Hello to all!
My name is Leah, and I have worked in ministry as a Catholic Worker and as a teacher. I have enjoyed my journey as an adult, but for me, the touchstone for my life is my childhood experience of existing in an imaginative reality. Growing up with my dad addicted to alcohol—covering the pain of his childhood and 8 years in the Marines—really impacted my way of relating to other people and caused me to withdraw into myself. My dad struggled with rage and his anger (over broken objects, mistakes, messes, disrespect) was difficult for me as a sensitive kid. My response to Dad’s unpredictability and the negative atmosphere that surrounded him was to experience community through books. The love and companionship that I found in imaginative worlds was truly the way that Jesus accompanied me as a kid. At this moment in my life I experience an invitation to reconnect with this vivid imagination and the experiences I described by writing a novel.
It took me a long time to heal from the casts of mind and ways of relating to others that formed in my childhood. I would say that God has done incredible healing in me and sort of a “180”. Where I started, the presence of an unknown human being set off the reptilian part of my brain into fear-mode, conditioned by years of not relating well to my peers at large. (Teaching 5th-8th graders was fascinating because I was able to see my experience from the outside, which helped me heal.) But through my time in a Catholic Worker community, years of conversations at the common table and our Laundromat-café, years of “doing hospitality” and welcoming new people into a place where I was comfortable, years of asking God how I could hold hundreds of people (guests, volunteers) in my heart, I moved from fear into the recognition of Christ in another person. I would say that I still have blocks and barriers in my heart, but my role models are the people in my life who are open and generous and free and I hope to grow to be more like them.
I have had privilege through my education, through not being the target of racism, through having a financial safety net, through having access to institutional Catholicism. I detect that in my years in homeless ministry and as a schoolteacher I was trying to shed some elements of this privilege, but the result was just to hide it (or hide from it).
In Genesis, Leah was not preferred by her husband and this was a source of suffering for her. God came alongside her and Scripture says that “God made her fruitful.” I am a writer; have been since I was seven and experienced God’s presence in Little Women and Watership Down. My observations and experiences have been gestating for a semiarid decade. Now I’m ready to speak.
I hope to start to publicly express the core of my relationship with God, which is a recognition of my woman’s body as Christ’s body. In this workshop I know I will soak up courage to speak, even if my friends and mentors become angry with me for what I express.
Practically, I am in the beginning stages of writing two books. The first is a theological work looking at Scriptural women who live priesthood, claim authority, and express the Creator’s passion. The second is a novel set in the future, the story of a woman coming to know God, which also looks closely at the United States’ perpetual warmaking. I am gathering courage and leads on research.
I am asking Saint Hildegard to pray with me and with this workshop. Hildegard, you were a leader, preacher, visual artist, healer, composer, mystic, and writer. Please ask Jesus to bless this community with viriditas, greening power and vitality.