Today is the day God has made, let us rejoice that the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, apostle to the apostles, is the perfect day to ordain our sister, AndreaGrace a priest in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
Like Mary Magdalene, AndreaGrace is an apostle of Christ’s loving presence in the world. She comes with an open mind, a compassionate heart, a giving spirit, and a contemplative soul, to share her gifts in priestly ministry.
Like Mary Magdalene ,who embraced the Risen Christ and proclaimed the Good News that Love triumphed over death, we trust that-no matter what challenges we face- nothing will destroy us, Love will always prevail!
In the Gospel of Mary, an ancient text discovered in the Egyptian desert in 1898, Peter challenged Mary’s authority as a disciple. But, Levi, another disciple responded: “Assuredly the Savior’s knowledge of her is completely reliable. That is why he loved her more than us.” (BG 10:10)
Contemporary scholar Karen King points out:“TheGospel of Mary makes it clear that leadership is to be based on spiritual achievement, rather than on having a male body. Clearly, Mary is more advanced than the male disciples; because she did not fear for her life at the departure of the Savior…She thereby models true discipleship.”
There is no hierarchy in the spiritual life. Each of us is empowered by our baptism to rise up in love -like Mary- and courageously follow God’s call wherever it leads us. In Christ, we are one and we are equal.
Like Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of Jesus, apostle Junia, deacon Phoebe and the countless women who followed Jesus through the ages, women priests are living their prophetic call to create a renewed priestly ministry of service to God’s people in inclusive communities and ministries that welcome everyone to come as they are to celebrate sacraments including those marginalized and excluded by the institutional Church like LGBTQ+ and divorced and remarried Catholics.
Since the first seven women were ordained on the Danube in 2002, women priests have been doing what Pope Francis says needs to be done in the Catholic Church today: “We should ask ourselves how much space we make and how much we really listen in our communities to the voices of young people, women, the poor, those who are disappointed, those who have been hurt in life and are angry with the church", As long as their presence remains sporadic in ecclesial life overall, the church will not be synodal, it will be a church of the few. A church weighed down by structures, bureaucracy and formalism will struggle to walk in history at the pace of the Spirit. We need Christian communities in which space is enlarged, where everyone can feel at home.”
Well: Here we are; women priests are ready! We are going to Rome in October during the Synod to share some of the varied, wonderful ways women priests have been enlarging the tent and creating a spiritual home for Catholics who feel like second class citizensin their own church. It is time for the voices of women priests and our inclusive communities to be heard!
While in Rome, we plan to engage in conversations with Synodal delegates, Church leaders, do media interviews and talk with anyone who shows any interest in women priests! As the lyrics of a popular song say: “Love can build a bridge between your heart and mine. Don’t you think it’s time, don’t you think it’s time.”
Spirit Unbounded, an international Catholic reform group, invited us to create a multi-media presentation on the topic of women priests redefining ministry in the Church today. This program will air around the globe in different languages during the Synod and will be available for viewing afterwards as well.
The ARCWP has reserved a meeting room in Rome on October 11th for a presentation on our new model of priestly ministry. We will offer an overview of our diverse women-priests-led communities and ministries in North America, South America and Europe.
With Apostle Mary Magdalene and the countless faithful women who have gone before us, we rise up in love and faith in Spirit’s power within us and within our movement to share the gifts of women priests- like AndreaGrace with our entire Church.
Homily by AndreaGrace Weaver ARCWP
As Jesus prayed, as we prayed earlier today truly: This is the day that God has made. We are rejoicing and oh so very glad!
Thank you, Bridget Mary for your courageous YES and for your leadership and prayers and for ordaining me today…
And a HUGE thank YOU to EACH of you here and each of you on Zoom –
Thank you for praying with and for me today and for companioning me on this grand and BLESSED adventure!
As you may know, God invited me to go on a weeklong “silent”retreat! And… Me – the talker who I am – said YES. I went last week… and I survived – actually, I thrived!!
I brought along a book called Mary Magdalene Revealed by Meggan Waterson about The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Fascinating. Expansive.
