Budding young feminist archeologists

Make some popcorn and look at a piece at Fishwrap about young feminists sitting at the knees of Sr. Joan “Triumph in Tahir” Chittister, learning from her Yoda-like wisdom.  It’ll be a nostaglic read.  My emphases and comments.

Young women ask difficult questions to challenge church at recent Joan Chittister institute

Eight female-identifying Catholics in their 20s and 30s, [That’s really how it starts!] all of them students or recent graduates of programs in theology or divinity, gathered June 17-30 at Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, Pennsylvania, for the inaugural Joan Chittister Institute for Contemporary Spirituality: A Feminist Benedictine Option.


Each morning, the group convened for prayer, followed by discussions of Sister Joan’s books, the tenets of monastic life, and an exploration of great Benedictine women of history.  [A hard way to get time off of Purgatory, if you ask me.]


The following are reflections written by two of the institute’s participants.

Jessie Bazan works for the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research. She holds a Master of Divinity degree from St. John’s University School of Theology and Seminary. [Ahhh… the coveted MDiv!]

“Shout your truth. [NB: Not THE truth.] Many will tell you to quit, soften it, be more careful. But if you want to make even the slightest change, do not listen to them. Keep shouting. Shout louder. That’s what it means to be a witness.”  [No.  That’s what it means to be a loudmouth.]


We believe differently. [On this we can agree.] Day after day, class after class, God moment after God moment, we show up. Our stories dispute the narratives being written about us. “Millennials are leaving the church,” they say. “Feminism and Catholicism don’t mix,” they assume. “Those women are too young, too naive, too progressive,” they bemoan. Listening with the ear of our hearts, we know and believe otherwise. We have different stories to tell.  [Feel the Force you must.  Differently believe you will.]

During our time together at the institute, our group of 20- and 30-something theologians told stories of love and heartbreak. We lifted up a theology of liberation and marched in the streets for peace with a group of nuns. We lamented the mistreatment of trans women of color [you forgot the undocumented immigrant balding rabbinical male-identifying trans women of color] and the absence of women preaching from the pulpit. We wondered aloud why liturgies limit God to “he” and how to navigate the demands of work and relationships. We prayed. We danced. We watched the sun set. We joked, with some seriousness, that if it was 50 years earlier, we would all be together in the convent by now. [No.  You would be about to leave the convent together.]


These women did not let the injustices of the patriarchy sidetrack their callings to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger and demand peace for all. Their practical wisdom is a gift for those of us moving toward the front lines today. It’s true — together, we can imagine a more inclusive, feminist church into being. [And joy is like the raaaaaain.]

Note the presence of Tom Roberts, late of Fishwrap.
He’s the one in the center of the front row… in the dark shirt.


Wow. Quite the blast from the past!

Those young women were at a sort of… archaeological dig?

No.  Better, a feminist Renaissance Fair!

I’ll leave you with a song.

Perhaps you will get out your tambourine and fight patriarchy by dancing beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free.  In dance, imagine something into being! I’m going to imagine a Bugatti Chiron into my parking spot.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. jaykay says:

    “Keep shouting. Shout louder. That’s what it means to be a witness.”

    No, it means shouting at each other. Or at the traffic. Same result. Dialogue of the deaf. Definitely not “Dialogue des Carmalites”.

    Although if the latter scenario should come about again, as it does from age to age, I wonder who’ll be at the foot of the Guillotine? With xir knitting.

  2. Anneliese says:

    Reading this with an Old Fashioned in hand brought a giggle to my rather dismal day. It’s also an incredibly frustrating story as I know this type of stuff happens more frequently than not.

    There used to be a women’s group at the Jesuit school I went to run its campus ministry called “Daughters of Sophia.” The main topic of conversation was usually ordination of women. This retreat would have been up their alley.

  3. benedetta says:

    Great commentary, Father. Thanks for the laughs today.

  4. Kevin says:

    Actually feminism and Catholicism do mix….”So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

  5. I hope they read as part of this program my article on why Hildegard of Bingen absolutely rejected the ordination of women: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3167533?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

  6. teomatteo says:

    “Keep shouting. Shout louder. That’s what it means to be a witness.”
    No. Thats what it means to be a loudmouth or a clanging gong.

  7. johnnys says:

    That guy must have been pretty tired after doing all that dancing. Being the only guy and all. Well…maybe not.

  8. JustaSinner says:

    Oh Father, I’d like to imagine them making sense…

  9. LarryW2LJ says:

    “It’s true — together, we can imagine a more inclusive, feminist church into being.”

