Grace to you!
A curious young man wanted to know why the Catholic Church often appeals to her tradition in discussing contemporary things? “You mean reference to history, the past as a form of background to the present?” I asked him. “Exactly”, he said. Today’s reflection would be geared towards responding to this young man’s question and similar ones.
The Catholic Christian Church is about the oldest, most widely known organization in the world. Part of the reason is because she has a lot of tradition and works very hard to preserve her tradition, because as Pope Francis said, “tradition is memory.” If we do not have a memory, a memory of what happened before, a memory of where we come from, we may not know exactly how to meander through the uncertain paths into the future. As one singer put it “If you don’t know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are going.” Just as the Lord suggested, she is like a wise scribe who could bring out things old and new from his storehouse.
Let me use just one instance out of many to demonstrate this point. It’s the story of a woman whose life is celebrated today in the Catholic tradition. Her name is Angela, and she is revered in the Church as Saint Angela Merici or some call her Saint Angela of Brescia. She was born in the little town of Desenzano in Northern Italy around 1474 and she lived till 1540.
I bet you never heard of her name before and of course, you wouldn’t see her name engraved on marble in one of the UN or CNN’s Heroes Museums.
During her time in the 16th Century, it was rare for a woman to be a leader. It was a purely male – dominated medieval era. But for her, a devout Catholic Christian and a firm believer in the Lord Jesus, she believed in the vision she saw on her way to Rome, to lead a movement for the education, true empowerment of rural women, especially orphans, widows and married women as well as singles. She started to sow the seed of the word of God – as the parable of the Sower in the Gospel of Mark 4:1-20 described.
She realized that the way to change her culture and the perception of women was by empowering them through education. She then started a women’s religious order (that is, a community of women united under the same rules to carry out a particular God mission). She took for the name of the group St. Ursula – another woman respected from the 4th Century as a bold protector of women’s rights. See, more history here – in the 4th Century, the Church already had women who were leaders.
No sooner than Angela knew it, the Order had grown to become what we know today as the Ursuline Sisters. They are heavily involved with education and care of orphans, senior citizens and widows. Their number runs in thousands.
If this doesn’t fit as a good example for true women leadership, then I wonder what fits.
History is good. The knowledge of history, of tradition is liberating.
God love you. God bless you.