Secretum Meum Mihi
Volume 2, Number 1
A Newsletter for Catholic Women Priest, Prophet and King: On Receiving Our Vocations In a series on successful male-female partnerships, St. Peter and St. Mary Magdalen are an unlikely example. The Bible records only one interaction between them, when Magdalen tells Peter that the Lord has risen. The gospel accounts differ, but it seems Peter ran to see the empty tomb for himself, and did not believe her. They certainly were not close friends.
ST. PETER AND ST. MARY MAGDALEN Feature Essay: Page 1 Priest, Prophet and King Interview: Page 3 Mother Martha Driscoll Scripture Study: Page 5 John 20:1-18 The Risen Lord Appears to Mary Magdalen Prayer Intentions: Page 6 For Those Who Labor at Thankless Jobs
Historical Sketch: Page 7 The contrast between them could not be more The Location of the Upper Room stark. While Peter is mentioned hundreds of times in scripture, Magdalen’s name pops up Book Review: Page 8 exactly thirteen times. There are medieval Their Eyes Were Watching God, traditions and unofficial accounts (rejected by Zora Neale Hurston by the Church) about both Peter and Mary Magdalen, with the latter drawing more attention today. The gap between history and Secretum Meum Mihi means “My secret is mine” myth is very large. All the gospels agree on two facts. Jesus chose Peter to be the leader of his twelve man crew. And Jesus chose to appear to Mary Magdalene first after His resurrection. I’m not inclined to believe these were arbitrary choices. Jesus gave each a job to do, and they did, in fact, do their work well enough that everyone remembered it. (continued on page two) Copyright 2007 All rights reserved www. MySecretisMine.com email@example.com
Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta ) was a Jew who became Catholic in 1922 after reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. When asked why she converted, she wrote, “secretum meum mihi.” She became a Carmelite in 1934, but perished in Auschwitz. Her feast is August 9.
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Don’t we often get lost in the details ourselves? It’s hard to know which tasks are most needful. During the Lord’s Passion, Peter variously refuses to have his feet washed at the Lord’s Supper, falls asleep on sentinel duty, nearly slices an ear off a guard, and then runs away at the crucial moment. Magdalen has a better showing under pressure. Alongside the Blessed Mother, Magdalen, Salome, and the other women did not abandon Jesus for one minute, witnessing both his death and his burial. Devastated with grief, Magdalen goes to the tomb with spices to anoint the body, numbly clinging to Jewish rituals for burial. Just as her giref was total, so was her joy! If only she could convince the disciples of the truth! Despite a history that included the Transfiguration and Jesus walking on water, we have the future Pope essentially rejecting the prophetic witness of the Lord’s anointed messenger, Mary Magdalen. Mercifully, Jesus arrives on the scene to corroborate Mary’s story. Jesus orchestrates a massive fish haul on the beach one morning. Peter’s thick head leads Jesus to ask him repeatedly, “Do you love me?” This is not an auspicious beginning for Christendom. The fact is, neither Peter nor Mary Magdalen asked for their respective roles in salvation history. Jesus himself chose them. Because Mary Magdalen spent the majority of Jesus’ ministry following the disciples, and providing for them out of her means (Luke 8:1-3), I am inclined to believe she went back to that role after Pentecost.
And Peter overcame his doubts and impulsivity to capably lead the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. His death by crucifixion followed in the path of Jesus. His preaching introduced thousands of people to Jesus. In the end, he did his job for the King. Mary Magdalen’s prophetic witness came PRIOR to the apostles preaching the good news. Her prophetic witness might have been initially rejected by the apostles, but that did not invalidate her faith, nor render her actions useless. Once the King intervened, the disciples had to see women in a new way. Tell me that wasn’t necessary to the King’s plan! Am I saying that the early Church was free from sexism and blatantly false assumptions about the capabilities of women? No. But Christianity through the ages has created more opportunities for women than any other religion. Jesus had great confidence in the women who served him in first century Palestine, and he has great confidence in you and I today. No, the Church wasn’t perfect then, and it isn’t perfect now. This isn’t heaven. But, we can perform our part of his mission on earth. Jesus is the one who gives both men and women parts to play in his earthly ministry, be it as a priest, a prophet or a king. My guess is that Peter and the apostles never forgot who first encountered the Lord. Nor should you! Yours, because His,
Kristen West McGuire interviews Trappestine Abbess Mother Martha Driscoll (Mother Martha Driscoll is the abbess of a Cistercian monastery in Gedono, Indonesia. She holds degrees from Georgetown University and Brandeis University. Her book, Reading Between the Lines: The Hidden Wisdom of Women in the Gospels, was published in 2006.)
