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Letter 5: Hi, my name is Magdellen.

Dear reader,

Thank you for your patience during my radio silence. My final year of law school and the subsequent process of studying for and taking the bar exam really sucked the creative juices out of me... with one caveat:

I've been thinking. My mind has been active, and I've been jotting down notes in my phone... they just haven't translated into a new post until now.

The past year and a half has been a time of spiritual reawakening for me, which may seem strange given all the indignities in the world, from ineffective COVID relief to police brutality against persons of color, as well as the ongoing housing and food crises across our country and world and the continuing US-Mexico border crisis. Oh, and that climate change thing that is simultaneously both burning and drowning the world around us.

Nonetheless, amidst the social isolation of the pandemic and the frustration and heartbreak of abuses of power and societal apathy, I found solace and a renewed spark of curiosity in the rosary of all places.

Perhaps it's my nature to find a source of hope to sustain me when the world could easily wear me down and leave me hopeless. Maybe my brain just got intellectually exhausted, or there's a bigger plan at play. Regardless, the experience of 2020 brought me closer to faith in an authentic and powerful way.

Religion, like money, can be the source of many evils. We've seen it throughout history, religion perpetuating greed, abuses of power, misogyny, racism, violence - an institution turned weapon of exclusion. This is the Church we see most prominently in the Western world, with the very loud, conservative narrative drowning out the progressive voices championing inclusivity of race and gender and advocating for radical wellness and justice.

Call me naïve or foolish, but I believe in the goodness and Truth of this progressive voice of the Church. I believe it to be the authentic movement of the Spirit working through the People. And so I'm going to write about it. I'm going to write about what I read, what I hear, and what I experience, and hopefully something resonates with you... or you find someone who makes you feel less alone... or you find that there is a glimmer of hope... or your eyes are opened to something new.

You may be wondering... "Magdellen"? Mary of Magdala (aka Mary Magdalene) is up there in celebrity status with Jesus and his mother Mary - pretty much everyone has heard of her regardless of their religious affiliation. But history (and the men who wrote and interpreted it) did her wrong. For those who'd like to do some reading, here's a little primer on our leading lady. For those who are leaning more toward tldr;...

the Gospels were written piecemeal, decades after Christ's death, akin to the game of telephone;

there are multiple Marys throughout the four Gospels;

the Gospel of Luke, Ch. 8, mentions a "Mary surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out", which contemporarily meant ailments but became construed as moral infirmity;

in both Luke and Matthew, a "woman with a bad name" anointed Jesus with oil and wiped his feet with her hair - much to the chagrin of the disciples and Pharisees - and although no name was mentioned, the woman became conflated with Mary of Magdala.

In short, our girl was one of the the real ones, but got slighted by jealous, suspicious dudes. Which is kind of like the feminist movement within the present-day Church (and we come ~ f u l l - c i r c l e ~ ). Sub-institutions within the Church, such as the USCCB, are so entwined with man-made constructs that - to borrow a phrase - they haven't left any room for the Holy Spirit. While I'll refrain some saying that the gatekeepers to communion wouldn't see the Holy Spirit if it bopped them in the face with an olive branch, I will venture to say that the comfort of tradition within the gilded halls of the Catholic Church - tradition of men holding power, for starters - is a huge barrier to entertaining the rustling in the congregation of feeling called to a vocation outside of "the rules" and is often construed as a challenge to power.

But whose power is it really?

Not the priests'. Not the bishops' and cardinals'. Not even the pope's.

It is God's Power. We as humans are only vessels, and faulty vessels at that. It is our job - our calling as (wo)men - to embrace the Spirit as it moves through us and continue shaking the tables that need to be rearranged and reconfigured.

So in a play on words, I will be writing under the blog name "Magdellen" - an homage to a badass chick and a nod to the future progress of the Church. I am not a theologian nor a religious scholar. I'm just a young woman, who sits in the pews on Sundays and believes that the Church can do better. Can be better. Who believes that God works in mysterious and powerful ways in ALL their creation, not just those with fancy titles.

Here's to throwing rocks from the inside, friends!

Text from the June 25, 2021, email circulation of the Women's Ordination Conference.

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