Priestesses: a Door of Opportunity

Priestesses: a door of Opportunity

A priestess is quite distinct form a woman priest.
A priestess is quite distinct form a woman priest.

How on heaven or earth did we invent women priests?

Pope Francis is quite clear on this: there will be no women priests in The Roman Catholic Church.   For Christian denominations who don’t have priests, but who have ministers or pastors, there is no problem: either term can refer to a man or a woman.  “Priest”, however, is gender-specific and can only refer to a man.

Women who are priests are actually priestesses and that, as the tarot card above should remind us, is a very different role indeed. Women have Wisdom in a way that men do not, they are fountains of nourishment in a way that men are not and love pours from women by their very nature in a way that in men it does not.  The priestess embodies the feminine nature in all her richness.  Women are a total mystery to men until they  discover the feminine within themseves: which some never do, especially if they live their entire adult lives in a society of men.


A woman dressed as a priest
A woman dressed as a priest.

That door is closed.

Pope Francis, six months into his Papacy, said,  “With regards to the ordination of women, the church has spoken and says no. Pope John Paul [II] said so with a formula that was definitive. That door is closed.”  There is, however, no reason whatsoever that new doors might not open which recognise the priestly role of women.  One of these is suggested by Cynthea Bourgeault when she writes, “ It is through his anointing at the hands of Mary Magdalene that Jesus is sent forth to his death, sealed in the fragrance of love. And it is this same fragrance–borne in the same anointing oils, by the same set of loving hands–that awaits him in the garden on the morning of the Resurrection.

mary magdalene

It is by amazing sleight of hand that the Catholic Church usurped the two sacraments of annointing from the priestly role of women: the annointing of the sick and confirmation.  Indeed it is this sacrament of confirmation which, above all, should be in the hands of women, being the sacrament of coming of age, or releasing and being released from childhood.

Let us open new doors: bring back the Priestess.

I feel that women, especially those who value their own special gifts as women, should be arguing the case for priestesses not women priests and exploring all the possibilities of a thoroughly feminine role as leaders of Christian communities.  Perhaps we need another good look at the sacraments to bring them back to the people as real parts of their lives, as real nourishment and fountains of motherly, as well as fatherly, love.  As for us men, we need to let new doors be opened and create new spaces.  As it is at present, women who are priests are just taking the places men once occupied; including, I expect, in the next few years that of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This, to me, makes God’s Kingdom seem very small and limited. There is plenty of space for proper Priestesses with all their mystery and wisdom and insights.

La Dama de Baza,  Iberian statue of a priestess.
La Dama de Baza, Iberian statue of a priestess.



a blog post to accompany this:

Morning time – first thoughts

Morning time – first thoughts

A new day.
A new day.

A prayer adapted from words of Mother Theresa of Calcutta.


May Peace reign over this day.


I trust in God that I am here, exactly where I am meant to be:

And that I won’t forget the infinite numbers of possibilities which are born through Faith.

And that I will use the gifts I have received and share the Love that has been given to me.

And I am happy to know that I am a child of God and I long for this Presence to live inside my bones and loosen me up and set me free so that I will sing and dance and love and pray…… and enjoy,

With my heart open to each and every person I meet today.

mother T

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

"Do this in remembrance of me."
“Do this in remembrance of me.”


Breaking bread and bones.

I remember attending a Hibs v. Dundee match in 1968 where, in one of those rare moments of silence in a game,  Dundee’s great goal scorer, John Duncan, was heavily tackled,  right in front of me.  The Easter Road stadium resounded with a crack as his tibia broke.

Many years later at a passover meal I was reminded of that moment when the matzo was broken with a sharp crack.  Matzos break with the same sound as bones break.  My memory reminded me of the moment the player broke his leg. The scriptures, especially John’s gospel,  make it clear that Jesus did not have any of his bones broken.  At the last supper Jesus broke the unleavened bread, undoubtedly with a sharp “crack!”.

Matzos, Jewish unleavened bread.
Matzos, Jewish unleavened bread.

What Jesus then said was,  “Do this in memory of me.”

