Because Jesus Called Me

Why? Because Jesus has personally called me by name and asked me to be a priest. Because me and a multitude of women past and present are already living out their priestly call with no formal recognition. 

My first call came when I was 12 years old, when I went to an ordination and every bone in my body wanted to lay prostrate with the new deacons. I’ve thought about that moment many times and how that feeling lingered for years, but in the past few days another moment of call keeps coming up in prayer. A few years ago I spent several weeks in India as part of a graduate course. Early in the trip it was decided that each student, both lay and Jesuit, would take a turn leading prayer or preaching. When my day came we were spending the day at the Ashram/Retreat Center where Anthony de Mello lived and taught. After a tour of the Ashram when we had time for individual prayer I sat in the beautifully simple chapel and prayed for inspiration as I poured over the readings for mass. Then suddenly I sank into prayer and Jesus came to me. He stood in front of me as I sat praying, and he laid his hands on my head. I could feel the warmth of those hands affirming my call, ordaining me. I was overcome with God’s love. Then the words came to me. I knew what to say. When I preached the words flowed from my lips. They were not my words, they were God’s. I felt the Spirit moving in me in a way that I have only ever felt when I preach. After mass and as the day went several of  my peers commented on how I said exactly what they needed to hear and on the power and beauty of the homily. I could not remember a single word I said. I could not remember the words, but the feeling of that moment did not fade. 

The two things in life that make me feel most alive are when I am preaching/teaching and when I reflect on my marriage to my incredible wife. When I am at my best with my partner and when I am sharing my prophetic voice God’s presence comes alive. My priestly and queer identities fill me with energy, and the fact that both of these are rejected by the institutional Church is what enrages me. Not just that my personal call and marriage are rejected, but that this rejection is a wound inflicted on many. I am enraged when my students ask why the Church, or God, or their family doesn’t accept them. These things matter to me because they are part of my lived experience, and they matter because they are the lived experience of many. They matter because in prayer I hear God calling me to bear witness to these injustices. I hear God calling me to find a home where I can live out this call in a new way, because it is too painful to be in a Church that does not accept me fully as I am. 

And yet I am energized and filled with hope, because I know God loves the wounded I encounter and God loves me. I am filled with energy because living my priestly call as a queer woman liberates me. I am filled with hope because God has called me by name, and continues to call me to live into my vocation – to “do the work my soul must have.” 

Chapel at Anthony de Mello’s Retreat Center

6 thoughts on “Because Jesus Called Me

  1. Hi, Elaina Jo. Thank you for vividly recapturing your prayer that brought Jesus in your presence to lay his hands on you. Your ensuing experience of being moved by the Spirit to preach, the words not being yours but God’s, is a Pentecost moment. And what a lovely space in which to deliver your homily.

  2. Anointed, ordained, hearing and preaching God’s words, called, loved, hope ! Do the work your soul must have. Praying with you. Thank you.

  3. I’m moved by your clarity and conviction. I feel deeply the courage that such clarity requires. I’m still trying to muster it up.

  4. Elaina Jo,
    It is so good to meet you and know about your call. Thank you for sharing confidently about your mystical experience of Jesus laying hands on you. That hasn’t happened to me. But truly it is so beautiful and incredible. I don’t think there is any higher recognition or affirmation anyone could ever ever receive! Jesus laid hands on you – my God! What a miracle! In the institutional sins of our church where we can’t yet recognize women as leaders and queer people as God’s holy creation – you have been ordained by Jesus himself! I cant quit saying it! You were ordained by Jesus. Wow. Your authority and recognition do not come from institutional leaders. Amen! I love this so much. And I believe it wholeheartedly.

    I’m glad you have a faith community that feeds your spirit and affirms God’s love for you and allows you to lead in preaching and teaching where you feel most alive. That is good. Are you a good preacher? Do you get to preach often enough? Are there other venues that could be blessed by your preaching? Do you have any ways to further or deepen your practice of preaching and/or teaching?

    I see that you feel “enraged” by what the RC church does to others like you. Amen! Do you feel called to reform that? That’s a different and important call too…but maybe not yours? Or maybe it is yours?! If you are called to reform how the RC church treats women and/or queer people, do you feel ready and equipped? What tools do you need for that mission? Do you feel energy and God’s call there? Guilt and responsibility? And desire to be recognized?

    I think the desire to be recognized is so important, but do you need to be recognized by the RC institution? Maybe you do. Maybe not….I wrestle with this question big time. Why do I need to be recognized by this particular institution. And shit! Jesus himself has already recognized you individually and personally. That makes me cry. I love it so much.

    I’ve read your reflections a few times and this is what comes up in me. I’m happy I get to be on this journey with you.

    In Jesus,

  5. I was stopped in my tracks by this quote: “My priestly and queer identities fill me with energy, and the fact that both of these are rejected by the institutional Church is what enrages me.” This intersection of the things that bring you, in a sense, the most consolation and also the most desolation seems important. I’m reminded of Pedro Arrupe’s “Fall in Love,” the line about “what breaks your heart” and “what amazes you with joy and gratitude.” This is where God resides, right? Not just in the joy and gratitude but in the heartbreak. And I see both in your writing, both heartbreak and joy and gratitude. I wonder what might happened if you leaned even deeper into each one of these things… what would you find there?

    Grateful to get this chance to journey with you!

  6. we talked alot about “unbinding” during our group. I really see in your post the devotion to your call. You truly let down your nets and listened to Jesus say “Come follow me.” God knows you by name, by struggle, by tear, and by wound and that’s the God that loves you. How do you find healing when the Church has caused so much hurt? How can I and/or we help others heal or actually even not get hurt to begin with?

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