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Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ

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Sophie
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2008/08/21 23:33:34 (permalink)
Born on this day August 21 in 1567 - Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva and saint


Saint Francis de Sales

Saint Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church


Born at the Château de Sales in Thorens, Savoy, August 21, 1567, Francis died in Lyons, France on December 28, 1622.  He was formally beatified the same year (1622) in Saint Peter's Basilica.  His was the first solemn beatification to occur there.

Francis was canonized in 1665.  Named a Doctor of the Church in 1877, he was declared patron saint of journalists and the Catholic press in 1923.

He was known as an outstanding confessor (he directed Blessed Marie Acarie in Paris for a time), as well as Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, whom he met in 1604 while preaching Lenten sermons at Dijon. With Saint Jane de Chantal he founded the Order of the Visitation in 1610. He was extremely influential as a spiritual director.

When forming the Visitation nuns sith Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, they had hoped for a group of women contemplatives who would be engaged in charitable work outside the convent. However, the traditional idea of cloistered nuns was too ingrained in the popular mind to allow this to happen. The order proposed taking the practical Saint Martha as its patron but this was stopped by the local bishop. Saint Vincent de Paul circumvented this limitation on his Sisters of Charity by having no habits or perpetual vows (they wore uniforms and made annual vows, and so they were free to work among the needy.
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2008/08/21 23:51:02 (permalink)
What is Saint Francis de Sales's connection to Mary, Model Priest? and the case for women's ordination?
 
It is in his friend Jean-Jacques Olier recognition of Mary as Priest.

Jean-Jacques Olier, the founder of the Society of Saint-Sulpice.  The society is not a religious order but a society whose main purpose is the education of priests. They are the only priests in the world with the sole responsibility of educating fellow priests. Sulpicians place great emphasis on the academic and spiritual formation of their own members, who commit themelves to undergoing life-long development in these areas. The Sulpicians are famed for their solid academic teaching and high moral tone.  An ongoing venture still today, the underlying reason for the founding of the Sulpicians "remains as cogent as it was 360 years ago: Priests who hope to bring the sacraments and the Word of God to others must themselves be well prepared and deeply spiritual." http://www.sulpicians.org/whoweare/whoweare.html

Founder, "Fr. Jean Jacques Olier, was influenced by Vincent de Paul, who advocated a simple lifestyle for priests, and by Charles de Condren, who taught a complex spirituality based on a selfless devotion to God. Fr. Olier said that Sulpicians must have both an apostolic spirit and a devotion to the Eucharist and the Word of God in order to form priests with a zeal for evangelization and a love for pastoral service." 


Father Jean Jacques Olier

In the 1630s, the priesthood in France was in disarray. The parish priests were poorly prepared for their ministry, and most of the hierarchy, drawn from the aristocracy, were supported by endowments (benefices) associated with large land holdings.
 
Olier, born to a wealthy family in 1608, was a well-educated young man whose miraculous cure from deteriorating eyesight pointed him away from the ranks of the aristocratic clergy and toward priestly service to God and the poor. His interactions with Church luminaries like Vincent de Paul, Charles de Condren and Mother Agnes of Jesus (St. Agnes of Langeac) drew him into the center of a movement for spiritual renewal and religious reform in France.

Father Olier wanted to reform the clergy—and eventually the Church in France— by providing sound formation for priests. The "Society of the Priests of the Seminary of St. Sulpice" began and was dedicated to accepting adult candidates from bishops throughout France and forming them for priestly service in their home dioceses. In this, Fr. Olier is credited with developing a new model of seminary, as a place that started, not with local adolescents, but with men from different places, whose vocations had already been discerned.

http://www.sulpicians.org/whoweare/founding.html
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2008/08/21 23:56:01 (permalink)
 
 
 
 
We read in Father Jean Jacques Olier's writing his recognition that Mary fulfilled the functions of the priesthood:

Mary as a child of three [in the temple of Jerusalem] renewed her vows of victim and servant with an even greater love . . . than she had done in the sacred temple of Anne’s womb . . .

In the temple of Jerusalem she assisted at the sacrifices of the Old Covenant and, more enlightened than the priests . . . saw, adored and contemplated Jesus Christ under all these symbols since she was already without knowing it performing the holy functions of the priesthood which she would have to exercise on Calvary.

For there the Father associated her with Jesus Christ, priest of the exalted sacrifice which she must offer with him on Calvary. . . and communicated to her the priestly spirit in an eminent manner.
 
Vie intérieure de la très sainte Vierge, 1650 (?), ed. Migne 1856, c. 3,1-3.
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2008/08/22 10:21:31 (permalink)
They argued the priesthood of Virgin Mary but denounced real women of the world and denied women ordination. 
 
 What motivates such strange thinking and behavior, praise one woman, an abstract otherworldly very special Virgin Mother then show contempt and belittle all women of the earth? 
 
