I have been reading reports that the number of people who left the Catholic Church in recent years is more than 29 million. I expect the numbers in the other established churches reflect the same trend. Mary Malone has a poem that speaks to that.
Her poem is called, “Jumping Sideways”
The numbers of lapsed, I read, are leaping ahead;
Year by year, “those who have fallen away” grow in numbers.
Churchmen – always the men—bewail the faithless ones.
Crisis time has come:
“If only,” they say, “they knew what they are missing.”
Perhaps, I think, they didn’t lapse.
Perhaps, like me, they just jumped sideways.
Perhaps the cornered, much-defined God of celibate men
no longer suffices for opening hearts and minds,
for questioning spirits and love-drained souls.
Suppose we asked the women:
“What think you of God?
What God breaks and heals your woman’s heart?
What woman-faced God
peers into depths of woman-being
and awakens echoes of integrity,
echoes of prayer that ring with truth?”
What if, I wondered,
what if women trod the forgotten paths?
What if the old, old voices
were raised again,
voices raised to a new face of God
by an old race of women?
What if the Woman-God of Woman-Christians mattered?
What if we proclaimed again:
The Woman-Spirit God of Hildegarde
and her Lady-Wisdom God,
who breathed God-knowledge into the sisters at Bingen?
The Mother God of Julian,
who is courteous and homely and knows no anger?
The God who is Lady-Love,
beloved of Marguerite (Porete)
who led her on beyond the human-divine divide?
The laughing God of Hadewijch,
whose laughter makes no appearance
in all the tomes of learned men?
The dancing God of Mechtilde,
who laughed and leapt
and invited all to follow?
The sweet-smelling God of Gertrude,
whose perfume penetrated every corner of life?
The friendly God of Catherine,
who made friendship the core of a well—lived life?
The poor God of Clare,
who wished for nothing but to share this poverty?
The heartbroken God of Christina,
who healed the scars of cruelty?
The strong-voiced woman God of Hrotsvit,
who urged her to move
beyond the ancient silencing of women?
And the fierce God of Perpetua,
who looked into the face of violent death
and recognized a life beyond life?
And the human-divine face of Catherine’s God,
who mirrored her Self to herself
in the mystery of shared human-divine life?
This is not falling away.
This is leaping for joy.
“Jumping Sideways” comes from Mary Malone’s book: Praying with the Women Mystics (Columba Press, Ireland, 2006)
To order: firstname.lastname@example.org
How would you answer Mary Malone’s questions:
“What think you of God? What God breaks and heals your woman’s heart? “