As I headed out of my mom’s house, she handed me anotherbook “The Mothers and Daughters of the Bible Speak” by Shannon Bream and encouraged me to read the chapter on Esther, telling me that there was something I would want to weave into my homily for today! She always knows…
So here it is!
Esther’s predecessor, Queen Vashti, was banished by the king because of her lack of obedience to his commands. Esther, presumably was chosen as a replacement, at least in part because she was not only beautiful but young and pliable.Mordecai [her cousin and adopted father] had taught her the value of obedience growing up, making her suited to be the king’s companion. But her whole story hinged on the moment when Esther had to be DISobedient, she had to break the laws of the king’s court. Part of understanding and embracing true obedience is knowing when to disobey one edict in order to comply with a different, higher call. Esther disobeyed spectacularly and it paid-off. The king was pleased to admit her… and Esther’s life was spared...”
Through Esther’s intercession, not only was her life spared but all of the Jews were saved. Mordecai became the king’s right-hand man. All of this is commemorated on the Jewish Feast of Purim each spring. I LOVE Queen Esther for so many reasons… In part because she truly gives us vision and teaches us how to pray and to be in community AND because she reminds us:
And let me repeat: “Part of understanding and embracing true obedience is knowing when to disobey one edict in order to comply with a different, higher call…”
That is what the International Roman Catholic Women Priest movement is about. We are answering a higher call. In Isaiah 45:9-13, God tells us that we are not to question the work of God, nor whom God calls to serve God’s people. God will raise up the priests and prophets whom God wants to rebuild God’s city and grant the believers freedom. God doesn’t say it has to be a man doing this work. God suggests that we need to trust God who made everything from the stars to the human body. We women priests trust God’s calling us. We are willing to disobey the edicts of the man-made Papal kingdom.
On the first night of the retreat, my retreat leader gave me a poem called “For Longing” by John Donohue. The lines that resonated in me were:
May the forms of your belonging - in love, creativity, and friendship –
Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.
May the one you long for long for you.
What does it mean to belong?
To be longed for?
To long for another?
In our country and in our world, and in our own beings, our hearts are longing. They are heavy. Our minds are tired. Our nervous systems are frazzled. We are fractured and divided in a million ways. We are longing….
In our longing, we are trying to fill the void with superficial stuff like extreme busy-ness, hours on social media and addictions. Social isolation, anxiety and depression is widespread. Mass murders and suicides are at an all-time high.
We long to belong. We need to belong. Whether or not we recognize it, we long to belong to a circle of love that longs for us, that knows us, that treasures our voice, that encourages our talents, that holds us, that celebrates with us in our joys, that stays present with us when we struggle, that “knows everywhere we’ve been and love us back home again” as Jason Grey sings in “Thank You for Everything”.
In the past, churches and other places of worship were some of many places where we belonged – and people actually longed to go – to see their friends, to experience God’s presence. But, with societal changes combined with a Church that has not changed…. worse yet, a Church that has bred abuse, silenced women, condemned people and drawn clear lines that divide – our Catholic Church is no longer a place of belonging for many of us.
Yet – I long for my beloved Catholic church-home to be a place where I do belong… and you do belong – and we are safe. And we are held and treasured, truly, as a father and mother cherishestheir child.
St. Augustine wrote: Our hearts will not rest until they rest in You, Oh God.
I was restless. I was longing. I had left the Church yet again. I was searching…. And I was led to the International Roman Catholic Women Priest Movements. What I found in these women – and the men who join these reformed movements – is a group of people who, like me, have been called by God. Weknow it in our spirits AND our circles of love know it – that would be YOU who came today to witness this historic event.Like Esther, we are willing to disobey human laws in order to comply with a different, higher call. We are willing to sacrifice our own possible excommunication from the Papal Kingdom in order to serve God’s people. We know in our heart of hearts, that we still belong to the Catholic Church of our ancestors and that we can still receive the sacraments because we trust in the God who always provides… and provides abundantly!