 If instead one was to claim the glory of Jesus as so special and unique and the only "good man' and divine, and then say all "men are misbegotten, inferior. subjegated, unworthy, unclean, too corporal, never image Jesus or God, never can be ordained"  that would be exactly the style of treatment that is inflicted on women by this denial of holy orders based only on female sex.
 
 What if similar prohibitions were inflicted on the male sex. 
 
 Such hypocrisy and blatant prejudice and misogyny is imposed on women, against all logic, reason, science and theology--Jesus never condemned women or excluded, or silenced or limited women in what they do for the church.
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2008/08/22 19:11:00 (permalink)
I don't mean to sound sacreligious when I say this but one thing I have always wondered about is whether or not a predominance of homosexual men in the priesthood may have had something to do with the way mary has been venerated through the ages.

In modern days, the gay community is known for its 'diva worship.' Women like Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Cher, Madonna, Liza Minelli, though not gay themselves, are icons in a community that has no natural inclination towards women.

I have a personal devotion to Mary. She is for me the best example of discipleship to Jesus.

When I think about her and our history, I can't help wondering whether there is a common thread here.
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2008/08/22 19:12:39 (permalink)
Also, in some segments of the modern day gay community, while there is worship of female icons, there is also hatred or contempt for ordinary women. This doesn't characterize all gay men. Just some sectors of the community.
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2008/08/23 05:46:23 (permalink)
You bring up good reflection here, yet there are also married men, who supposedly are hetersexual,  who also have a lot of contempt for women, and often restrict, control and abuse women such as their wives and daughters.  There are married men who espouse anti-women prejudices and insist no women can be a priest.  Sometimes when they have only daughters and they realize one or more of their own daughters would make an excellent priest they sometimes finally see the light, or one of their female relatives, a sister or aunt is called to be ordained, this may change their view.  Often  however such  misogynistic bigotry is very entrenched,  I have puzzled over this , why some hold such rigid prejudical ideas that want to see all women prevented from being priests (or doctors, or lawyers, or judges, etc.).
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2008/08/23 05:51:21 (permalink)
Could it be their own insecurity, jealousy, desire to overpower and control women, Keep women in their place, an immaturity and lack of balance, wisdom and wholeness that makes some want to control and limit women?  Jesus had wisdom, wholeness, maturity and encouraged women to be everything and do everything in his church.  He even personally taught women theology to dispel the notion that women are "uneducated" about religion ,. Jesus personally educated women, removing that barrier from women.
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2008/08/23 14:50:52 (permalink)

 
He was known as an outstanding confessor (he directed Blessed Marie Acarie in Paris for a time), as well as Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, whom he met in 1604 while preaching Lenten sermons at Dijon. With Saint Jane de Chantal he founded the Order of the Visitation in 1610. He was extremely influential as a spiritual director.

When forming the Visitation nuns sith Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, they had hoped for a group of women contemplatives who would be engaged in charitable work outside the convent. However, the traditional idea of cloistered nuns was too ingrained in the popular mind to allow this to happen. The order proposed taking the practical Saint Martha as its patron but this was stopped by the local bishop. Saint Vincent de Paul circumvented this limitation on his Sisters of Charity by having no habits or perpetual vows (they wore uniforms and made annual vows, and so they were free to work among the needy.


 


Saint Jane Frances de Chantal
1572 - 1641
Feast day August 18
 
For more about Saint Jane Frances de Chantal and other women leaders, click here: RE: Holy Women Through the Ages: 2008
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2008/11/21 02:36:34 (permalink)
Today, November 21 in the Eastern Rite Churches is celebrated the Entrance of Theotokos into the Temple
 


According to the tradition of the Church, the Theotokos was brought to the Temple at three years of age, where she was consecrated to God and spent her days until she was fourteen or fifteen years old; and then, as a mature maiden, by the common counsel of the priests (since her parents had reposed some three years before), she was betrothed to Joseph.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone

Today is the prelude of God's pleasure and the proclamation of man's salvation. The Virgin is clearly made manifest in the temple of God and foretells Christ to all. Let us also cry out to her with mighty voice, "Hail, fulfillment of the Creator's dispensation."
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2008/11/21 02:37:13 (permalink)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

In the Latin rite, the feast is known as The Presentation of Mary.
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2008/11/21 02:39:10 (permalink)


Dear friends, 

If you are new to www.womenpriests.org and have just started to explore our site, you not realise what the role Mary plays in the case for women priests.  Though today the Vatican maintains that she was not a priest, throughout the centuries the faithful including men in Church leadership have had cherished a devotion to her as a priest.  She has been understood as the first priest after Christ.  Through their 'Catholic sense,' the faithful have intuitively understood that she shares in Jesus’ priesthood more than any other person. Implicitly the devotion contains the strong but usually unspoken conviction that though a woman, Mary could easily have been ordained a priest -- just as much as any man. There were times throughout history that this conviction was expressed explicitly in the Church.

