“Toward an Intrinsic Feminine Theology: Heart” has officially begun! After months of planning, strategizing, and reviewing the fine details, Leanna and I both feel that the day has been surreal.
After celebrating Mass with Fr. Michael Kolarcik, S.J. and enjoying lunch together, Lucinda beautifully welcomed guests to the first of three international seminars to take place in Rome at Centro Internazionale di Animazione Missionaria in Urbaniana University. She stated that our gathering represented twelve countries and five continents- a welcome combination of nearly thirty incredibly intelligent, strong, and passionate women and men of diverse academic backgrounds, cultures, ages, and spiritualities- with so much to offer the Church! Lucinda highlighted the origin story of the seminar and asserted that, born in prayer, this gathering sought to birth new life to the Church.
As I was listening intently to Lucinda’s opening remarks, I couldn’t help but feel slightly distracted by the awe-inspiring view from our seminar room. One simply has to turn their neck slightly to the left or the right and you have this glorious panoramic view of St. Peter’s Basilica and the entire piazza. It is an absolutely stunning venue and so very appropriate for our important work.
Lucetta Scaraffia gave the first presentation of the day. She discussed connections to the “heart” throughout the history of feminine holiness, looking particularly at three female saints whose mysticism was connected to a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Over time, female devotion through the mystical tradition was transformed into an alternative mode of devotion in which a woman’s devotion was lived out “actively” in the world at large. Sr. Judette Gallares, R.C. then presented on expressions of the female heart using three case studies of Biblical women- from the Old Testament, Gospel, and Acts of the Apostles. She began by citing Deuteronomy 6:5 and insisting that the heart represents who we are before God as an intense place of prayer. She hoped that these expressions of the heart in scripture as revealed in the narratives of women would allow us to reassess our misconceptions of the “heart” in Scripture, make these narratives our own, and better understand what that means for our relationship with God in the process.
In conclusion, Sister was convinced that any authentic conversion of heart or renewal in the Church would come about through a woman’s own liberation from all the conscious and unconscious limitations placed on the self. In other words, how does a woman awaken the heart in order to actualize her spiritual giftedness? I believe that this concept will be a recurring theme over the next two days along with more nuanced interpretations of our multifacted understandings of the word “heart.” For many seminar participants, heart did not only refer to a physical organ in the body, but the “seat of emotion” and the center of our being accessible wholly and perfectly by God. Let’s see what the second day of our gathering has to offer! Oh yes, that’s right…Leanna and I are presenting. Prayers are most welcome.