needs of our sisters and brothers in loving prayer and solidarity. Amen

Liturgy of the Eucharist

Michael: Gracious Wisdom, you embrace us with your extravagant affection in our times of both blessedness and weakness.  You are always with us…you living in us and we living in you.  As we prepare for this sacred meal, we are aware of our call to serve, our call to tear down the walls of hatred in its many forms, and our call to be different.  In this festive meal, your Spirit is poured out on each of us, your anointed disciples, gathered together in this time and place.  We also ask that your Spirit be spread to those of our community who are not with us today.

Let us rejoice as we sing: 

All:  Holy, Holy, Holy Linda Lee Miller

(adapted from Holy, Holy, Holy by Karen Drucker) 

Cheryl: We thank you for the gift of Jesus of Nazareth in history -- and the gift of Jesus in faith. On earth, his life burned with the vision of his mission on earth. Through the example of his life – his teachings and actions - he showed us not only how we should live, but also what was worth even dying for. 

Lee and All: When his time on earth had come to an end, Jesus – aware of and accepting his destiny – gave us his life for the values that he deeply believed, lived and taught…his conviction that love is stronger than death.  And then, in providing an example of this wisdom for all people in ages to come, he opened wide his arms…and died.  And the spirit that lived in Jesus resurrected him to a new life, a promise made to all of us too who live the new story.  Jesus is with us today and he will be through the end of time.

(With an outstretched arm, we pray the consecration together.  We remember the gift that Jesus gave us on the night before he died.  He gathered with his friends to share a final Passover meal.  And it was at that supper that Jesus took bread, said the blessing and shared it with them saying: take this, all of you, and eat it.  This bread is you; this bread is me.  We are one body, the presence of God in the world. When you do this, remember me and all that I have taught you.  This is the new and everlasting covenant.  

           [short pause]

Mary AL: In the same way, Jesus took a cup of wine, said the blessing and gave it to his friends saying: take this, all of you, and drink it.  This wine is you; this wine is me.  We are one blood, the presence of God in the world.  When you do this, remember me and all that I have taught you. This is the new and everlasting covenant.

Lee: Jesus, who was with God “in the beginning of the creation of the heavens and the earth,” is with us now in this bread. The Spirit, of whom the prophets spoke in history, is with us now in this cup.  Let us proclaim this mystery of faith.

Kathryn and All:  Jesus has died.  Christ is risen.  The Divine Presence lives in us and through us in the world today.

Mary Al: God, we know that you bless your church throughout the world. We, your people, ask for your grace that we may continually grow in our love and caring for Francis, our Pope, Bridget Mary, our Bishop and for everyone with whom we come in contact, especially those who live on the margins of church and society. They are all our brothers and sisters, members of your Blessed Family.  We remember also all those, living and dead, who touched our lives and left their footprints on our hearts.  We remember especially….(mention names here, if you would like to..) 

Anna: We believe that the Spirit of God is at work in and among us and will do more than we could ever ask or imagine.  We believe that it is through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, Creator God, forever and ever.  

Great Amen: Linda Lee Miller

The Prayer of Jesus

Lee and ALL: Let us pray as Jesus taught us. 

O Holy One, you are within, around, and among us. We celebrate your many names.  Your wisdom come, your will be done, unfolding from the depths within us.  Each day you give us all we need.  You remind us of our limits, and we let go.  You support us in your power, and we act with courage.  For you are the dwelling place within us, the empowerment around us, and the celebration among us, now and forever.  Amen    Adapted, Miriam Therese Winter, MMS

Sign of Peace:

Ann C: Jesus said to his disciples, “My peace I leave You.  My peace I give You.”  Let us now extend a sign of peace to one another by saying, “Namaste, Namaste, Namaste”.

Lee: Please join in praying the Litany for the Breaking of the Bread:

Lee and All: Holy One, You call us to speak truth to power; we will do so.

Holy One, You call us to live the Gospel of healing and justice; we will do so. Holy One, You call us to be Your presence in the world; we will do so.

Michael: This is the bread of life and the cup of blessing. Blessed are we who are called to Christ’s table.  

