For the past two weeks, we have heard readings, unique to John’s Gospel, that focus on unnamed people whose initial encounters with Jesus lead them to believe in him. This Sunday, however, John records the faithfulness of Jesus’ friends, Martha and Mary, whose brother Lazarus has recently died. Interpreters often focus on the raising of Lazarus and its obvious parallels to Jesus’ resurrection. But Martha and Mary are at the center of this story. They provide us with another biblical example of women as preachers and steadfast believers in Christ.
The sisters Martha and Mary are friends of Jesus who believe that he is the Messiah. In the next chapter, it is Mary who anoints Jesus with fragrant, expensive oil in preparation for his burial (Jn 12:1-8). When their brother becomes ill, Martha and Mary appeal to Jesus, trusting that he has the power to heal. Jesus is unresponsive because he knows that Lazarus’s death will be “for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (Jn 11:4). Raising Lazarus from the dead is the culmination of the powerful signs Jesus performs in the Gospel of John.
The tension between fasting and dieting in a culture that judges women’s bodies
When Lent arrives each year, I find myself in conversations about fasting with other Catholic women. We exchange plans for our seasonal food abstinence — small meals and no meat on Fridays, often accompanied by a fast from sweets, or alcohol, or snacking between meals.
Then, inevitably, someone voices what many of us have privately considered: “Hopefully this will help me lose another few pounds.”
Such admissions are often accompanied by some self-deprecating acknowledgement that weight loss is not supposed to be the goal of our seasonal penance. Nevertheless, sympathetic nods and similar confessions arise in response. Year after year, these conversations evince a tension between our perceptions of what fasting ought to be and our experience of it as Catholic women in the contemporary United States.
These conversations inspired my search for resources aimed at helping Catholic women fast in a setting where we face relentless pressures to conform to society’s young, white, able-bodied, effortless, slender ideal.
Why Lent can be a dangerous time when you’re recovering from an eating disorder
It took me a long time to believe that God was not disappointed with my body. It took me even longer to learn that Ash Wednesday was not my yearly diet launch date, that Lent was not a time for me to give all my food-related desires to God and come out the other end a better person, slimmer and with more self-discipline.
Unfortunately, Lent is the time of year where my Catholic faith threatens to derail my hard-fought healing—a years-long process of learning to accept my large body and to realign my relationship with food amid an eating disorder diagnosis. The whole “give up sugar and lose weight during Lent” impulse? That is the impulse of diet culture, and it is a problem when it surreptitiously slides into our churches unchecked.
Diet culture is the miasma of social expectations that to be considered “good,” a body must be trim and healthy. It is a message that saturates the cultural fabric, and no matter where I go, I witness its demands—in commercials, in online interactions, in the harsh whisper of my inner critic—that my very large body is a disappointment to God and that I need to change it. I am not even safe in church.
Pope Francis on Friday marked International Women’s Day, stressing the “irreplaceable contribution of women in building a world that can be a home for all,” through their efforts toward peace and love. “Women make the world beautiful, they protect it and keep it alive.” “They bring the grace of renewal, the embrace of inclusion, and the courage to give of oneself,” he told some 40 representatives of the American Jewish Committee who met him in the Vatican.
Meet Jesus in prayer. Prayer lifts us up and transforms our lives and the lives of those we love. This beautiful prayer book is the perfect guide for women of all ages who want to deepen their personal relationship with the Lord. Through traditional and contemporary prayers, women will engage in conversation with a loving and compassionate God about their lives, their families, and the cares of their hearts.
A beautiful resource. Beautifully designed and easy to use, this book is an ideal resource for prayer each day. The selections bring together the bounty of favorite traditional prayers of the Church with original prayers that will provide inspiration and strength. Organized around the seasons of a woman’s life and her spiritual journey, it will enable all women of every age and at every stage of life to experience God’s deep love for them and the gift of his grace for each day.
About the Author
Agnes M. Kovacs, a native of Hungary, has lived in the United States for thirty years. She is a daughter, sister, aunt, wife, mother, and grandmother who cherishes the relationships with her large, extended family spanning multiple continents. Agnes currently serves as director of continuing formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology.
A diverse crowd — including Mercy Academy seniors — who packed a theater inside the Kentucky Center for the Arts April 25heard from Dr. Christopher Pramuk that reclaiming the “feminine divine” would celebrate the fullness of God in all things.
Pramuk, aprofessor of theology and spirituality at Xavier University in Cincinnati, was a speaker at the 23rd annual Festival of Faiths, which took place April 24-28 at the Kentucky Center for the Arts in downtown Louisville. This year’s theme was “Sacred Insight: Feminine Wisdom.”
Pramuk was one of several speakers at a session called “One, Not Two: Sacred Wholeness.” The speakers discussed how balancing the “complementary feminine and masculine aspects of divine wisdom” can lead to a better understanding of the interdependence of all things.