    I always thought it was supposed to be about Jesus, and not about us.

    Oh yeah, that’s right, I forgot ……… we’ve moved “beyond Jesus”.

  10. dbf223 says:

    From the Carmelite Rule of St. Albert:
    “The Apostle recommends silence, since he commands us to observe it while working. And as the prophet testifies: Silence is the service of Justice. And again: In silence and hope shall your strength be. Hence we ordain that you observe silence from the end of Compline to the end of Prime the following day. Although you are not obliged to observe silence so rigorously at other times, yet you should avoid talking too much. For as it is written and experience also teaches: In the multitude of words there shall not want sin. And he that has no guard on his speech shall meet with evils. Again: He that uses many words shall hurt his own soul. And Our Lord says in the Gospel that of every idle word men speak, they shall give account on the day of judgment. Therefore, let each one make a balance for his words and a just bridle for his mouth that he may not slip by his tongue and fall and his fall be incurable unto death. Let him with the prophet take heed to his ways that he sin not with his tongue and endeavor to observe silence with diligence and care for it is the service of justice.”

    Yeah, “Keep shouting. Shout louder. That’s what it means to be a witness,” isn’t something you’re going to read in the next paragraph. There are times to keep silence and times to speak, but I doubt whether there’s ever a time simply to add to the cacophony of dissonant voices right now shouting noise into the void.

    Since this is the inaugural “Joan Chittister Institute for Contemporary Spirituality: A Feminist Benedictine Option”, we can expect another one next year, right? Should we speculate on what the next theme will be? Maybe we should send them a few copies of Card. Sarah’s “The Power of Silence Against the Dictatorship of Noise” as a suggestion?

  11. Suburbanbanshee says:

    If you want young women who are actual archaeologists, I would rather look at the ladies with rock-climbing and caving experience, who were hired to do the excavations of that cave in South Africa with all the hominid bones. I expect that many of them were lefties and feminists, but they were actually interested in doing real, helpful, scholarly things. They exhibited patience, endurance of tight places and darkness, and scholarly precision in recording data and preserving objects. In other words, they were proud to serve truth and follow where it led. They did not tell truth where to go, or try to kick it away.

    In a Church full of young women who did great things in their extreme youths, it is ridiculous for do-nothings who aren’t even young anymore to be claiming praise for such huge airy nothings, at such a stupid little event. You can’t even call it virtue signalling, because they aren’t signalling any Christian virtues.

  12. CharlesG says:

    I’m trying to figure out what language is being used in this article. It seems similar to English, but it’s not the Queen’s English. More like Leftist Buzzword Bingo Bafflegab…

  13. Sonshine135 says:

    I’m sorry, I must have missed the part where they talked about conforming their lives to Christ to gain greater holiness…oh wait, they didn’t. Then it wasn’t a religious gathering at all. Let us pray these souls find their way, relieve themselves of their pride, and find mercy.

  14. LeeGilbert says:

    Nothing goes without saying these days, so I am grateful for your pointing out who was Tom Roberts in the photo.

  15. Ellen says:

    I have become a Benedictine Oblate novice. The director who does all the paperwork, mentioned Joan Chittister’s book. I smiled and went back to the Rule of St. Benedict. Thank heavens the monks and priests at the Abbey are sensible.

  16. Ave Maria says:

    Oh Father, you crack me up!
    Lets see…I think I shall hopefully identify as a faithful Roman Catholic and I hope that others can tell that!

    And since this is a day to remember the Prophet Elijah, this passage seems appropriate:
    Elijah on Mount Carmel
    1 Kings…26And they took the bull that was given them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no sound, and no one answered as they leaped around the altar they had made. 27At noon Elijah began to taunt them, saying, “Shout louder, for he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or occupied, or on a journey. Perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened!” 28So they shouted louder and cut themselves with knives and lances, as was their custom, until the blood gushed out upon them.…

  17. LeeGilbert says:

    Charles E Flynn, FWIW, The book you link is hardly a case of the Cistercians “scholaring on,” for it is the work of David N. Bell, Anglican priest and seminary rector, an extraordinarily erudite medievalist, de Rancé and Cistercian studies scholar.

    It is doubtful that this book will be welcome in the Cistercian monasteries of today, for it is very likely to show that the Abbey of La Trappe under de Rancé was a heaven on earth. Since the general chapter of 1969, the Cistercians have been energetically throwing off everything from their specifically Trappist heritage, for example, strict silence, strict enclosure, strong abbatial governance, the chapter of faults, the taking of the discipline on Friday mornings, and libraries largely limited to sacred topics from a Catholic perspective. This they are doing to recover the “spirit of Citeaux, ” fond cousin of “the Spirit of Vatican II” and similar font of foolish interpretation.

