Priests’ feet

Last year a Spirited prayer team loved me through an Impartation prayer (asking for the Holy Spirit’s presence.) At the outset they asked me my intention, and I shared that I wanted to be a part of the healing of sexuality in the Church, especially after the abuses by clergy. A minute or two in, a young man said, “God, give her a holy vision!” and my imagination was immediately engaged. Catherine of Siena was in front of me; she kneeled down and said, “Wash the priests’ feet!” I began crying. “No, anything but that, I can’t.”

I’d pushed a priest’s boundary just a week before while trying to become his friend, and I was not willing to suffer that humiliation again. How could I wash the feet of the patriarchy? They don’t let women touch their feet, literally or figuratively. Jesus did. But the disciples saw his anointer as a whore.

After the Pennsylvania report, bishops were my “enemies”— and the only way to deal with your enemy is to love him. My heart has always been drawn to the loneliest people (since I was lonely), and I think Bishops must be some of the most isolated (next to military conscientious objectors when they first realize they no longer believe in killing.) I think that I would be a good friend for Bishops to have. They’re too busy, no peers in the area, and they’re the boss of everyone in their “group” (priests). They need an outsider friend.

I don’t know what my future will hold. But this week—when the priesthood element dropped out of my novel— it dropped back into my life. And I had a complete shift in perspective:

Could I accompany women who are called to be priests?

Could I write my book exploring priestly women in Scripture?

Could I mentor young women?

For one-on-one accompaniment…reading Teresa’s beautiful post about spiritual directors and hearing my friend MC talk about wanting to become a spiritual director, I begin to dream about this path. Encouragement is one of my charisms, and I have always enjoyed listening to people and asking questions (ever since I worked at a Writing Center). My close friend and I have spent several years having mega-healing conversations which convinced me that we both have a gift for this. Even if I don’t take a formal path, I could simply encourage women through my friendships.

In terms of mentoring young women, I led a (very) small group of young women in my parish last year which was the most Spirit-filled area of my life. Two talented, beautiful high school seniors gathered with me to pray with Meinrad Craighead’s images of God the Mother, talk about finding our voices and being honest as women, talk about their being Latinas at a white school and facing racism and ignorance, and learn about discernment. Last year I considered this group the most Holy Spirit area of my life.

After I learned I am bisexual, women-only spaces became places I was no longer sure of. I’m not looking to date right now (not sure if I am exclusively married to God, or if it will be my Creator and a human being who is not Jesus…), but even so, being in a women-only space seemed too complicated. I just don’t know because I haven’t lived it before: will my being attracted to some women make other women uncomfortable? However, I heard in my prayer today that the only way forward is as myself. (I also heard…thank you, Holy Spirit…that my Creator is aiming to bring me to joy.)

I want to work for the good of the current clergy: but it’s complicated, since catering to the patriarchy reinforces those unhealthy patterns. Washing their feet will be different. When I wash their feet, then they will see that I am incarnating Jesus for them.

2 thoughts on “Priests’ feet

  1. Leah, prophetic and creative! I am taken by the spirit in your life, your vision, and the clarity of the prayer experiences you have had. They are so beautiful and I lift them up in prayer

  2. I think you’d be a great friend to bishops: your posts show you to be faith-filled, thoughtful, creative, courageous, compassionate.

    It strikes me that the call to “wash the priests’ feet” and to accompany women who are called to be priests — these might be related.

    You say you’re unsure of women-only spaces. I love — and I encourage — what you heard in your prayer: “the only way forward is as yourself.” Amen. As a straight man who very frequently collaborates with women, and finds life in it, I have learned the importance of being aware of one’s attractions and motivations, being honest with oneself and friends, recognizing that boundaries are not just physical but also emotional, being aware of when I’m in a “boundary zone” (as Lisa Fullam taught us so well at JST in Berkeley), and so on. I hope you continue ministry with women — as the Spirit invites you — with thoughtfulness and courage.

    Thank you for sharing the gift of yourself in this workshop.

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