Affirming women on their journeys to holiness
“The goal of the Called to Holiness books is to give women ideas, energy and creativity to continue on their journey toward holiness.The world needs the voices of women—their virtues, insights and other diverse gifts.We want to assist women in their desire to lead intentional spiritual lives.”
The focus of the Called to Holiness series is spirituality. Its interest is women of all backgrounds: rich and poor; married and single; white, black and brown; gay and straight; those who are biological mothers and those who are mothers in other senses. There will be volumes on grassroots theology, family life, prayer, action for justice, grieving, young adult life, the wisdom years and Hispanic heritage. I hope all the volumes in this series will deepen and shape your own spiritual life in creative ways, as you engage with the theology of our rich, two-thousand-year-old Christian tradition.
Women’s spiritualities are lived in light of their concrete, specific experiences of joy and struggle; ecstasy and despair; virtue and vice; work and leisure; family and friends; embodiment and sexuality; tears and laughter; sickness and health; sistering and mothering. These volumes are for women and men from all walks of life, whether they are new to the spiritual journey or old hands—affluent, middle-class or poor. Included in the circle we call church are persons from every country on the planet, some at the center, others at the margins or even beyond.
Time is ripe for women’s voices
The time is ripe for “ordinary” women to be doing theology. The first and second waves of the women’s movement in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries provided a valiant and solid foundation for the third wave which will mark, and be marked by, the world of the early twenty-first century. Changes and developments from one generation to the next make our heads spin. Younger women readers are likely already to be grooming the soil for a fourth wave of Christian spirituality done by and for women. Women have always loved God, served others and struggled to be holy, but the historical context has been less than friendly in terms of women’s dignity, acknowledgment of female gifts and empowerment by church and society. In a time of growing emphasis on the role of clergy, and the backlash against women in society, the voices of the laity—especially the voices of women—are needed more than ever.
The Greek language has two words for time. Chronos points to the time signaled by the hands on the clock—for example, “I have an appointment at two o’clock.” Kairos points to time that is ripe, moments pregnant with possibility. As Christian women, we live in a time rightly described as kairos. It is a time that calls us to, and demands of us, renewed energy, reflection and commitment to attend to and help each other grow spiritually as we seek to love ourselves and the world. At this point in history, the fruit of women’s struggle includes new self-awareness, self-confidence and self-respect. More and more women are beginning to see just how lovable and capable they are. The goal of the Christian life has always been to lay down our lives in love for the other, but the particular ways this vocation is lived out differ from era to era and place to place. Women’s ability to voice with confidence the phrase, “I am a theologian” at the beginning of the twenty-first century means something it could not have meant even fifty years ago.
Many doors remain closed to women
Those who were part of the early waves of feminism celebrate the hard-won accomplishments of the women’s movement and know that this work needs to be taken up by future generations. Young women in their twenties and thirties are often unaware of past efforts that brought about more dignity and freedom for women. Women have opened many doors, but many remain closed. The media have recently explored the plight of Hindu widows in India; less publicized is that women in the United States still earn only seventy-seven cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. We must be vigilant and continue to act for decades to come in order to secure our accomplishments thus far and make further inroads toward the creation of a just, egalitarian world. Those who sense that the women’s movement is in a doldrums call us to renew the enthusiasm and dedication of our foremothers.
When we cast our eye beyond the borders of first-world comfort, it takes but a split-second to realize that the majority of the world’s poor and oppressed are women. A quick visit to the Women’s Rights section of the Human Rights Watch Web site reveals the breadth and depth of women’s oppression across the globe from poverty and domestic abuse to sex slavery. Most women (and their children) do not have enough to eat, a warm, dry place to sleep or access to education. Female babies are more at risk than male babies. Women, more than men, lack the protection of the law and the respect of their communities. The double-standard in sexual matters affects women in harmful ways in all cultures and economic groups across the globe.
For all of these reasons it is not just important—but pressing, crucial, urgent—that all women of faith own the title “theologian” and shape this role in light of each woman’s unique set of characteristics, contexts, relationships and spiritualities. We are theologians when we sort through the great and small problems of our time through reflection on Scripture or the words of a mystic or theologian. The images of God that emerged for Paul, Augustine or Catherine of Siena provide guidance, but their theology cannot ever be a substitute for our own. Theology helps us shape what we think about God, justice, love, the destiny of humanity and the entire universe in a way that is relevant to the specific issues facing us in the twenty-first century. The call to spiritual depths and mystical heights has never been more resounding.
Called to Holiness provides additional resources
As series editor, I invite you to engage actively in reflecting on and discussing women’s spirituality and to take advantage of the wonderful resources provided in the Called to Holiness series that will deepen your reading experience.
Each month this Web site will feature two brief articles by Called to Holiness
authors that will further explore women’s spirituality. By subscribing to the RSS feed
on this page, you will automatically be notified when new articles and other information about Called to Holiness
A two-CD set, Companion Songs for Called to Holiness
, offers inspirational music from GIA Publications selected by liturgical composer David Haas. We hope these songs will provide much personal enrichment as well as enhance the rituals suggested in the books.
Free E-greeting cards for special occasions will help you support and nurture the many women and cherished relationships in your life.
St. Anthony Messenger Press is proud to affirm and assist women on their journeys to holiness. We welcome comments about your spiritual journey and your ideas for Called to Holiness. Click on Contact Us to send a comment or idea.
Thursday, August, 21, 2008