For more about this, I invite you to browse through this thread and our special library section about Mary.  It is located here: http://www.womenpriests.org/mrpriest/mpr_ovr.asp.  Be sure to check out the picture galleries!

If you have any questions, please let me know.

with love and blessings,

~Sophie~
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2008/12/13 00:00:56 (permalink)


Mexicans gather outside the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to celebrate the feast day of the patroness Dec. 12 in Mexico City. The feast marks the appearance of Mary to St. Juan Diego in 1531. (CNS/Reuters)
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2009/01/03 05:24:40 (permalink)
Did the Woman Say?

Did the woman say,
When she held him for the first time
In the dark dank of a stable,
After the pain and the bleeding
And the crying,
“This is my body; This is my blood”?

Did the woman say,
When she held him for the last time
In the dark rain on a hilltop,
After the pain and the bleeding
And the dying,
“This is my body; This is my blood”?

Well that she said it to him then,
For dry old men,
Brocaded robes belying barreness,
Ordain that she not say it for him now.

:Frances Croake Frank
post edited by Sophie - 2009/01/10 04:52:53
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2009/01/03 05:27:05 (permalink)
Litany of Mary of Nazareth
 
Glory to you, God our Creator...
Breathe into us new life, new meaning.
Glory to you, God our Savior...
Lead us in the way of peace and justice.
Glory to you, healing Spirit...
Transform us to empower others.

Mary, wellspring of peace...Be our guide.
Model of strength
Model of gentleness
Model of trust
Model of courage
Model of patience
Model of risk
Model of openness
Model of perseverence

Oppressed woman...Lead us to life.
Liberator of the oppressed
Marginalized woman
Comforter of the afflicted
Cause of our joy
Sign of contradiction
Liberator of the oppressed
Breaker of bondage
Political refugee
Seeker of sanctuary
First disciple
Sharer in Christ's passion
Seeker of God's will
Witness to Christ's resurrection

Mother of the Liberator...Pray for us.
Mother of the homeless,
Mother of the dying
Mother of the non-violent
Widowed mother
Unwed mother
Mother of the political prisoner
Mother of the condemned
Mother of the executed criminal

Woman of mercy...Empower us.
Woman of faith
Woman of contemplation
Woman of vision
Woman of wisdom and understanding
Woman of grace and truth
Woman, pregnant with hope
Woman, centered in God.

Mary, Queen of Peace, we entrust our lives to you.
Shelter us from war, hatred and oppression.
Teach us to live in peace, to educate ourselves for peace.
Inspire us to act justly, to revere all God has made.
Root peace firmly in our hearts  and in all the world.

Amen.
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2009/04/18 20:37:28 (permalink)
Dear friends,

The periodical called America Magazine is celebrating its 100th anniversary.  As part of the celebration, they are 'reposting' old articles.  This one about Mary came up.  In light of our conversation here, I wanted to share it.

with love and blessings,

~Sophie~

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Mary and the Feminist Movement
From December 18, 1993
by Sidney Callahan | Archived Article
America Magazine

Religious devotion to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, has grown and developed during the Christian era, but not without criticism. Recently, feminist-inspired critiques have claimed that Marian devotion is now and always has been counterproductive for women's flourishing-a serious accusation indeed. As a Christian feminist, I contest this indictment and maintain that love and reverence for Mary serve to further the well-being of women and the good of the church.

In my developmental perspective on the evolution of Christianity, Marian devotion serves a twofold function. First, to act as a compensatory witness to those Gospel values and truths that the official church is either ignoring or distorting during a particular era. Second, to confirm the good news and herald what is corning next in the church's pilgrimage.

When, for example, Christ's humanity and God's tender, loving, maternal mercy were obscured by a popular view of God as terrifying or impassive judge, Mary served as a compensatory embodiment of heaven's love and mercy, a metaphor of God's maternal compassion. Or again, when theology slighted the work of the Holy Spirit as mediating grace within the cosmos and the concrete world of human affairs, Mary's role as mediatrix flowered. She became almost symbolically fused with the Holy Spirit, the divine Sophia. When, after further reflection, a more balanced theological understanding of Mary and the Christian message develops, Marian devotions will change their emphases and coloration once again.

Hope springs from the fact that women's rising spirit takes place today within a groundswell of Christian movements dedicated to the plight of the world's poor and oppressed. Feminism is entwined with other emancipatory movements because in so many instances women remain the poorest of the poor, unjustly subjected to gender discrimination, sexual abuse and violence. On the threshold of the second millennium, Mary, the mother of Christian feminism, appears as an eternal sign of God's urgent desire for justice and peace in the world.