Broken bones or not, we have made a lot of doctrine and talked a lot of Theology about the Last Supper but these words leave no room for misinterpretation.  When I was walking through Spain on the Way of St. James last month,  bread was the core of my diet along with fruit picked on the roadside.  So whenever I sat down to eat, I would take the local bread and break it very consciously recalling Jesus’  words.  The walk was over 500 miles and I can’t remember just when I began to do this but it was early on.

A wonderful bakery in Grañan, on the Way of St James.
A wonderful bakery in Grañan, on the Way of St James.

In doing, memory brings us into Christ.

For days and weeks, sitting on stones or walls, or benches or trees I broke my bread letting the Last Supper of Jesus fill me.  In the doing itself images began to give way to presence, simply being subsumed in the act of breaking the bread into a oneness for which I have no words.  I had emotions of all sorts from tears to joy and always peace,  deep quiet peace and a heart touched by Love.  Maybe we should throw our breadknives into the recycle bin and use our hands to break bread always.

When I would find a Mass,  I would go to it, pleased to join others in this memorial act which brings us together always as one in Christ.

It seemed fitting to me that other pilgrims would share the bread although I know they were not always Catholics.  Breaking the bread is not about breaking bones at all, or breaking anything for that matter: it is about making One.

A Pilgrims' Mass ends in Roncevalles at the start of the Way of St. James in Spain.
A Pilgrims’ Mass ends in Roncevalles at the start of the Way of St. James in Spain.



The Church built on a pun.

The Church built on a pun.


Pope¡s buried in St Peter's Basilica
Popes buried in St Peter’s Basilica

There are many ways of reading a text, any text.  Matthew 16.18 is no exception. However, in the long tradition of Church Doctrine, there is only one, universal, authoritative teaching which can prevail and deliver for all mankind the true meaning of Matthew’s reporting of Jesus’ words, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.”  The Catholic Church holds the key.

What speaks to me, today, on the feast of Peter and Paul is not so much the pun as the anachronism that in Jesus’ day the Church had not begun and when it did, after his death, there appear to have been quite a few churches and many different ways of expressing and living out the Good News.  Indeed Matthew is the only gospel to mention “Church”, a term which grew up as the early Christians began to form assemblies.

Indeed, the account in Acts of the first Council of Jerusalem, shows just how different the views were between some groups and the issue of the circumcision of Gentiles was a hot topic, a bit like gay marriage today, I imagine.  It was Paul’s liberal view which won out against Peter, the rock.

I let my imagination go further.  One predominant theme of Matthew’s Gospel is the way in which the Jewish scriptures foretold and point to Jesus as the Saviour of the Jews.  The Gospel is almost bitter about how the Jews have missed out on the Messiah. So would the church in which Matthew’s gospel took shape not, maybe, be a bit put out over the concessions to the gentiles, still smarting from Paul’s persuasiveness?

To me this could explain the text in quite a different light – an ironic pun which attempts to re-establish apostolic authority when the reality was very different.

What was actually happening was that the Holy Spirit, present in the churches, can be seen at work guiding and leading Christians in the most surprising ways through the “apostle” Paul.  Nothing, not even Papal authority, should get in the way of our openness to the Holy Spirit, lest we be like the Jews in Jesus’ day who missed out on their Messiah.

see also


Our Appetite for God

Our Appetite for God

The Dark Night of the Soul Gareald G. May MD
The Dark Night of the Soul
Gerald G. May MD

“….every part of us is, at its core, a desire for love’s fulfillment.  Though we seldom recognise it, our senses seek the beauty, the sweetness, the good feelings of God.  Our mind seeks the truth and wisdom of God.  Our will seeks to live out the goodness, the righteousness of God.  Our memory and imagination seek the justice and peace of God.  In other words,  we yearn for the attributes of God with every part of ourselves.  Human beings are two-legged, walking, talking desires for God.”

This is a quote from Gerald May’s “Dark Night of the Soul”

 Recognising our Appetite for God.

On reading the above I ask myself why, then, are we not more dedicated to the pursuit of this, the most powerful of all our desires and the only one which can lead us to entire satisfaction?

I sense that our spiritual appetite should be much more demanding,  persistent and urgent than it is, like sexual desire, hunger and thirst.  In May’s book he looks at two great saints, St. John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila who use just such metaphors to describe this, our most ultimate of all desires: so some human beings certainly experience this greatest of love-drives.  So why not everyone?