Cheryl and All:  What we have heard with our ears, we will live with our lives.  As we share communion, we become communion, both Love’s nourishment and Love’s challenge.                          

Please receive/share Eucharist now, saying: “You are the bread of life.” And “You are the cup of compassion.”

Communion Song:  I Am For You by Rory Cooney, Gary Daigle, and others

(With Seth accompanying)

I Am For You

There is a mountain, there is a sea.  There is a wind within all breathing.  There is an arm to break every chain.  There is a fire in all things living. 

There is a voice that speaks from the flame,

I Am For You

I Am For You

I Am For You 

Is My Name

There was a woman, small as a star, full of the patient dreams of her Nation.

Welcoming in an angel of God, welcoming God’s cold invitation.

Let it be done, she sang unto me; 

I Am For You

I Am For You

I Am For You 

Let it be

There was a man who walked in the storm, caught in between the storms and the lighting, 

Sharing his bread with those cast aside, feeling by touch the lost and the dying.  Sending us forth, he says to his friends,  

I Am For You

I Am For You

I Am For You 

To The End 

We are anointed, servants of God.  We have been born again of Sprit. We are the Word God speaks to the world, freedom and light to all who can hear it.  So let us be the Word of the Lord, 

I Am For You

I Am For You

I Am For You 


There is a world that waits in the womb. There is a hope unborn God is buried. 

Though the powers of death fill the night, there is a day our God is preparing.

Sing of the joy we sing in our Lord,

I Am For You

I Am For You

I Am For You 

We Are One. (Repeat)   


Community Blessing

Kathryn: Please raise your hands in blessing: And together with our arms extended to one another we say: 

May our lives radiate the love of the Holy One.

May we live justice and equality in our church and our world.

May we have the courage to tear down the walls of oppression and stand with those who are persecuted and marginalized. 

May we be a blessing in our time. 

ALL:  Thanks be to God.  Alleluia! 

Closing Song:  Go Make A Difference

Many thanks to all of you who have inspired me and mentored me.   

If you would like to add your intercession to our MMOJ Community Prayers book,

Please send an email to

If you would like to invite another person to attend our liturgy please refer them to where the day’s liturgy is found. Zoom instructions are also included there.

Please support our community, send your check to:

Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community

% St Andrews UCC, 6908 Beneva Rd., Sarasota, FL 34328 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Rev. Christina Moriera, ARCWP, With Members of Toutes Apotres (All Apostles!) Calls For The Creation of Independent Commission on the Situation of Women in the Catholic Church

Rev. Christina Moriera, second from left with members of Toutes Apotres 

NCR Article - July 22, 2021: Women Believers Changed the Roman Empire - Now We Much Change the Roman Church by Christine Schenk

On the feast day of the "apostle to the apostles," St. Mary of Magdala, I want to reflect on something I suspect this first witness to the Resurrection and foremost leader in the early Jesus movement might find puzzling. Namely, what is the big deal about recognizing women's leadership in today's Catholic faith communities?

We live in a very different cultural context than did Mary of Magdala and other early Christian women, but our own times are no less in need of Christ's healing energy than the ones in which they lived.

The Jesus movement spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire because of the initiative of female prophets, evangelists, missionaries, heads of house churches and widows, and financial support from Christian businesswomen such as Mary of Magdala and Joanna (Luke 8:1-3) as well as Lydia (Acts 16:11-40), Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2), Olympias, a fourth-century deacon (whose feast day is July 25) and others.

Pope Benedict XVI himself acknowledged as much on Feb. 14, 2007, when he said the "the history of Christianity would have turned out very differently without the contribution of women" and noted the "female presence that was anything but secondary."

Church historians tell us that the domestic networking and evangelizing efforts of women led to the remarkable expansion of early Christianity. Early house churches were led by women of status such as Grapte, a second-century leader of communities of widows and orphans in Rome. Through the house church, early Christians gained access to social networks that brought them into contact with people from diverse social classes.