Kristen: Where did you grow up? Mother Martha: I was born and grew up in Staten Island, New York in a very Irish Catholic family. My parents scrimped and saved to send my sister and me to a Catholic girls’ academy. My only childhood tantrum was caused by the fact I had to leave the public school and all my friends. I never found the freedom I had had there with the nuns. The genuine love of my parents for each other and for the three of us is the real basis of my religious experience. God is Love. Kristen: What was your college experience like? Mother Martha: I transferred to Georgetown University after two years at an all girls’ college where philosophy teachers had begun to widen my views and my questions. As an off-campus transfer student, I experienced real solitude in the first few months and that was a deep religious experience that made me know my littleness, emptiness and need of God. I began to go to daily mass at Trinity Church, where I made some lasting friendships, including several Jesuits. We were in the thick of the Civil Rights Movement and were all very marked by the assassination of Kennedy that year. A very large percent of our graduating class (FS’65) joined the Peace Corps.
Kristen: What happened after you returned from your Peace Corps stint? Mother Martha: When I came back from Ethiopia, I couldn’t accept the values of materialistic consumerism and realized that with all that I had learned with my head at GU, I really hadn’t learned how to face the real problems of life and had to find out by myself. After two years of theater in New York City, I got a fellowship for an MFA in Theater at Brandeis. It was a very countercultural environment, with lots of confusion. I gradually left the Church as part of the ‘Western establishment’ that I saw as having produced very little except war and materialism. I experienced failure and loneliness and a very deep identity crisis that opened me to search even further. Then my mother became ill with cancer only a year and a half after my father’s sudden death in 1968. It nearly destroyed me, but I found that there was a nameless hope in the bottom of my soul that kept me going. Later I knew that that hope was the grace of baptism that never disappears even when we get lost.
My mother died very beautifully and the next day I was filled with love. Then I went to fulfill a commitment to direct a play at Brandeis. There I experienced the creative power of the love that inhabited me. After the play was a big success, I went off by myself for three months to figure out where this love was coming from. I was doing yoga and reading Eastern philosophies and religions. But through grace I realized that even if the truth was in Asia, I was Western and had to go back to the roots of my own culture before I could pass over to another. So I just read the Bible. There one evening, in the gospel of John, I found the source of the love I had received: Jesus. Then in a book of Thomas Merton, I read that a Cistercian monastery was a school of love. That was a description of the Church that I could identify with, so I set off to find a Cistercian monastery and, in so doing, go back to the Church. Kristen: You picked an interesting time to become a nun, right after the Second Vatican Council! Where did you make your profession? Mother Martha: I entered the monastery in Italy, after a six month pilgrimage in Israel. Mother Cristiana Piccardo was the abbess. Her charismatic teaching led the community with great wisdom, so that we received the wealth of the living Tradition of our Cistercian Order while following the Vatican Council’s lead to renewal in a rediscovery of monastic life as communion, not an individualistic struggle for perfection. The insights I received from her teaching are still the core of my life.
Kristen: Had you been to Indonesia prior to being named the prioress in Gedono? Mother Martha: No. I thought I would spend the rest of my life in Italy. We make a vow of stability. But our community was asked to receive candidates from Indonesia in view of opening a new monastery in Indonesia. Seven Indonesians, two Italians and I lived through that adventure of death and new life and the community was born. We experienced our poverty together very acutely and when everyone had touched rock bottom, suddenly there was Life which we knew wasn’t our own. The Church is born from the experience of the resurrection together. That was twenty years ago and we are now thirty-four members. The Italians and I have become Indonesian citizens!
