On July 22nd a group of women gathered for fellowship, to pray and celebrate the Feast of Mary Magdalene and the release of the ISLC Letter on Women Deacons. It was a beautiful morning filled with the joy of the gospel and hope for the Church. I’d like to share some reflections from the scripture readings from Mary Magdalene's Feast Day.
The first reading, Songs of Songs 3:1-4B, tells the story of the bride who seeks her beloved in the night. We hear that it is not always easy to seek and find the beloved. The bride must wander the city looking for her beloved. In the gospel for her feast (John 20:1-2, 11-18) we hear how and when Mary Magdalene seeks to find Jesus at the tomb she encounters deep sorrow at the death and absence of her friend. Yet in being her most authentic self, expressing her love and sorrow, she encounters Jesus. In the past six months our community at the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center has expressed our sorrows, our pain, as well as our joys and our hopes for the ordination of women in the Church.
The discrimination of women in the Church has at times made me feel like the Bride in the Song of Songs who seeks her beloved but can’t find him. Yet, I am struck by the part of the story when the bride encounters the watchmen. It is mere moments after she leaves them that she finds her beloved. Sometimes we have to look beyond the watchguards - beyond the boundaries set in front of us. For me, this does not mean leaving the Church. Rather it means looking beyond those who live in fear, beyond those who act out fear, and speak out of fear to find that the beloved is already with us. Our letter is an expression of our longing for the beloved. To see the work of Jesus that is already active in the women saying yes to their call to the ministry of the diaconate.
Like Mary Magdalene, there are a multitude of women in the past and present who Jesus has called by name to serve the people of God. Jesus calls Mary by name and then commissions her to go forth and bear the good news. He tells her to “go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Jesus sends Mary, a woman, to be the first to share the news of the great miracle of the Resurrection of her beloved. Jesus knows Mary, Jesus loves Mary, and he chooses her, sending her into the world to preach, to proclaim, to lead.
Let us be not afraid, let us wander the city, let us leave the city guards behind, let us proclaim the good news of the beloved who has called us each of by name. Let us celebrate Mary Magdalene with our own proclamation that Jesus Christ, our beloved, our God, is in our midst, in our ministry, and in each woman called to follow the call of Mary Magdalene, the apostle and disciple, in service to the Church.
As we celebrate the Feast Days of St. Ignatius (July 31) and St. Mary Magdalene (July 22) we are reminded of the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us. St. Mary Magdalene walked with Jesus throughout his ministry and served as a witness to His resurrection. In announcing this good news to the rest of Jesus' apostles, she choose to respond to Jesus' call as St. Ignatius did when discovered his heart open to the transformation that comes when we begin to know Jesus as our friend and brother.
We gather at the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center because of St. Ignatius' vision to gather the community that would become the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. We know serve as members of this community, part of the Ignatian Family.
As contemplatives in action, as people who seek to bring about God's dream for the world, we are invited to make a commitment in our lives to seek justice for the earth, our neighbors (all people of the world) and ourselves. It is in this spirit that St. Agnes become a sanctuary congregation, committed to walking with our undocumented & refugee sisters and brothers, in January of this year. In these days, with all that is going on in our country, we know that we have a lot of work ahead to ensure that the human dignity of all people is respected. As Anne Lamott says in her new book, Hallelujah Anyway (which I highly recommend!), We wait and watch and work; we don't give up.
In July we began accompanying a family from Mexico and we want to share a community update on all that has been going on this summer (see below).
Community Update: Sanctuary at St. Agnes Church
A few weeks ago the St. Agnes Community began accompanying a family from Mexico who are seeking asylum in the United States. For the past six months the family, mom and five kids, have been homeless and navigating the shelter system in San Francisco. Several weeks ago one of the children faced a health crisis and required a hospital stay. When they left the hospital it was late into the evening and when they returned to the shelter where they had been staying, the beds were already full for the night and they ended up sleeping on the street. After this happened, St. Agnes & St. Ignatius Parishes were able to provide funds for the family to stay at a motel for a couple of weeks and since July 5, they have been staying with us for a respite so that they can be together as a family, begin a process of healing and have the opportunity to experience stability, safety, friendship and love.
Throughout the past two weeks there has been an outpouring of love from our community. Food has been delivered. Rides have been given. Donations have been made. Groceries have been picked up. Playdates have been made. Prayers have been prayed. Calls and e-mails have poured in about how we can walk together with this family. God has called us into this moment as a sanctuary congregation, Jesus gives us the wisdom to live into this call and the Spirit moves amongst us so that we may have the courage, ingenuity and love to live together as a community.
If you would like to find out more and get involved with the sanctuary movement at St. Agnes you are invited to attend our next Huddle for Justice meeting on Sunday, August 6 at 12pm and in the meantime, you can sign up at the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center. While the family stays with us we are in need of gifts cards (Target, Lucky’s Market, etc) and financial support (earmark donations to ‘Sanctuary Fund’).
In August we plan on providing the family with more stable housing for 6-8 months while they wait on a list for affordable housing in San Francisco and await the last hearing of their asylum case in February 2018. We need help finding housing and if you have a place that might work, another possibility or an idea, please contact me (415-487-8560 x225).
During these weeks, let us all pray together, with full hearts, believing that - Our deepest desire is to make God’s dream for the world, a dream rooted in peace, mercy and compassion, a reality. (St. Agnes Sanctuary Statement - January 19, 2017)