Church Needs ‘Wednesday Women’ Every Day
A few weeks ago I hosted at my house a remarkable group who call themselves “Wednesday Women.” A couple dozen strong, these are impressive women, all professional, well-educated, leaders in the community. Every Wednesday morning they gather at their parish for prayer and Bible study. Each is eager to deepen her own faith, and to pass it on to others—especially their children. And, here’s what really struck me, they make a promise to say something positive about their Catholic faith every day!
The promise, they tell me, is a tough one to keep because, they go on, everywhere around them they find antagonism toward the Church. Their friends and colleagues express disbelief when they hear these “Wednesday Women” speak well of the Church! “You can’t really believe that!” is the common reply. “Haven’t you heard? The Church is out of it, corrupt, riddled with oppressive and unenlightened viewpoints. People are leaving in droves! Get with it!”
Yet, these women persist in their faith. Don’t get me wrong: they, too, admit occasional impatience and frustration with the Church; they, too, are aware of her flaws; they, too, find themselves at times wondering about and questioning certain teachings. But, when tempted to “join the crowd” and walk away from the Church, they find themselves echoing St. Peter, “Where else shall I go?”
These women are an inspiration to me. They are what Pope Emeritus Benedict called a “creative minority,” as they swim against the current. They hear all around them variations of the snobby remark by the British novelist (and, you guessed it, “former” Catholic) Hilary Mantel, “Nowadays the Catholic Church is not an institution for respectable people.” And they discover that a society which brags about its “tolerance” has little of it for faithful Catholics.
Their children watch TV or go to the movies and see the Church caricatured and snickered at, priests presented as perverts, nuns as sadists, and sincere, practicing Catholics as hypocrites and idiots. These women are told that the Church is “waging a war” on them. They read the local newspaper where most of the editorial columnists were “raised Catholics” but have now “moved on and have shed the shackles.” They are familiar with the new genre in opinion journalism, where “liberated Catholics” answer the question, “Why am I still a Catholic?” with the all too familiar reply, (as summarized so well by Michael Garvey, Notre Dame Magazine, winter 2014): “I know it’s a bit eccentric of me, but, as unfair, unfeeling and unloving as the Catholic Church has been to me and those I love, wisdom, generosity, and courage enable me to endure its numerous shortcomings as I await the day the Church can accommodate these virtues of mine.” How enlightened of them to bless us with their continued membership in this Church!
Not these women. They agree with Pope Francis, “Christ without His Church is impossible.” They love the Church, warts and all. Like most people we love, the Church can test them, try them, and let them down. True, but these women acknowledge that’s because the Church is made up of people like them: sinners.
With Henri de Lubac they whisper, “What would I know of Him [Jesus] without her [the Church]?”
They have become used to snide remarks from the “used-to-be,” the “ex,” the “former,” the “was raised but now know better” Catholics, but they don’t take the bait. Instead, they smile and reply with a gentle, upbeat, positive remark about the Church they love. And they are met with disbelief, a look of pity or condescension…or—occasionally, which makes it all worthwhile—a look of interest or curiosity that might lead to a worthwhile conversation and a gentle invitation to “come back home.”
We need more “Wednesday Women” and men: and we need them on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday as well.