When a female head of household, perhaps a wealthy widow or freed woman, converted to Christianity, Christian evangelists such as Prisca (Romans 16:3-5) or Paul gained access not only to her domestic household but also to her patronage network. This meant that her slaves, freed persons, children, relatives and patronal clients would convert as well. Thus, when Paul converted Lydia, he automatically gained entry to a broad swath of social relationships and a potentially wide audience.

While most Christian women were probably freeborn or freed persons, they were able to acquire wealth (and therefore status), through small business enterprises such as processing wool, trading in purple dye (Lydia), leather work and tentmaking (Prisca), and the like.

In their exhaustively researched book A Woman's Place, Carolyn Osiek and Margaret Y. MacDonald demonstrated that within their Christian social networks, these lower-class Christian women had money, high status and freedom of movement, especially throughout the extended household of antiquity.

This is affirmed by a notorious critic of the early church, Celsus, who took a dim view of women's evangelizing activities.

Celsus believed "the Christian family is at the very heart of the growth of a troublesome new movement." He said Christians encouraged insubordination, and convinced the "foolish, dishonorable and stupid and slaves, women and little children," not "to pay any attention to their father and school teachers" and "leave father and their school masters, and go along with the women and little children who are play fellows to the women's apartments, the wooldresser's shop, or the cobbler's or the washer woman's shop" [Origen, Against Celsus].

Celsus' critique coincides with evidence from early Christian texts that the Jesus movement expanded through house churches and small business networks such as those of Lydia, Prisca, Grapte and Paul. Evangelization was conducted person-to-person, house-to-house by women who reached out to other women, children, freed persons and slaves.

His critique tells us that Christian women (and a few good men) took initiative outside of patriarchal norms because of their belief in Jesus. Women's countercultural exercise of authority in the context of everyday domestic life is one oft-unheralded key to Christianity's rapid expansion.

Women's missionary authority and leadership to and within these extended households would change the face of the Roman Empire.

Which brings me to the current discussion and debate about ordaining women deacons in the Catholic Church. I spent many years researching women and authority in the earliest churches for my first book Crispina and Her Sisters. There is absolutely no question that women served as deacons in both the eastern and western churches. Phyllis Zagano, Gary Macy and others have demonstrated conclusively that early ordination/consecration/blessing rituals were the same for both female and male deacons in late antiquity.

Yet our all-male, 21st century Catholic hierarchy persists in ahistorical hairsplitting by questioning whether early female diaconal ordinations were truly "sacramental" or not.

Their argument fails to address the fact that the theology of the sacrament of ordination changed dramatically in the 12th century when churchmen unilaterally decided that women were no longer capable of being ordained. In fact, sacramental theology was not defined in the church until the 12th century. And even then, different churchmen had different lists of what constituted a sacrament.

One must therefore ask, how valid is it to apply sacramental criteria from 12th century medieval culture to our church's most ancient ministerial practices?

This very question was raised by a member of the 2016 commission on women deacons, Jesuit Fr. Bernard Pottier, who referenced it as one of three interpretative obstacles the 2016 commission encountered. These were:

* What is meant by ordination in the early days of the church?

* How not to give in to anachronism when speaking of sacramental theology?

* What does the unity of the sacrament signify, in relation to the documents of 1976 and 1994 (two teachings on the non-ordination of women) and the recent modification of canon law of 2009, Omnium in Mentum (separating functions of the diaconate from priesthood)?

As is by now well known, a new commission on the female diaconate has been appointed, and several members of the new group have publicly opposed the idea of a female diaconate.

Which is discouraging.

But I take heart. Jesus' resurrection power — first proclaimed by Mary of Magdala — is well able to convert a floundering — and stubborn — patriarchal church. Our faith-filled foremothers proclaimed Jesus despite patriarchal pushback and it changed the face of the Roman Empire.

The One who once asked, "Woman, why are you weeping?" will also help us change the face of Roman Catholic Church.

Christine Schenk

St. Joseph Sr. Christine Schenk, an NCR board member, served urban families for 18 years as a nurse midwife before co-founding FutureChurch, where she served for 23 years. Her book Crispina and Her Sisters: Women and Authority in Early Christianity (Fortress, 2017) was awarded first place in History by the Catholic Press Association. She holds master's degrees in nursing and theology.