    Moreover, since 2005 David N. Bell has had in hand the translation of Abbe Armand-Jean de Rancé’s “Le traité de la sainteté et des devoirs de la vie monastique.” This was last published in English in 1830 under the title ” On the Sanctity and Duties of the Monastic State.” Two years ago I discovered a used copy at Bookfinder for $130 and when it arrived it had markings of Gethsemane Abbey, evidently tossed on the used book market after being purged with extreme prejudice from their now woefully impoverished scriptorium.

    For the last two years I have been re-typesetting, updating and correcting this volume with the hope of re-publishing it in a few months, for which prayers and Masses please. The Church is greatly in need of a reflourishing of the pentitential orders.

    As is well known, Vatican II encouraged all religious orders to return to the spirit and charism of their founders, but this is EXACTLY what de Rancé attempted at La Trappe, and to that end he steeped himself in St. Benedict’s Rule both in the writings and life of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and in the lives and writings of the Desert Fathers.

    One way or another, then, the saintly Abbé Armand-Jean de Rancé Redivivus is likely to come striding into Cistercian abbeys shortly, to blow on what coals of authentic Cistercian piety might yet be smoldering.

    In the meantime, one could hardly go wrong in ordering the book the Charles Flynn links, especially at the reduced price and free shipping. With it, I think David Bell might be setting the stage for the release of his translation, which will be a very big deal both in the Cistercian order and in the life of the Church.

  18. Nan says:

    No, they focus on Hildegard being an Abbess and her preaching, St Catherine of Siena telling the Pope what to do, Teresa of Avila for doing what she wanted in reforming the Carmelites but ignore the poor Little Flower for her Little Way.

  19. Nan says:

    Last night at my little Byzantine Church, we had the vigil liturgy for St Elijah, followed by the blessing of the cars, because Elijah was taken to heaven in a fiery chariot.

    In Father’s homily, he told us that Elijah crossed the Jordan, went through the desert, up to Mt Horeb, reversing the Exodus. It was the time of Queen Jezebel and the priests of Ba’al. He told God that he was the only believer. God told him that he carried the covenant in him and sent him back, after which many followed him and there was a rejuvenation of Judaism.

  20. Semper Gumby says:

    Great comments in red here Fr. Z. *chuckle*

    jaykay: “With xir knitting.” Good one.

    Apparently one can wrangle a desk, computer, and paycheck over at the Fishwrap without learning proper English (“…to challenge church…”).

    “We wondered aloud why liturgies limit God to “he”…” And apparently one can acquire a MDiv without opening one’s Bible, Catechism, or mind. [LOL]

    That sentence continues: “…and how to navigate the demands of work and relationships.” It’s called Growing Up, please give it time.

    “…laughing and crying our way through our love for the church. Catholic social teaching, familial ties and a deep desire for the Eucharist were just a few reasons given.” Thank you for remembering the Eucharist.

    “It’s a heavy burden to carry other people’s hope.” Again, open a Bible. Jerusalem. Twenty centuries ago. A must read.

    “The church we love yearns for the hope we live. Imagine a church aflame with our insights.” Let’s follow Triumph of the Will and Things on Fire to its logical conclusion.

    “A youth art house, soup kitchen…are a few of the ministries that bear the name “Benedictine Sisters of Erie.” Yes, because building an empire and stamping his name on literally thousands of bricks worked out well for Nebuchadnezzar II.

    “High expectations are my Achilles Heel…I haven’t entirely outgrown this…” Thank you for the admission. Please manage your expectations. God pours rain and sunshine on the just and unjust.

    “…demand peace for all.” Hmm…

    “As a young Catholic woman working in a progressive yet inherently patriarchal parish…” Again, hmm…

    “After two transformational weeks together, my cup overflows with hope.” And narcissism.

    “I needed to have my questions affirmed…” Unless those questions were stupid. A reading of Cdl. Sarah’s “The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise” would be helpful.

    “The conversations…were petri dishes for truth-speaking.” Petri dishes also grow mold.

    For your own good, distance yourself from Sr. Chittister, her personality cult, and her rancid hallucinations of the 1960s.

    The Eucharist, the Rosary, Adoration, Confession, the angelic voices of the Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles (please order through Fr. Z’s Amazon link- thank you), Catholic art and architecture, blissful Silence, a healthy Parish, and the Kingdom of Heaven awaits.

    [Yes. If they want an example of Benedictines. HERE]

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