I had remarked to someone a couple of weeks ago that the Reformed faith seems so ~ masculine ~ to me ~ so male-oriented in language, liturgy, experience ~ and that it had occurred to me that the Roman Catholic church, despite its rejection of women in the roles of priests and deacons, has a strong sense of female spirituality, fostered no doubt by the attentiveness paid to Mary and by the prominence of women saints, many of whom were emphatically determined administrators, scholars, healers, and educators.
As I spend this week-end co-directing a retreat at which I am the only Protestant on the premises (one of the reasons I was asked to come was that last year about 25% of the retreatants were Protestant -- but apparently they didn't return!), the reality of the official Catholic take on women is painfully apparent. Several of the women have asked me about the ordination of women in the Presbyterian church -- they are accustomed to and expect limitations. A couple of stories have surfaced about women doing parish work equivalent to that of men on parish staffs, but being refused appropriate titles and acknowledgment. And as it was announced that there would be a mass this afternoon, I was reminded of the words of a Jesuit in a book on spiritual direction, describing women with whom he meets who are called to the priesthood but precluded due to their gender -- how, for instance, they run retreats and then have to invite a priest to drop by to say mass, a priest who has no connection to the experience or community of the reteatants.
I was reminded of reading of a new priest's excitement about saying mass for a community of nuns and thinking: they could say their own mass, couldn't they?