Everyone has an opinion about what I am doing. They love it! They hate it! I should do “x!” I should NOT do “y!” People have thoughts on how I present myself, what I say, what I wear, who I am. I'm a heretic. I'm a hero. I'm sick. I'm strong. I'm being led astray (as if I don't have my own thinking mind and praying heart). I'm on the path of the Holy Spirit. Most recently, a friend and kindred spirit told me that a friend of his read the New Yorker article and in the most kind and sincere way said, “I respect what she is doing, but I cannot help but feel her efforts will be a waste.” Ouch.
In one way, all this energy is thrilling. The sheer fact that people respond so strongly in this or that way means that I am up to something very important. And, as excruciating as this path is, I feel alive. Not to mention, people often times share things that are extremely helpful, and I feel God’s touch through them. But, on the other hand, there is so, so much noise. It’s easy to feel hurt or confused or hesitant or dejected. After all, I am not even ordained yet: I am just a fledgling trying to find my way step by step—slowly discovering who I am as a priest. This formation is not something that can be rushed, but it can be delayed if I get knocked off course.
When I catch myself marveling at all the commentary, I recall a conversation that I had some months ago with an Episcopal priest. She was about my age, give or take, and shared that she had been a priest for 23 years. Twenty-three years! I was taken aback, literally knocked backwards. I was amazed. Her gender was a non-issue: she was able to follow her vocation as a young woman, and she has had a long and fruitful career doing what she loves—what God has called her to do. She was able to say “yes” without one word about it.
With all that swirls around me, I am keenly aware that more than ever I must stay rooted in the Spirit. Like the disciples in this Sunday's gospel, I return from my work of the day to eagerly share in my prayer all that has transpired with Jesus. He listens, sympathizes, teases. Then, he takes me by the hand and leads me to a deserted place. There, the quiet blankets all the noise within me and God’s voice swells up through the silence to teach me about the path, about who I am.
It is my goal that someday, when I am old and gray, I will have the distinct pleasure of watching young women enter the Roman Catholic priesthood without one word about it. As long as that prayer glows in my heart, my efforts will never be wasted.
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