Surely, in the 21st century, the most grievous dangers facing the world will arise from abuses of power in their secular and religious forms. If we wish to struggle against the cruel laws of the jungle or the callous competitiveness of the marketplace, in which only the strongest survive, we do well to support the joining together of feminist and Marian ideals. But how to begin?

Here I can offer only the briefest outline of one way the Marian-feminist reconciliation and recovery project can proceed. I start with a sample of recent feminist indictments of Marian devotion and then offer counterarguments. From that defensive posture I sketch out ways that central feminist concerns converge with traditional Marian themes.

The Indictments

The most notorious recent attack on traditional Marian devotion has been mounted by Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong in his 1992 book, Born of a Woman: A Bishop Rethinks the Birth of Jesus. Bishop Spong is particularly upset by the traditional doctrines concerning Mary's virginity, her immaculate conception and her bodily assumption. He sees these doctrines as devices by which celibate males were able to create an ideal of womanhood that would "universalize guilt among women." With the Marian ideals of womanhood accepted and saluted the world over, "then at one stroke every other woman was and is rendered inadequate, incomplete, incompetent."

Bishop Spong adopts the same message as, and uses resources from, Marina Warner's 1976 book, Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary. Marina Warner gives a more sympathetic tour through the cultural and artistic history of Marian doctrines and devotions. But she also laments the fact that the Virgin Mary "became an effective instrument of asceticism and female subjection." Warner's title phrase, "alone of all her sex," is a line taken from a medieval poem, but she selects it to express her thesis: Mary's exaltation emphasizes her uniqueness and thereby excludes and damages the condition of the majority of women.

Other Christian feminists have agreed in part with Warner. While they may see Christianity as on the whole a liberating force in history, they assess Marian devotion as counterproductive for women. Even Carolyn Osiek in her irenic 1986 book, Beyond Anger: On Being a Feminist in the Church, says that Mary provided Catholic women an "impossible ideal to which no woman could attain, with whom all women are invited to feel inadequate." Another problem from her perspective is that Mary's chief qualification for exaltation is maternity. "Even for Mary, biology is destiny."

If such critiques sound familiar, it is because they echo the criticisms from that part of the secular feminist movement shaped by the anti-religious animus of Simone deBeauvoir, who considered the Judeo-Christian tradition "savagely anti-feminine." Many secular feminists took up her antagonistic stance to Western religions because traditional doctrines were deemed to define women as inferior. Religion seemed to condemn women to live as reproductive objects rather than as self-defining subjects. Beauvoir, for instance, thought that women would remain socially suppressed until they could throw off the biological bondage of their reproductive functions. For her, unmarried, and childless by choice, only the male model of permissive sexual eroticism sans reproductive consequences could provide women with true equality and freedom.

Modern American feminism arose during a decade or so of intense social upheaval. American society simultaneously experienced the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the sexual revolution and the feminist movement. Unfortunately, parts of the feminist movement, while generally inspired by the human rights movement that advocated the equality and dignity of all persons, also adopted the worst of the period's permissive sexual ideologies and were generally critical of marital, religious and family commitments.

By the 1990's the culture had changed once more, and feminism along with it. Feminism has become multicultural and pluralistic and has moved on to a renewed appreciation of women's lives, history and traditional strengths-in their reproductive, familial and maternal roles. Today, in many feminist visions, the sweeping anti-religious dogmas of the past have been left behind. Forms of religious feminism have developed within every traditional faith-and outside of them as well. Now it can be recognized that the American feminist foremothers in the 19th century, like the contemporary abolitionists, were inspired by Christian doctrines of the equal human dignity of beings created in the image of God. Amid the pluralistic feminist reappraisals going on, a resurgent Christian feminist theology can confidently counter negative appraisals of Marian devotion.

Countering the Critiques
 
One common theme in explaining the rise of Marian devotion in the church has been to recognize that, with the spread of Christianity over the known world, newly converted Christians inevitably assimilated or sublimated pre-existing local cults. One of the strongest religious manifestations of the ancient pagan world was the widespread worship of the great mother goddess, appearing in the form of a multitude of female deities. The interpretation given these early historical developments will depend upon one's ideological or theological perspective, but no one doubts that Marian devotion was at the very least kindled by pre-existing pagan myths and goddess worship.

The relevant point here is that from a modem feminist perspective, worship of the great mother goddess and female pagan deities are not viewed as a means to subordinate women, but rather as symbolic enhancement of female power and a validation of women's experience. According to most feminists, when God was, or is, or shall be, symbolized with female images, ordinary women in a society will be better off for it.