God in all things, in you and in me.

The answer is most likely that we are all always immersed in this desire.  It is constantly active in our very essence, in our hormones and the urges we feel,  and in each and every and all of  our passions and desires.

The answer probably lies in ourselves and, in particular, in our relentless seeking for love’s fulfilment in which and through which life itself begins and belongs..  We may need to ask how successful we are in pursuing this desire through our everyday hungers and thirsts and desires for union and intimacy, for here is certainly where we will encounter our deepest desire for love, for God.  We will not experience this longing as a drive apart, but it will be recognised in the ferocious, niggling, persistent and daily urgings we feel within us: through these God speaks to us.

St. John and St. Theresa, like St Augustine before them and many others in Christianity’s mystical tradition have found after much searching that God is to be encountered, not as separate from ourselves but in our own being, indwelling as we dwell in Him:   through an interior life of prayer ( see The Interior Lifeεν Χριστώ.



The God who makes Love.


Wedding Blessing 

Love-making God, present in you both,

To Whom being-present, each is by grace,

Entwine this couple in your Singleness,

That each may, in union, become much less than now

And each may Be, be more in you and you in They.


God, maker of Love, bless this couple with abundance,

The abundance of Nature, oceans of truth and fearlessness,

Explorers discovering the wildness of over-flowing Life,

Bless them with amazement and in your blinding Light

Seduce and guide them into each and You and Us.


God, lover of all, create with each and both

Make incarnate your design for their together Being

Complete their com-promise.  Imagine what you Will in them

To make substancial  Life and Peace and Home.


God of undescribable Love,

Let Joy be near at hand when Hope is thin or weariness weighs

Grant that endurance, humility, surrender, letting-go and even death

Be known as stepping-stones to more, to harmony to wrapped-round union –

That blending where even Trinity has no inner boundaries,

Where Father is Mother is Child and Spirit, One.


God, who makes us love and loves in us,

Wed us all and bless this couple as a model of your Love

Love which endures all passing imperfections, flaws and trials.

Wed us all to you and bless this couple, your own good children.

We rejoice with You in them and pray that always in each,

together as each, we meet You in them.  Rejoice.

Letting God be God (3) Incarnation

 Don’t be ashamed of the flesh of our brother, it’s our flesh!


“The most difficult charity (or fasting) is the charity of goodness such as that practiced by the Good Samaritan who bent over the wounded man unlike the priest who hurried past, maybe out of fear of becoming infected. And this is the question posed by the Church today: “Am I ashamed of the flesh of my brother and sister”

“When I give alms, do I drop the coin without touching the hand (of the poor person, beggar)? And if by chance I do touch it, do I immediately withdraw it? When I give alms, do I look into the eyes of my brother, my sister? When I know a person is ill, do I go and visit that person? Do I greet him or her with affection? There’s a sign that possibly may help us, it’s a question: Am I capable of giving a caress or a hug to the sick, the elderly, the children, or have I lost sight of the meaning of a caress? These hypocrites were unable to give a caress. They had forgotten how to do it….. Don’t be ashamed of the flesh of our brother, it’s our flesh!”

March 7th, 2013.  Pope Francis.

Letting God be God (2). God as subject.

Letting God be God (2). God as subject.

Love in all its manifestations.
Love in all its manifestations.

 Love in all its manifestations.  

God loves.

We know this.

I love.  I know this.

God is beyond knowing but we know Him/Her in this loving.

I know God when I love for He/She and I are One in loving.

We are One in Loving.

The subject of Love is God: God Loves.  In us God does His/Her loving.


Loving with all our being.

Directed, empty, open to Love.
Directed, empty, open to Love.                                 photo credit


“I Pray that my whole being be directed to God, so that He may be the God of compassion and love to me and through me.”

This is a prayer which Gerald W Hughes S.J. has used as an entry into meditative prayer.

Directed, Open, Empty, Waiting………………….

Letting God Love through me……….

Letting God be God of Love…….

Letting God be the God of compassion…..

Letting God be God in me…

Letting God be God.

Letting God be I, in me.