Mother Martha Driscoll’s Favorite Scripture We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is Love and anyone who abides in Love, abides in God and God in him/her. -- I John 4:16
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Bible Study: The Risen Lord Appears to Mary Magdalene First Meditation by Mother Martha Driscoll John 20:1-18 Now on the first day of the week Mary Mag’dalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you
weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rab-bo’ni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Mag’dalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (Revised Standard Version)
Meditation Long before the break of day, long before Salome was ready, Magdalene ran to the tomb to be with him, to be near his precious body. But he wasn’t there. What had they done with him? Those Romans! They had no respect for the living or the dead! The shock was too great to keep to herself. She ran to tell the men, who ran back with her. Peter was confused. John just gazed silently with no visible reaction. The tomb being empty, they went home to ponder and talk. Mary of Magdala stayed at the place of the emptiness. She fought with her anger, rebellion and pain. Not to be able to grieve by his body brought home the worst desolation of her loss. She wept uncontrollably. Her heart was as empty as the empty tomb. She went in there again and sat down in the dark, alone with the absence. Somehow, there was that presence again that she had felt with Mary the other night. “Dead but yet alive.” There was warmth in the cold earth; there was a glimmer of hope in the confusion that gave her the strength to rise up and walk.
Bible Study, Continued Outside again, the glare of the rising sun seemed to blind her. Her tear-filled eyes could not focus clearly. Someone was standing there. “Who are you? Where is he? Give him back to me!” Jesus tested her and...was moved by unspeakable tenderness and desire for the moment of renewed encounter. A moment of silence, and then he called her by name. She heard him, she saw him, she ran to him. He was alive—he was alive for her. She soared into an explosion of joy. For the second time in her life, he had pulled her out of the darkness into light, out of anger into love, out of death into life.
Reflection He was her life, and nothing could separate her from him—not even death. Participating in his death through her desire and love, in union with the heart of Mary the Mother, Mary of Magdala participated in his resurrection. Love was indeed stronger than death. That was the message entrusted to her to be announced to the apostles and to the world. Not simply that Jesus was alive, but that he was alive for us. That his love did not die, and so we cannot die. His resurrection was our resurrection. He is alive and we will live forever. She gave birth to Christian joy.
Prayer Jesus, you suffered alone, and yet others suffered with you—the suffering of love. So often we are afraid to love because we do not want to suffer. Because we have been hurt, betrayed, not loved in return, or rejected, we dare not love again… Give us the strength and courage to love, to be vulnerable…. Let us follow in the footsteps of the women who loved you and come to the joy of an eternal encounter with you. (Excerpted from Reading Between the Lines of the Gospel copyright © 2006. Used with permission of Liguori Publications, Liguori, MO 63057. 1-800-325-9521 www.liguori.org )
Prayer Intentions: Pray for Those Who Labor at Thankless Jobs by Beverly Mantyh Where would the world be without all the people who care enough to do their “little jobs” well? Cashiers brighten moments by making the effort to smile or joke as they say, “Have a nice day.” Janitorial staff polish and dust without ever being seen. Caregivers take the time to smile and chat as they perform their duties. Edith Stein understood the importance of these unappreciated workers. Stein compared those who perform “small” jobs to Mary at the Wedding of Cana, “in her quiet, observing look (she) surveys everything and discovers what is lacking. Before anything is noticed, even before embarrassment sets in, she has procured already the remedy.” This is the role of all support staff. They “look for the concrete goal and adjust the means to the end.” Edith Stein sees women contributing to the workplace in a special way, no matter what their position, because “everything inanimate finally serves the living.” The unsung heroes, performing the same thankless tasks day and night, can use our prayer and support so they can continue to serve God’s people with hope for their own futures. Justice for Janitors is a Houston-based organization working on unions, with the support of the local Catholic archdiocese. Austraberta Rodriguez has worked as a janitor there since 1979. You can hear her story at the following You-Tube address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pf_ CJGWwHSc
Friends of St. John the Caregiver (http:// www.fsjc.org/) is an international Catholic association supporting caregivers and those in need. It provides training and educational resources, in addition to spiritual support. The Family Caregiver Alliance (www. caregiver.org) has an interesting report on the estimated value of caregiving services that many women render free of charge to family and friends each year, often AFTER a grueling day at work. Check it out at: http://www.caregiver.org/caregiver/ jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=892
Lord, let us pray: * for fair reimbursement and benefits for those who work jobs that are not traditionally seen as valuable; * for workers who struggle to make ends meet, that they would find the resources they need to cover their needs and those of their families; * for unhappy workers, that they would be blessed with encouragement to continue work they do not enjoy; * that all God’s people would be blessed with the humility necessary to see those in service positions “eye to eye” and as servants of Christ; * that those who generously care for others after their daily work is done will discover the mercy promised to the merciful; and * that those who work in “little jobs” would be blessed with hope, perseverance and joy.