Accordingly, modern women outside the traditional faiths have created neo-pagan goddess cults expressly aimed at vindicating and empowering themselves through feminine symbols and female-oriented rituals. So, too, Christian feminists reconstruct the tradition's female symbols, female-oriented spiritualities, women centered Scripture readings and ritual celebrations. A similar validation of women's power and importance accompanied the church's devotion and homage to Mary as the mother of God and powerful queen of heaven. These movements spontaneously rose among the people, particularly among women, and cannot be dismissed as a power play of celibate males. As the agnostic historian of the Middle Ages, Henry Adams, put it, writing in the beginning of the 20th century, "All the literature and history of the time" proclaim of Marian devotion, "how this worship elevated the whole sex."

On the one hand, there was the exaltation of Mary's feminine spiritual authority in the divine scheme, which worked as a counter-story to official statements of intrinsic feminine inferiority. On the other hand, there was a constant celebration and reliance upon Mary's embodiment and embeddedness in human affairs as a real woman concerned with domestic details like all other women. She was the great and powerful queen of heaven as well as the approachable Everywoman concerned with the daily needs of ordinary men and women.

Those who exalted Mary in liturgical worship, art and poetry used Scripture symbolically to identify her with Wisdom, the Holy Spirit, the new Eve, the valiant woman, the daughter of Zion, the figure of the faithful church. She received titles of reverence identifying her with all the virtues and all the beauties of nature. Litanies saluted her as Our Lady of Good Counsel, Refuge of Sinners, Seat of Wisdom, Mirror of Justice, Mother of Mercy, Queen of Peace, Mystical Rose, Star of the Sea. Can these female images of active power have invited women to feel inadequate, incomplete or incompetent? Not likely.

The Marian cult also excelled in elaborating on the goodness of Mary as a real, embodied woman. Not only was her womb called blessed but her breasts and milk were celebrated. Mary is shown pregnant or nursing her infant. Legends grew up of how she healed the ill by nursing them with her milk. Mary always offered concrete physical help, often coming to wipe the sweat from the brow of the dying sick poor. She opened the wombs of infertile women, helped brides without a dowry and attended women in childbirth. All of the phases of Mary's feminine life cycle were identified with and celebrated by women, as well as by men. The older sorrowful mother, in an agony of grief at the crucifixion of her son, was never forgotten. She mourned with humankind in every sorrow, but especially with women who lost children.

Mary's special concern, however, from medieval to modern times, was to champion the poor, the outcast, the oppressed, the ill, the marginalized and morally dubious. Her concern for physical healing of the sick produced great shrines and gave a witness to Christ's healing powers. These were early promissory notes for today's recovery of Christian healing ministries in the church. So too, long before modern liberation theologians voiced the idea of the "preferential option for the poor," Mary heralded this basic Christian insight by her activities.

Marian miracles and appearances favor the downtrodden, the lowly and those in need. The great, defiant Marian prayer-"The Magnificat"-shows Mary as the heir of the Hebrew prophets, a true daughter of Zion calling down God's justice on the rich and routing the proud of heart. Today, once again, in various movements rising up against oppression, Mary is invoked as: woman of the poor, unwed mother, widowed mother, political refugee, seeker of sanctuary, sign of contradiction, mother of the homeless, mother of the nonviolent, mother of the executed criminal, model of risk, trust, courage, patience, perseverance, wellspring of peace.

Henry Adams caught the spirit of the recurring reliance on and resort to Mary, although he confined his analysis to Marian devotion in medieval Europe and could not know of the surprising Marian developments that were to come after his time. For Adams, Mary is never passive, but instead: "Mary concentrated in herself the whole rebellion of man against fate." This Boston brahmin also asserted that "the people loved Mary because she trampled on conventions: not merely because she could do it, but because she liked to do what shocked every well-regulated authority. Her pity had no limit" (Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres).

Adams comes to conclusions exactly opposite those of Bishop Spong and Marina Warner. For Adams, the people "idolized her for being strong, physically and in will, so that she feared nothing, and was as helpful to the knight in the melee of battle as to the young mother in childbed." She excels in both masculine assertiveness and in tender feminine concern. I would claim that among other things Mary, like Christ, can be seen as implicitly witnessing to the basic Christian insight that in Christ there is neither male nor female. Doing the will of God, believing and obeying in love, the human person transcends gender identity.

According to Caroline Walker Bynum, a noted historian of religion, while misogyny existed in the culture, "in fact religious women paid surprisingly little attention to their supposed incapacity" (Gender and Religion, 1986). Religious women reworked gender imagery and effectively established their own internal sense of equality. Women mystics and devotional writers recovered many ancient Christian themes and spoke of Christ as mother giving birth to the church. God is also seen as maternal, like a nursing mother lovingly feeding the faithful on the Eucharist.

Today Christian feminists are working to uncover and articulate ancient, woman-affirming spiritual roots. When history is examined with newly opened minds, it will appear that different forms of feminism have arisen time and again-and just as often been suppressed. Late 20th-century secular feminism can be envisioned as another round in the struggle.

