When women are silent, it does not mean they agree.
In our Magyar family, in one of our make-story times when my aunts and grandmothers would make up stories about our lives and days and nights, we made this story:
It is a story about the old woman who became only a voice ... for you see, when people needed a hand, she gave them her hands.
When people needed her feet, she walked far for them, and thus gave them her feet.
Her sight, her hearing, her special touch ... when people needed these, she gave them willingly and with great love.
When people needed to save face, she gave them her face to shelter themselves behind.
When people needed guts, she gave them her guts, along with all her courage bones.
When people needed insight, hope, determination, she gave them hers.
She gave everything people asked ...
until like Echo in Greek mythos, the old woman became used up and there was nothing left of her
... . only a voice that repeated the same warmth over and over: "I love you, I love you, I love you ... "
You see, the venerable old woman had given all of herself away to serve others ...
others who took and took and took, and did not give back.
Others who plundered her gifts, demanded she do for them what they could well do for themselves ... but preferred not to.
Others who starved her of accommodation, recognition, and creatural supports of many kinds.
Others who gave her platitudes and barely noticed if she were ill, or lonely, or in need.
Barely noticed her intelligence and savvy, thinking her taking on of the veil meant she'd also taken on non-vigilance about the real world as well.
She hadn't. Quite the contrary. Her vision was eagle-sharp.
Yet she'd lived a lifetime of others insisting only that she be made -- not whole -- but able to labor again, in order to return her to serving them more, to return her to tending their own unending needs so they could concern themselves only with pomp and influence.
The only problem was ... at the end of the old woman's life, the greedy others could not figure out how to exploit all that was left of her: her radiant voice that continued to speak Love. And more Love.
And more and more.
So is it with the nuns of our days?
The ones who give and give, in the name of The Poor Carpenter, and give until they have nothing left while yet deserving the best care, and far more recognition, far more being truly seen for their souls, than the higher ups -- who continue to embarrassingly parade around in parodies of crowns, thrones, king's robes with real golden jewels and watered silks and ermine trims ... that The Carpenter would not recognize as his legacy on earth, let along in heaven.
I am left with many images of disrespect for the civilizing force of the Church: nuns. Here are only three examples, but there are many more of abject disregard for other human beings who happen to be nuns:
That's not the height of leadership. That's the height of churlishness. And an example set about how to treat the sisters, given to all other males wherever that archbishop goes, leaving in his ill-sighted wake, that women in general, and nuns in particular are only holy if humbly asking for nothing. That's wrong. Dead wrong.
You know I am not speaking of the countless priest, brothers, bishops, archbishops, some of the cardinals who have inestimable hearts via which we are all blessed.
But, believe me were it not for nuns, hospitals would still be lean-tos on the salt flats, and schools would be hovels where only war was taught and children recruited for Crusades, and priests of eld would have worn cassocks for weeks until the cloth could stand and walk by itself, and the alb for Mass would have been torn from a bed sheet with no starch or women's hand embroidery of the Paschal flower, the lily.
The outposts, inner cities, towns and cities of the world have become centers of civilized thought instead of stentorian thought masquerading as "protecting the Faith." The world has changed for the far, far better, to centers of kindness and care for the needful, and guidance about ways to live that are both real and holy ... because a woman's hand -- and a woman's mind -- a nun's mind, in particular have been involved ... and not only involved as followers ... but as true notable leaders.
Are nuns perfect? No more than you. But are they blessings on us? Indeed most days and most often, extraordinary blessings. Remember, it's the medieval Father Coughlins of the world, the Dark Ages Bishop Williamsons of the world who say women ought not be educated, but rather women ought be kept in their place.
Right, women's place.
Where is that place?
Oh, I think I know: Everywhere.
How do I know?
It was the Sisters bearing lanterns through the dark who taught me so.
I'll be following this story re how nuns and communities evolve and are treated by Church. Any religious wishing to write to me personally about the issues faced in work, home, community, education or elsewhere, please write to email@example.com.
People there will usually know my whereabouts, and I will be happy to receive your notes, and will hold your confidences utterly as you wish.
"Nuns: The civilizing force of the church," ©2009 by Dr. C.P. Estés. All Rights Reserved. Permissions: firstname.lastname@example.org