Historical Sketch: The Location of the Upper Room The Upper Room served as a hiding place for the apostles in the days immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus. Understandably, they thought they might be next in line on Pontius Pilate’s hit list. Then, it was a place to ponder and praise the resurrection of Jesus. Small wonder Christians over the centuries have zealously sought out the actual room! Like many sites in the Holy Land, the building is sacred to Jews and Muslims as well. King David’s Tomb rests in the basement. Damage during the war for Israeli independence allowed archaeologist Jacob Pinkerfeld to excavate the site while repairing it, and he found five different levels of flooring. The Upper Room has endured a variety of foundations. Pinkerfeld first found a 12th-century Crusader floor, just beneath the marble slabs. A mosaic floor with geometric designs dating to the Byzantine period rested about eighteen inches below that. A mere four inches lower, the remains of the original Roman floor were revealed, constructed at the end of the first century. The original building appears to have been a Judeo-Christian synagogue, abandoned when Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Almost the entire city was left in ruins. When Emperor Hadrian visited some years later, he reported that only the neighborhood on Mount Zion survived, including a small “Church of the Apostles,” which was supposedly built atop the original Upper Room.
Page 8 Byzantine Emperor Theodosius the Great erected a larger church, Hagia Zion, in the late fourth century, built on top of the older ruins. Bishop John II of Jerusalem elevated it to Basilica status in 415. The Persian army destroyed most of the land’s churches, including Holy Zion, in the early seventh century. After the Persian withdrawal, the Christians rebuilt it, but in the early 11th century an apocalyptic caliph from Egypt flattened it again. When the Crusaders rebuilt it, they combined the Church of the Apostles and the Church of the Pillars (built to honor the final resting place of Mary the Blessed Virgin), naming the new church St. Mary of Mount Zion. The building housing the Upper Room and King David’s Tomb is separate from Dormition Abbey, but their underlying foundations link up with the ancient ones described above. Tourists visiting the Upper Room today find a large room with three naves, and gothicstyle columns worthy of the Crusaders who constructed them. A Muslim mihrab points the direction of Mecca for daily prayer, reminding the visitor of the many occupants of the building over the centuries. Several yeshiva schools (for the study of the Torah) dot the neighborhood, in honor of the Davidic lineage housed below. Each successive construction to honor the birthplace of Christian joy had a unique character. It is somehow fitting that, 2000 years later, the Upper Room and its basement burial chamber draws thousands of tourists each year. King David symbolized the messianic hope of the Jews, and the Upper Room became for Christians a witness to the answer to those prayers.
Book Review: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (New York: Harper Modern Classics, 1998. 240 pp., $10.85)
Reviewed by Margaret McGuire Zora Neale Hurston crafts an unforgettable story of an African-American woman discovering her true value in turn of the century Florida. Mindful of the gossips rocking on porches in the town of Eatonville, Janie Crawford tells her life story to friend Pheoby Watson over dinner, comfortable in herself. She tells Pheoby that talking “don’t amount tuh uh hill uh beans.” The novel’s Southern black dialect emphasizes the underlying achievement of Janie’s discovery of her own unique voice. Abused and abandoned by her mother, Janie was raised by her grandmother, Nanny, after her mother ran away. Pragmatic in her own way, Nanny arranged a marriage between Janie and Logan Killicks, a well-to-do farmer. Nanny sees in Killicks the stability she always lacked, and tells Janie, “marriage creates love.” Janie discovers this is not so. Killicks first treats her as if she awed him, and then beats her and expects her to work like a pack mule. Janie chafes under his yoke, unable to love her oppressor. One day, while Killicks is out, Janie meets Joe Starks, a man even more well-to-do than Killicks. Smitten with Janie’s good looks, he encourages her to come away with him. They eventually elope and move to Eatonville, where Joe makes himself the mayor of the town by buying more land and starting a store. Janie becomes Mrs. Mayor Starks, a mere offshoot of Joe Starks’ powerful persona.