Modern Secular Feminist Themes
 
Obviously, feminists vary because they come to their feminist convictions from different starting points and inevitably retain their ideological allegiances to different worldviews. This leads skeptics to inquire whether there is anything at all that the different forms of feminism hold in common.

Yes, decidedly. There are core feminist affirmations. All feminists, from the most radical separatists to the most orthodox religious, seek to end harmful gender discrimination and unjust oppression of women. All advocate the social changes necessary to bring about gender equality and the well-being and full human flourishing of women. In this general emancipatory enterprise all feminists inevitably undertake a critique of the status quo.

Most feminists have emphasized the need to recover a relational view of the self, in contradistinction to individualistic male norms of isolated self-sufficiency. In feminist analyses human beings are acknowledged as concretely embodied and embedded in specific familial and historical contexts that should not be ignored. Women's hidden contribution to society and the making of "self-made" men must be acknowledged. Retrieving history from below, where women and others of lesser power have lived and worked, is an important feminist project. In the same way, most feminists have affirmed embodied human subjectivity as one in which reason and emotion cannot be separated.

Another central feminist concern has been the analysis of power and the ways social structures can oppress or emancipate persons in either crude or subtle ways. Women have so often been silenced and excluded. Feminists therefore employ a "hermeneutics of suspicion" and will always look to see whose interests are being served when gender definitions and gender arrangements are proposed. It becomes particularly important for women that gender justice and equality operate within the family and include childrearing practices.

Feminists hold that oppressors too are wounded by abusive power. Why should violent forms of domineering power be culturally glorified and women's nurturing creative work be discounted?

Finally, all feminists have claimed that women must no longer be thought of as sexual objects or reduced to the status of reproductive breeding properties in the service of either powerful males or the state. Women's sexuality and sexual autonomy must be respected.

Reappraising Present Marian Developments With a Feminist Eye
 
Today Mary and Marian doctrines are understood as they refer to and explicate the church's understanding of Christ and the Incarnation. Gender identity is transcended because theologians emphasize Mary's role as "the first disciple," and see her as the type and model for every faithful Christian believer, whether male or female. The doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are now understood as necessarily interrelated and implicitly derived from Christ's redemption of all humankind. Mary is the first fruit of Christ's saving act, which overcomes sin and death. Mary's "yes" to God made possible the redemption and through Christ every Christian may also say "yes," become pregnant with hope and engender new life.

Christian feminists will go further in a reading of the evolving significance of Mary: Marian devotion has preserved a feminine presence and recognition of feminine power within an officially male-dominated structure. One holy woman, at least, has never been forgotten, left nameless or banished from leadership in the church. Until God could again be invoked as Mother as well as Father by the faithful, Mary has stood witness to the divine Sophia and to the fact that gender is transcended in wisdom and faith. But if Marian devotions preserve the feminine heritage, they also prophetically prefigure new explicit developments of the implicit Gospel message. Seeds that lie dormant flower in the fullness of time.

Today the church is beginning to confront the worldwide feminist movement, and this soon brings to the fore deeper theological questions of embodiment, gender and sexuality. Mary's freedom from sin, her bodily assumption into heaven give witness to the goodness of the female human body and the truth of the promised resurrection of all bodies. But what are the implications for bodies and the body-mind unity of the human being here and now? Marian shrines have been noted for healing, but healing ministries have not yet become a central concern of the church.

Mary's active concern for the faithful on earth has also testified to the Christian belief in the communion of saints and the continuing solidarity of a human community of the living and the dead. But the Marian cult's implicit witness to the cosmic solidarity and communal nature of humankind has not been developed into a coherent theology. Christianity is in its infancy when it comes to the struggle for equality and justice.

Mary's embeddedness in the natural processes of procreation, her identification with nature imagery and her elevation as one with a cosmic care for the world can give heart to those seeking to develop Christian ecological awareness. But here again the work of mothering the earth has just begun.

In the same way the implications of Gospel peacemaking and nonviolence have not yet been developed. Modern Catholics in the peace movement turn to Mary as Mother of Peace, wellspring of peace, and are inspired to dream of new forms of peacemaking. A spiritual struggle for peace and the power of intercessory prayer are central in the traditional cult of Mary, but the theological developments of intercessory prayer and of nonviolent witness have not been adequate.

The ancient depictions of the dormition of Mary symbolize the sleep that characterizes theological reflection on the Marian themes. On the other hand, reported Marian appearances all over the world have been increasing. These curious and sometimes comic scenarios of sightings do little for the credibility of the church, but they do testify to the fact that simple people trust that Mary is willing to make an appearance in their backyard and desires to communicate with them personally.