We International Roman Catholic Women Priests look back to Jesus’ example – not to canon law. Jesus who gathered all to His table. Jesus who loved, and healed and freed and celebrated and cried. We Women Priests pray and follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings. We use inspired writings as our guidebook – those contained in the Bible AND those of Divinely inspired authors throughout the millennia right up to today. We incorporate the latest scholarly research - which is so enlightening.
Then, like Queen Esther and the early Christians, we Roman Catholic Women Priests create new ways of belonging, new communities, new celebrations that incorporate the treasures of our culture like the sacraments and the Rosary – and we do so in updated, meaningful, and relevant ways.
These communities are what we read about in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans which begins with an acknowledgement of DeaconPhoebe – a woman – and one of his most trusted companions. St. Phoebe would have co-authored the letter with Paul, delivered it and read it aloud to the Romans. Did you notice that he gives a shout-out to Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, who lead a house-church – both of whom are considered Saints? A house-church was a group of people who studied scripture and celebrated Eucharist together in someone’s home – a place of belonging. Also good to note: Priscilla and Aquila were marriedlike Simon Peter, our first pope, whose mother-in-law was healed by Jesus.
St. Paul also recognizes Junia and her companion Adronicus, maybe her brother or husband. He says that she was outstanding among the apostles. Junia – a woman – is named as anoutstanding apostle. And she was willing to be jailed for her faith. By the way, Pope Francis, named Mary Magdalene the Apostle to the Apostles – a title she has always held in the Orthodox Church!
Which leads me to another part of the International Roman Catholic Women Priest movements. We are raising awareness of the injustices in our Church, the ways in which women have been written out of the story – like Junia’s name being changed to the male form, Junius. Or the fact that this important chapter of Paul’s letter is never included in the lectionary, meaning we don’t hear about all these women and men at mass. And although all four gospels agree Jesus Christ chose to appear after His Resurrection to Mary Magdalene – we never hear this read on Easter Sunday!
We International Roman Catholic Women Priests are creating communities of belonging – focused on the Trinity, celebrating the sacraments, where Jesus’ example is held in esteem and followed to the best of our abilities. Communities where when a crisis is brewing, like what Mordecai heard, we turn to our community for prayer. When something joyful happens – like the resurrection and new life of any sort – we celebrate withmembers of our community. And when something painful happens – like our brother Lazarus dies, we rely on members of our community to carry us. We are known and cherished. Our gifts of creativity are encouraged and used. We learn and grow. We experience love and friendship. The longings of our heart are brought to fruition.
And in these communities, we experience the love of God. Our hearts find rest. Our souls are nourished. We know in the depths of our being that we belong to God and that God longs to have us spend time with God.
Today I commit to serving you, my people and God’s people!
Let me share my personal vow to God with you:
Whom I know by so many names including
Mama & Abba God
Jesus, My Way, My Truth and Mu Life
Holy Spirit, Sofia, “Fonte of All Grace”
I thank you for calling me and
I say YES with all of my being and all of my life.
I promise to nurture our relationship, growing more intimately in Your love and sharing it more abundantly.
I promise to continue to blossom into the woman whom you have created me to be.
I promise to be an instrument of your healing, love and grace.
I promise to be a joyful bridge beating with eternal love.
And I promise to be light-hearted, trusting you to carry me.
So my sisters and brothers –
Won’t you join me in starting a new Inclusive Catholic Community in the model of Jesus who welcomed all – in the example of Mary Magdalene and Priscilla and Adronicus, who formed Early Christian communities that studied and prayed together?
God is inviting us to start meeting monthly for mass. We are looking for 15 people who want to pray together and commit to sharing their creativity and talents – in welcoming, in serving, in speaking, in making music, in bringing order through administration, in loving….
If you feel that call on your spirit, please tell Emily or Carol or Amy (stand up ladies!...or me (but I might forget today!)
In time, we will grow into a community where we do belong – where we are longed for and for which we long….
Where we experience God’s love more intimately and are empowered to share it more abundantly.
Won’t you join us?