Joe showers “honor all gives her the best things But Janie struggles with “propriety” he expects in
over” Janie and money could buy. the isolation and return.
After twenty years of marriage and emotional abuse, Janie confronts Joe on his deathbed. Her verbal tirade begins a new life. Many men try to court her, some for her money, some for her welfare, but all are turned away. Janie enjoys her freedom too much to give it up until she meets Vergible Woods, known better as Tea Cake. Tea Cake honors Janie’s growing confidence in herself. They leave Eatonville and go to the “muck,” joining migrant workers in the Florida Everglades. Tea Cake’s honesty and tenderness blunts her suspicions of his motives, but their bliss is short-lived. A hurricane comes up, and they decide to brave it out, “stuffing courage into each other’s ears.” The hurricane turns Lake Okechobee into a monster. The wind pushes Janie into the flood waters, where she grabs the tail of a floating cow, oblivious to the hydrophobic dog growling on the other end. Tea Cake is bitten by the rabid dog while rescuing her. In a fit of insane jealousy weeks later, Tea Cake pulls his pistol on Janie, but she is ready and shoots first. It all but tore Janie’s heart out to do it, but, as she explains to the jury later, she had no choice. Tea Cake was so deranged that the only way to save him was to kill him. The jury found her not guilty. Janie buried her beloved Tea Cake and went back to Eatonville. In Janie’s world, she is inspired by nature and afraid of it. Janie’s romantic dreams based on the bees find a passionate counterpart in the nightmare of the end of her relationship
with Tea Cake. God’s participation in the world is a paradoxical question. And yet, through it all, she discovers within herself a deep and resonant voice, a self that cannot be destroyed by hardship nor isolation.
Discussion Questions: 1. Everyone needs to believe in their inherent worth in the world. Janie finds hers despite a hard life. What episodes in your life have increased your self-esteem? Does selfesteem only grow through enduring difficult situations? 2. The dialect of the novel is itself a commentary on the voice that Janie finds and shares. In the Song of Songs 2:12,14, it says, “Arise, my love, my fair one and come away…let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face is comely.” Can you hear God asking you to speak in this passage? Like Janie, all women need to find that voice within. What might you do to discover that voice God has given you?
New this fall!
The Glory to be Revealed in You: A Spiritual Companion to Pregnancy will be available online as a regular series of email meditations. Visit our website at
“Thus it remains through all centuries: in the quiet dialogue of God-dedicated persons with their Lord, the groundwork is laid for those approaching events of Church history which can be seen far off, and which will renew the face of the earth.” – Edith Stein, in The Prayer of the Church from An Edith Stein Daybook, translated by Susanne Batzdorff
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Secretum Meum Mihi Press Kristen West McGuire Founder/Editor in Chief
Editorial Advisory Board Alexandra Burghardt Meredith Gould Beverly Mantyh Margaret McGuire Sandra Miesel Secretum Meum Mihi is a monthly periodical dedicated to fostering the spirituality of Catholic women. Individual subscriptions are $12.95/year for download, and $24.95/yr for U.S. Mail delivery. (International mail delivery $29.95). Parish subscriptions are $119.95. Address all correspondence to the address below, or visit our website at:
www.MySecretisMine.com Secretum Meum Mihi Press P.O. Box 1501 Great Falls, MT 59405-1501
Coming Next Month: Saint Jerome and Saints Paula and Eustochium Interview: Amy Uelmen: Loving Jesus Even at the Office Bible Study: On Gifts and Service in I Corinthians 12:4-13 Book Review: My Antonia, by Willa Cather Historical Sketch: St. Jerome’s Temper
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