The Convergence of Marian and Feminist Themes

It takes a slightly more sophisticated reading of the continuing Marian story to discern the ways Marian devotions and doctrines converge with core feminist concerns. Obviously, there is the common cry for justice and a desire for a general emancipation of women and the oppressed. Feminist concerns for peace, nurturing power and new movements of ecological feminism bent on mothering the earth find a deep resonance within Marian devotion.

Surely too, feminist emphases upon the importance of concrete social embeddedness are found in Marian devotion and doctrines. In the Mary cult, the self is always relational; no one, not even God, appears without recognizing the bonds to mother and family.

It is also a truism that Marian devotion has affirmed the human need for emotion, for poetic beauty and for the fusion of affect and reason in human expressions and reflection. Hyperrationalistic scholasticism may have reigned in parts of the church's life but not everywhere---certainly not in Mary's domain. If anything, the temptation of Marian devotion in the 19th century was toward an exaggerated sentimentality. But at least Mary has never been accused of being a champion of abstract, arid rules that produce slavish obedience to the letter of the law.

But what of the accusation that Mary's virginity made sexually active women feel inadequate or guilty because they could not be as pure as Mary? And was Mary, who is exalted in her maternity, conforming to a "biology is destiny" ideology? Of course it is possible that at times Marian symbols were used in a reductionist way. In certain church circles there lingered a gnostic, anti-sexual animus that identified sexuality with sin. Sex and sexual activity in some severe ascetic traditions were seen as polluting. But other elements of the symbols used in the Mary story seem more powerful.

Marina Warner herself reminds us that virginity in the ancient world of goddesses did not refer so much to sexual purity as to autonomy and free self-determination. Virgins such as Diana of the Ephesians or Pallas Athena were probably manifestations of the great mother goddess who was worshiped along the entire feminine sexual cycle, from virgin to married woman to wise old woman. The virginity of such female pagan deities signaled their complete freedom from subjection to a male or to a mate.

Mary's virginity and the virgin birth can be interpreted as symbols of her autonomy, signaling her direct relationship to God, un mediated through any hierarchically placed male, spouse or no. Virginity for both men and women also symbolized integrity, an undivided mind and wholly focused heart, signed in the untouched body. Significantly, the punishments of Eve were her longing for, and sexual dependency upon, her husband-a corollary of her subjection to him-and her pain in childbirth. Mary, the new Eve, was believed as virgin to be free of this sexual subjugation, as well as from the pain of childbirth.

While the Holy Family could not be a model of sexual fulfillment and procreative fruitfulness, from a feminist perspective this family demonstrated a liberating model of equal gender relationships. Mary is equal, in no way dominated by her spouse and completely free as a moral agent. Even in a misogynous age, all of Mary's powers and privileges, her strengths and virtues, were seen as independent of her status as a wife. Mary and Joseph and her name always comes first-exemplify an interdependent, equal relationship of mutual respect in a family. If any spouse is the designated "helpmate" in this marriage, it is Joseph.

Indeed, Christian feminists can go further in analyzing the symbolic narratives. Mary's "fiat" to the angel, accepting the birth of Jesus, was believed to be given in perfect freedom from any anxiety of sin-because of the immaculate conception. In the story of Christian salvation, Mary is not coerced by God (as if by Zeus), nor is she driven to reproduce-by her own anxiety, or by social influences, or by her husband's desires, or by biological forces. Mary's personal "fiat" produces a pregnancy and childbirth that can be seen as heralding a new era of human reproduction. A redeemed woman freely consents to cooperate with God and life as a responsible, responsive moral agent. Of all women in the world, Mary is the last one of whom it can be said that "biology is destiny."

The paradoxical symbol of the Virgin-Mother specifically contradicts the idea that a woman must choose between her personal mission as a moral agent of integrity and the privileges and joys of biological maternity. And the single woman who does not reproduce is as validated as the mother who does. Embodiment and reproductive power are affirmed without being absolutized.

I am also sure that in the next round of the feminist struggle for the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church, Mary's life and actions will be cited as the model of women's full equality and emancipation within the church. She who first brought Christ, both body and blood, into the human community can be invoked as the exemplar of women's priestly ministry among the faithful. There have been earlier movements advocating the priesthood of Mary, but they have never been developed. Once the church has grown, however, into a more balanced view of gender and personhood, women will surely be ordained. Gender, as seen in the life of both Mary and Christ, is a dimension of human identity but is not more important than charity and doing God's will. Marian devotion makes this clear by validating female human nature and female bodies while not allowing Mary's gender to limit the ways she serves God. Love of God and neighbor, like wisdom and truth, know no gender.

I predict that when women priests are finally welcomed and ordained in the Roman Catholic Church, Marian images will be used in the official documents of acceptance, and invocations to Mary will be featured in the ordination ceremonies.

