“Things Christian Women Hear” is trending on Facebook and Twitter. That’s quite a topic; I want to do a Catholic version. Here are a few of the things that Catholic women hear.
Here’s one. It took place in the same Steubenville secular religious community where I’d been chided for musing that the Virgin Mary was probably traumatized by the death of her Son. I sat down with my coffee cup beside a well-dressed lady I didn’t know well; she smiled invitingly.
“Tell us about yasself, Mary,” she said in a pleasant Bronx accent. “I feel like we don’t know you at awl.”
This is the point at which I always want to ask, like Anne of Green Gables, if I might tell people the things I imagine about myself instead. However, I told the truth.
“Well,” I said, “I live in LaBelle. I’m married. I have one child.”
The woman’s well-groomed eyebrows turned into carets. “ONE!?”
This woman didn’t know me from Eve; for all she knew I’d been married six months. But she was genuinely horror-struck and disappointed that I’d only managed to pop out one child.
Angry exclamations at a perceived lack of fertility, are something Catholic women hear. And we hear it from other Catholics.
In the same group, on another occasion, I was leaning tiredly against a wall in a pair of my stretch pants. I’d only recently announced about the miscarriage and my struggle with mysterious, painful gastric swelling.
A lady from the group smiled dreamily at my swollen tummy. “Baby ready?” she asked.
I was so used to this sort of thing that I didn’t bother to correct her. I’ve had other women smile at my paunch and ask if I was expecting or when I was due, at churches up and downtown. Once, just after the Christmas Mass, a woman molested my belly with both hands and asked if another baby was “on the way” when I was holding my three-month-old infant daughter. A married woman with a big tummy gets used to being treated like a beach ball at a Catholic Mass, at least in this town.
Questions about when their gastritis or their fat is due to be born, are something Catholic women hear. And we hear it from other Catholics.
I brought my daughter to the rollicking, noisy, rock-concert Eucharistic Praise and Worship on campus, where everyone was singing “Holy Spirit You Are Welcome Here.” Rosie ran away from me when my eyes were closed, and it took me some time to catch her.
“She’s being distracting. You need to take her out… now,” said an older woman in a very angry tone.
I left, and neither Rose nor I haven’t been to Eucharistic Praise and Worship since.
This is something Catholic women hear, from other Catholics.
I went to adoration in the Portiuncula chapel on campus, with my daughter in tow; I quietly shushed her when she talked, pulled her back when she tried to bolt, and told her to sit down while Mommy prays a moment. She fidgeted, not silently, but didn’t talk anymore.The man sitting in front of me turned around. “This is a place of quiet and reflection,” he said in a loud whisper. “Did you notice how there are fewer people here now than when you came in? I hope you’ll remember that if you ever come back here again.” And he departed, leaving Rose and me alone with the Lord.
I took my daughter away from that Adoration chapel, and I haven’t brought her back since.
This is something Catholic women hear from other Catholics.
“I hope you don’t vote,” said a theology professor’s wife when she heard I was poor and not a strict economic conservative. She went on to question me nosily about my use of SNAP assistance, because she thought I might be being irresponsible with it.
This is something Catholic women hear.
“I’m very angry that there are families living in this very neighborhood who have food stamps and pay ten dollars for their gas and electric while my husband works hard for his money,” said a pious Catholic neighbor with nine children, deliberately where she knew I’d overhear it.
This is something else Catholic women hear.
I started going to Divine Liturgy across the river in West Virginia, instead of in the parish I live in.
“Welcome to our church,” said a nice old lady.
“Hello, beautiful,” said a nice old man to my daughter as she scampered noisily into the pew.
“Would you like some very special olives? And cheese?” said a woman who’d remembered my gluten allergy, when she caught me gazing wistfully at the doughnuts after church.
“I’ll drive you to Pittsburgh for the Eastern Catholic Formation field trip. I have room.” said someone else who recalled we were poor and had no car.
And then I overheard the pastor chatting with another parishioner, who mentioned how difficult it was to keep her several children quiet during liturgy and how people at other churches were rude to her about that.
“Is difficult for priest sometimes,” said Father in his Ukrainian accent. “Because, is distracting when children are noisy. But still, is very important for children to come to liturgy. Because children are the future of the church.”
Thankfully, blessedly, sometimes these are things Catholic women hear.
I took my daughter to another adoration chapel, in one of the Latin churches here on the Ohio side of the river but not on campus. She asked noisy questions and clacked her Rosary beads; I shushed her and prayed for a moment. Then I told her to “do a reverence” before we left.
Rosie, who had been going to Liturgy at the Byzantine Catholic Church for months now, kissed the foot of the crucifix and did a greater prostration with her head to the carpet.
I turned around nervously and glanced at the older man sitting in the back. He smiled a welcoming smile; he winked at Rose.
Sometimes, it’s what we don’t hear that matters most.
(image via Pixabay)