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Monday, 09 July 2018 18:52

Christian Brothers call for more equal rights for women in Church community

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0718OurLadyoftheCosmos 250The Christian Brothers Oceania Province recently marked the Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help by calling for more equal rights for women in the church community.

The Brothers said it was time for them too to stand up and be counted in this call for better treatment for women in the church.

Their statement said:

On this traditional feast day for our Congregation and in light of the recent revelations of abuse perpetuated by members of our Catholic Church and indeed our own Congregation, it is time we brothers and other branches of the Edmund Rice Movement stand up and be counted in a call to the Church for more equal rights for women in our church community.

In the words of Mary McAleese, the 8th President of Ireland, in a recent article in Issue 225 April 2018 of the New Zealand magazine, Tui Motu InterIslands: "Today we challenge Pope Francis to develop A credible strategy for the inclusion of women As equals throughout the Church’s root and branch Infrastructure, including its decision-making." (Pg. 7)

She later writes in the same article: “At the start of his papacy Pope Francis said: ‘We need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church’ and again, ‘women are more important than men because the Church is woman’.” (Pg. 7)

These are powerful words of Pope Francis quoted by Mary McAleese.

At the Nairobi Chapter, there was debate whether we should include in the booklet the traditional image of Mary as Mary of Perpetual Help or the more recent image of Mary of the Cosmos as shown in this reflection, an icon designed by Sr Bernadette Bostwick, from Green Mountain Monastery in Vermont, USA. In a gesture of “inclusion” both were added and have deep messages and meanings for us who live today in the 21st Century, a century of explosive scientific information about our origins as humans belonging in a vast Universe, some 13.7 billions years on its journey to this June 27th 2018 feast day.

In Sister Bernadette’s explanation of the icon, we read: This image of Mary of the Cosmos celebrates the beauty of our embodiment and the sacredness and holiness of all matter in the cosmos… the universe is flowing through Mary whose body is made of the star stuff of the cosmos. With Earth at her centre, the planet becomes the birthing bed of Jesus. The Mother of love and compassion looks out to us with outstretched arms inviting us to become life bearers for the planet.

Can we brothers embrace such an expansive image of Mary today?

How inclusive are we when it comes to women, to “the stranger” in our midst?

Can we stand by idly and be witnesses to injustice against women in our Church?

Why pray to a woman called Mary, the one who forever is our help and place of succour, when her descendants today are left out of so much in a Church which is supposed to be the Body of Christ in our world, the womb of succour for all humans and indeed for the whole Community of Life on Earth.

Today let us join with our Jesuit brothers who in 1995 at their 34th General Congregation had this to say: “We have been part of a civil and ecclesial tradition that has offended against women. And, like many men, we have a tendency to convince ourselves that there is no problem. However unwittingly, we have often contributed to a form of clericalism which has reinforced male domination with an ostensibly divine sanction ... we wish to react personally and collectively, and do what we can to change this regrettable situation. “ ibid. Pg. 7.

PRAYER

In light of these sentiments, let us pray together.

Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help and of the Cosmos, Your spirit arrives as a morning rain, showing up like a surprise guest. Listening to her voice at our heart’s doorway, we discover her name is Love, “but friends call me Mercy,” she adds quickly. Calm and quiet our souls at the fount of your loving presence. In your embrace, replenish us with a force for love, especially for those most demanding. Inspire us to drop into our hearts and find your life-giving grace there, weaving the fabric of human reality into the tapestry of love. She reaches towards us, cupped hands dripping holy water. “I can heal you,” she says, shyly, looking into our eyes. “See taste this … “ And we drink from her vessel. O Lady of Life and Love, your stream carves into our heart’s darkness, and the light seeps in. Amen.

(From Centering Prayers: A One Year Daily Companion for Going Deeper into the Love of God - by Peter Traben Haas)

PONDER What do we understand by Pope Francis’ metaphor: “The Church is a woman”? What can we do both personally and communally “to change this regrettable situation”? How can we incorporate more “inclusive language” into our prayer, readings, Office and rituals?

(Reflection by Tony Hempenstall cfc)


This article was first published in the Christian Brothers' Oceania Province Weekly News (Vol 2, Issue 21)

IMAGE: Our Lady of the Cosmos, an icon by Sr Bernadette Bostwick, from Green Mountain Monastery in Vermont, USA.