Sidney Callahan is a psychologist and author of Created for Joy: A Christian View of Suffering.

http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=11433&o=34299
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RE: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2009/04/19 17:43:27 (permalink)
     Mary and The Feminist Movement ,  America Magazine, Sidney Callahan  : Observations
 
   There is very much to praise and admire what Sidney Callahan has written about Virgin Mary and the church. 
However, there still remain serious weaknesses in her arguments and still some validations for the issues raised by Marina Warner (Alone of All Her Sex, Myth and Cult of Virgin Mary) and Bishop John Shelby Spong (Born of a Woman, A Bishop Rethinks The Birth of Jesus). 
 
  Callahan notes Mary the Compensator, Mediatrix, Virgin Mary the Fixer.  Virgin Mary implicitly adds wholeness to the serious deficiencies of the Catholic hierarchies erroneous theology and  interpretative distortions and omissions of biblical New Testament, Old Testament scriptures. Why though must we accept this incomplete, inadequate, immature, controlling position of Virgin Mary or women, when it is not the truth of Gospel or the role of real women in the world and in Catholic or any Christianity?
 
  Spong and Warner, Callahan  and many others note that the Catholic hierarchies have distorted Virgin Mary and damaged the role of women in the Catholic church and the world, society, family by ignoring the truth of Virgin Mary as a real woman in addition to  her divine relationship with God, Jesus, Holy Spirit and the people of the world.
 
   The Catholic hierarchies have denied the truth that she autonomously chose to agree to being Jesus's mother, without consulting her fiance or father and thoroughly questioned the agent of God about it , Angel Gabriel.  Callahan notes this, however the  Catholic hierarchies have distorted this by claiming Virgin Mary silently, meekly, unquestioningly, passively, assumed the mother role and this is not true to scripture.  It is not Virgin Mary who lets down real women, it is the Catholic hierarchies misuse and distortion of New Testament scripture that betrays and damages women.  Virgin Mary is not passive, silent or meek.  The New Testament proves that.
 
  The other reality of the New Testament, the Gospel, is the real womanliness of Virgin Mary.  The brothers and sisters mentioned in the New Testament of Jesus's family are not cousins, they are actual biological siblings.  Kinship relationships have precise terminology in the scriptures, whether written in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek or Latin or vernacular languages.  The Catholic hierarchies do great disservice to Jesus, God and Virgin Mary and all women, children and men  by ignoring and distorting the truth of the bible. 
 
     Virgin Mary is still Virgin Mary even when she went on to have additonal children, the plan of God was to make Jesus a full human being with family experience as well as fully divine.  With God all things are possible.  It is clear in the bible that Jesus has genuine siblings, brothers and sisters and Virgin Mary is not defamed because she had a family.  That is the truth of the bible and must not be scorned or denied.  Jesus did not scorn or condemn the sexuality of women, the woman of the city who washed his feet with anointing oil and her tears, the adultress, the woman with a hemorrage, the much married living common law Samaritan woman , were all compassionately respected by Jesus.  Healthy regard for human sexuality by Jesus  is the truth about Jesus who grew up in a large family, with Virgin Mary and Joseph.
 
    Virgin Mary is not silent or passive or meek, though the Catholic hierarchies try to promote that erroneous idea.  Virgin Mary initiated Jesus doing the first public miracle at Cana and would not accept the hesitation of Jesus regarding this.  Virgin Mary with his brothers and sisters spoke outloud, not silent, not meek, warning her son Jesus to be careful of his safety when he publically preached.  As a strong active woman, not silent, passive or meek, she watched out for his safety and for ways to prolong his ministry and avoid as long as possible his arrest by authorities, the real danger of his ministry being shut down by the prevailing authorities of the time.
 
   It is the awareness of the real Virgin Mary  of the Bible, and the implications for  authentic Catholic theology--based on authentic New Testament Gospel theology-- that both Marina Warner and Bishop Spong, want to promote.  Thus their work is very important and helpful, indeed essential, to the church, the Roman Catholic church and to all Christian churches.  In addition to Sidney Callahan's very insightful understandings of Virgin Mary, we can also admire and embrace the contributions of Spong and Warner to the understanding of Virgin  Mary, women and the Roman Catholic church.
 
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Re: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2014/11/13 14:57:00 (permalink)
If Mary is the model of priests, she is even more so of bishops. For no one else carried so much responsibility for Jesus as she did.
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Re: Mary: Model Priest, The First Priest After Christ 2014/11/21 20:32:24 (permalink)
we have devotion to MARY as Our Mother and Our Queen she was not a Priest She infinitely more. She is Queen Heaven and Earth . Mother Of GOD , Bride OF Christ , Mother OF The Church. She was higher than Bishops and Even Popes , She was not a Priest She was the New Eve And Her Son The New Adam . AND NOW WOMEN ARE TEMPTING MEN TO EAT AGAIN FROM THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE . HAVE WE NOT LEARNED ANYTHING FROM THE PAST . 
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