God is subject.

God as subject: Love.
God as subject: Love.

Lord, that You may live in me so that I may live in You.

And You..And You…And You…And You…And You….And You….And You….And You..And You…And You…And You…And You….And You….And You….And You..And You…And You…And You…And You….And You….And You….And You..And You…And You…And You…And You….And You….And You….And You..And You…And You…And You…And You….And You….And You….And You..And You…And You…And You…And You….And You….And You….And You..And You…And You…And You…And You….And You….And You….

as Love,          as subject,              as Us.

Letting God be God. (1) God as Mystery.

Letting God be God. (1) God as Mystery.


Gerald W. Hughes S.J.  "God of Surprises.
Gerald W. Hughes S.J. “God of Surprises.


“God is Mystery”

“In turning to God we must first acknowledge that whatever and however he is, he is mystery. We can never, with our finite minds, adequately grasp who he is. If you are searching for a clear and precise notion of who God is, you will not find him in reading this book. And if ever you do find a neat and clear definition, you may be sure that it is false. God is mystery: but that does not mean he is totally unintelligible. We can come to know a mystery and grow in knowledge of it, but the more we enter into the mystery of God, or more accurately, the more the mystery of God takes hold on us, the more we realize that he is mystery.

"God" is a beckoning word.
“God” is a beckoning word.

The truth about God, that he is mystery, is of fundamental importance. Being fundamental, any religion which ignores this truth will certainly lead us astray. We may construct a most elaborate and ingenious religious system, but if it is not  grounded in this basic truth that God is mystery, then  our elaborate system becomes an elaborate form of idolatry. We are constantly tempted to make God in our own image and likeness. We want to control and domesticate him, giving him perhaps a position of great honour in our hearts, home and country, but we remain in control. God is uncontrollable, beyond anything we can think of or imagine. ‘God’, I once heard someone say, ‘is a beckoning word.’ He calls us out of ourselves and beyond ourselves, he is our God of surprises, “always creating anew.”
“In speaking of our relationship to God and to Christ we have to make use of analogies, but no analogy is ever adequate. We speak of ‘Christ living in our hearts’ and ‘making his home in us’, and such analogies are useful, but it is more true to say, ‘We must live in the heart of God, we must make our home in Christ,’a heart which is always greater than anything we can think or imagine, a home that embraces the whole Universe.”  (From :  Gerald W. Hughes SJ, God of Surprises, Darton, Longman and Todd, London, 1985, pp.  31 and 161)

The Eye of the Needle. Jesuit school fundraising and homelessness.

The Eye of the Needle:  Jesuit school fundraising and homelessness.

My wordpress reader presented me with two posts yesterday, one after the other, which left me with some discomfort.

Gotta find a home.
Gotta find a home.

Different approaches to the poor.

I have a long-standing affiliation with the Jesuits. My own education was in a Jesuit College in Glasgow and I feel a strong attraction to Ignatian Spirituality.  This is why I read Jesuit blogs.

I wonder if my discomfort arises from the Jesuit philosophy behind the Preparatory school for which funds were being raised – to give children from poor families a superb and complete education.  There is, perhaps, a hint of elitism in it all: in the easy access to funds as much as in the selection of those young people who will benefit from the school.     However,  the programme in Brooklyn  does help individuals out of the poverty trap.

I then saw this post on the facebook page of my old school:

Just co-incidently my former College was fund-raising on the same day - for a tour to South Africa.
Just co-incidently my former College was fund-raising on the same day – for a tour to South Africa.

There is no denying a smack of elitism in the above.  Although it is a world I have long ago left behind,  I want to be loyal and understanding of the reasons why such Jesuit schools are the best way the Jesuits  can serve the poor.

Yet the contrast with the simplicity and directness of the Gotta find a home blog,  affects me.  Dennis Cardiff  writes stories in his blog about homeless people   He says,

“I can’t do much for these people except to show them love, compassion, an ear to listen, perhaps a breakfast sandwich and a coffee. I want to do more. To know them is to love them. “

I want to see both these approaches to helping the poor as inspirations and a witness to the Gospels.  Perhaps the Jesuits have elected the more difficult Way.

Sighted by The Raft of Corks.