Dearest Most Holy Father,
It has recently come to my attention that “Archbishop Rino Fisichella, head of the recently established Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, has a magnificent desk and a blank piece of paper. :O) He has been charged by yourself with re-evangelizing the West in an age of secularism and moral relativism and talks himself of the West living “in a cultural crisis”
This information was sourced from the ‘Bridges and Tangents’ blog, written by Father Stephen Wang, who is a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Westminster, London. He is Dean of Studies at Allen Hall seminary. (His blog is a great read, to which I recommend)
The reason for me writing to you is that I believe that I know why this crisis is happening, and the Catholic Church is in a great position to address it.
I once heard a saying that went “when women go wrong, all things go wrong.” I do not personally agree with this, but I do however believe that when women go right, most things go right.
Young women today are hungry for purpose, and have a spiritual yearning, and a desperate need for their role as a mother and female to be both acknowledged and validated. They also need their spiritual needs fulfilled. Especially as people are often separated from extended family, and often do not belong to a fellowship, or a church family. These needs for both recognition and spiritual growth are not being met in their lives, because the formal structure that is needed to fulfill these demands are lacking in western culture. So in order to find this sense of fulfillment they take their inspiration from many faiths and philosophies, usually from other ‘fashionable cultures’ and usually end up with a scrambled unsettled belief in spirituality, but no formal faith with a strong and moral foundation. Their spirituality then only belongs to an alternative secularism.
Women and mothers need to take on a role, whereby through example, they can morally educate and pass their solid faith and spirituality on to their children, whilst feeling validated by gaining a recognized qualification, that they can use towards employment when their children are grown up. This could happen in a carefully marketed way, through our churches running short courses on the different aspects of faith. Or in order to use a language that would appeal to a young secular society ‘courses in spirituality’.
I believe women and mothers at home, need to have access to recognized part time certificates of education, achievable by completing short courses through the church,. Which can be accessed, when finances and commitments allow. This would be very appealing to females at home looking after children, maybe one day they could use their collectively gained certificates to make up modules that eventually maybe could go towards a Catholic degree. So that when their children have left home, they have a valid and recognized qualification to go towards employment. If these individual certificates were based on theology, spirituality, faith, morals, Christianity, beauty, truth, art, Catholic teachings, catechism, the gospels, Pastoral care, etc from a Catholic perspective and were recognized within Catholicism and the Catholic education system and professions, then I believe part of today’s crisis could be addressed. If the training courses could be led by priests, deacons, teachers and lecturers and became as widely spread as the Anglican Churches Alpha Course, then I think Catholic spiritual life would flourish throughout the secular world instead of just being inherited. The courses which I am suggesting should be more comprehensive and in depth than the current R.C.I.A courses are.
At present there are no ‘schools of spirituality’, where single or family women can go and learn the deepest lessons taught by Christ, other than through Mass and the odd diocesan lecture.
I am a working class female, brought up in a secular environment, I did not have access to a very good education, or a faith as a child. This has been a GREAT inequality which has affected my whole life. I only discovered my passion for my Catholic faith and spirituality later on in life, when all of my five children were born. It was only then that I realized that my faith replenished all of those needs which were missing from my world. As a dedicated female passionate about my faith, I am hungry and yearn for an even deeper discipleship/apostleship than most other women, but frustratingly there doesn’t appear to be one for women in my situation. And I was not presented with another choice as a young woman.
As well as my idea of having a certificated formal structure for the learning of The Catholic Faith, which I would like to see available for every woman, what I would ultimately like to see is women who are in my position, who feel they have a special calling to be first female apostles and disciples, having the choice of applying for the purist first hand education, similar to that of a priest’s training. For as a woman and mother I believe, we need strong female role models to be the closest apostles and the first disciples, living within families who can set an example to all other women. At present this is practically impossible through the Catholic Church, especially if you are not a nun! We then could impart that understanding to our female communities through classes, friendship, support, and beautiful example, whereby all families, and all our children, and all their children, and all society will eventually benefit.
I would like to share this piece of writing with you which I Love and only recently discovered. I am unsure who the author is.
“One of the challenges I repeatedly hold out to the people of our church-especially the women-is that they make it one of their aims to age into a sage. I Love the vision of older women full of seasoned spiritual fruit that comes only with long life and much affliction and deep meditation on the word of God. So many younger women yearn for older women, who are deeply wise, to share the wisdom God has taught them over the years”.
There appears to be no respectable, serious, intense discipleship or apostleship for females in my position, unless you are once removed and trained to work in the Catholic Education profession, as a teacher.
As a result of there being no appropriate course for family women as first disciples, what I should really like to do is to enroll at The London Universities, Heythrop Catholic college on to the part time divinity degree. I want to live and to learn deeply about what I feel inside, and pass the Gospel and the good news on through my example, my knowledge, my poetry, my writings and my influence. However on making enquiries I am not convinced that I fit the entrance requirements. The course is designed for people aiming for the priesthood! Men. The only alternative is the theology degree.
I do not believe women should be priest’s. I believe only men should be priests and that only priests should deliver the sacraments. But I do however believe that all women who are called to do so, should have the equality to have the deepest discipleship and apostleship training possible, regardless of their status. Priest are given a first class education in divinity, theology, philosophy. religious education, scripture, counseling, arts and beauty, pastoral care etc etc. And yet it is women who are supposed to impart this knowledge in Love to their children and grandchildren and church families and communities. Surely reform is needed in the Catholic Church when it comes to the embracing of the feminine discipleship and the educating of those called. This would create the balance which God intended, and is desperately needed in today’s Catholic Church and society. A structured formal training route is I believe the only way to address this inequality. At present unless you are privileged enough to inherit your faith and get a good Catholic education as a child, the reality is that it is very difficult, nigh on impossible, once a family women of deepest faith to go into a formal discipleship.
By way of example, for possible future course structure, Waverley Abbey in Farnham England offers the only UK part time Christian counseling degree, which is Ecumenical and goes some way to pastorally nurturing some of my theological needs. And of course would give me a recognized profession, by the time my five children leave home. It is a great example of how these part time courses could be structured to fit around family life. At the beginning of each year there is a one week residential, and then 9 weekends per year, for a period of 4 years, obviously there is work by way of essays etc to do at home too. A female discipleship degree could be run in the same way.
To be ‘an agent of an unfolding revelation of God’s will’ is I think of every authentic intuitive faithful persons deepest nature, But only the people with the deepest need will ever pursue this calling. I on behalf of all the women in the west have that deepest need and in pursuit believe that the crisis of the west can be put right with your blessing, and equally our education.
I humbly await His response through you
Yours in deepest faith
With Love in Christ
devoted disciple and mother to five