Sunday, July 02, 2006

The first woman bishop of the Catholic Church?

NPR's Krista Tippett introduces this week's edition of "Speaking of Faith:" "In over 50 years as a Benedictine nun, Sister Joan Chittister has emerged as a powerful and uncomfortable voice in Roman Catholicism and in global politics. If women were ordained in the Catholic Church in our lifetime, some say, Joan Chittister would be the first female bishop."

Quote: "How many snowflakes does it take to break a branch. I don't know, but I want to be there to do my part... if I'm a snowflake." --Sr. Joan Chittister, on the process of women creating change within the Catholic Church.

From Tippett's online journal:

Always on the go, she had squeezed me into her schedule during a three-hour layover at Chicago Midway airport. She was, I wrote in my notes, "a whirlwind in purple." Several times she whisked out a miniature dictaphone and recorded questions and reminders for herself and her assistant. She'd published four books already that year alone. And she was as fun as she was formidable. "I've never missed a party," she told me, "and I don't like to be left out of one." If I possessed any lingering stereotypes about nuns, I left them forever behind in that airport lounge.

For some, the words that describe Joan Chittister might seem to be a contradiction in terms: Roman Catholic monastic, interfaith social activist, feminist. But I understand Joan Chittister to be at one and the same time engaged with worldly reality and with the sense of paradox often found at the heart of religion. She is a modern woman who draws her sustenance and vision from immersion in a 1500-year-old monastic tradition.

Listen to the interview. No matter what your faith, or lack thereof, Joan Chittister is fascinating, perhaps because of what she gained as the product of a "mixed" marriage-- a Catholic mother and a Protestant father. In one anecdote she describes becoming fascinated with monastic women at her biological father's funeral when she was about three years old. In another she describes the day she learned in school that her beloved step-father and his Protestant relatives were not eligible for entry into Heaven.

It is astonishing that this author of more than 30 books thought as a young nun that she must give up her greatest passion-- writing-- and did, for some decades.

I hold no brief for Catholicism, or for that matter, for most branches of organized religion. Still, I can only admire this woman's dedication to her own paradox of being both a Catholic nun and a feminist, and her efforts to change the degree to which women are included in the Church. If we must have a Catholic Church, then it should be one that does not, to paraphrase Sr. Joan, use only one half of its population, its heart, and its mind. (I'm going to re-listen and correct that.)
I was only half-awake while listening to this show, my usual routine, since it airs Sunday mornings at 7:00 a.m., but I missed the end of it when I finally went outside to try and get our neighbor's attention-- to ask him if he knew what time it was-- it took a few minutes, because he couldn't hear me over the roar of his gas-powered hedge shears. Another potential bullet item for our agenda: Noise Pollution.


Blogger Thursday Next said...

Ugh ... noisy neighbours, I feel your pain Lyssa!

Huzzah for women like Sister Joan, they are the ones that give me hope and the courage to carry one.

6:39 PM  

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