Holy Women & Everyday Hero Priests -UPDATE

“The Church gives thanks for all the manifestations of the feminine genius which have appeared in the course of history, in the midst of all peoples and nations; she gives thanks for all the charisms that the Holy Spirit distributes to women in the history of the People of God, for all the victories which she owes to their faith, hope, and charity: she gives thanks for all the fruits of feminine holiness (n. 31).”—
Blessed Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem

Exciting news! The wonderful series of lessons on holy women of the church, which Pope Benedict gave last year at his weekly audiences, have arrived in book form, entitled simply, Holy Women!

Isn’t the cover beautiful? I can’t wait to get my hands on it! It was a great (and deeply humbling) joy to be present at the second part of his discussion on Hildegard of Bingen (part I here):

The popularity that surrounded Hildegard impelled many people to seek her advice. It is for this reason that we have so many of her letters at our disposal. Many male and female monastic communities turned to her, as well as Bishops and Abbots. And many of her answers still apply for us. For instance, Hildegard wrote these words to a community of women religious: “The spiritual life must be tended with great dedication. At first the effort is burdensome because it demands the renunciation of caprices of the pleasures of the flesh and of other such things. But if she lets herself be enthralled by holiness a holy soul will find even contempt for the world sweet and lovable. All that is needed is to take care that the soul does not shrivel”.

This book is a terrific companion to our holy father’s lessons on Great Teachers, which I enthused over here.

Beautiful, beautiful books! I know e-books are outselling hard copies, but I will never be able to give up books. Really, how can one read a book like this one without holding it in the hand, glorying in its artwork, peering into its marginalia and — yes — taking a big sniff of it?

Cleaning out my office this weekend, I noticed that my bookshelf has a lot of Benedict in it, and other great teachers, too, like G.K. Chesterton, Flannery O’ Connor, St. Augustine, St. Philip Neri, Mother Angelica — our faith is so very rich in teachers, both past and present! I was sad to read a comment in this post from someone wondering, “. . .where are we going to get that good preaching now that Corapi’s done?”

You can’t make a better start than with our good Pope Benedict XVI, who writes and preaches incessantly, and also with the classic teachers from down the ages; and you can get a lot of their material in free downloads, to build a fine Catholic library on the cheap.

And let’s not forget — as another commenter answered in that thread: “Frs. William Casey, Wade Menezes, Frank Pavone, John Riccardo, Robert Barron…” yeah, I’d add Fr. Dwight and all those lay preachers who hang with Scott Hahn.

There are plenty of great Catholic teachers around — some of them don’t even draw much attention to themselves, they just stay on message. Some of them work in your parish. Some great Catholic teachers live with you, or around you. Some of them are female, and teaching with the witness of their lives.

A nun friend of mine wrote to me recently: “People do not realize how much they have been formed by the media and the expectation that “True” Catholicism is to be “successful” and look good! I’m very, very leery of charismatic priests or teachers…”

I think there is some truth in that. Media — especially television — has gotten us very used to thinking that something is only valuable or worthwhile if it looks good, has high production values and delivers its message in a snazzy, entertaining way. But I always think back to Rumer Godden’s wonderful and instructive novel, In This House of Brede, in which a novice mistress tells her newbies:

“We don’t put much faith in ecstasies, here . . . the nun you see rapt away in church isn’t likely to be the holiest. The holiest one is probably the one you would never notice, because she is simply doing her duty.”

In my parish, we are very fortunate to have priests who bring the gospel every week, in their preaching — which may not always be “inspired” but is always true — in their reverent celebration of the mass, and in all of their encounters with the faithful. They’re by no means glamorous; they rarely make you want to spontaneously applaud their homilies (although that did happen, once). They’re just faithful men living out their callings, doing their duty, in season in out, when they’re sick and when they’re well — conferring the sacraments, leading Benediction, meeting with the grieving, or the joyful to plan a liturgy, anointing the sick, giving spiritual guidance, walking the outside parameter of the church in endless loops while saying a rosary (“I’m walking to Jerusalem!” one of them once greeted me). Nothing special or fascinating about these fellows.

They’re just everyday heroes, doing their duty, kind of like another great teacher, St. John Vianney.

For those who like to think in terms of troops and soldiers, these unremarkable, faithful servants are the guys — they’re on the front lines, every day, doing their duty, standing a watch, taking a lot of abuse from haters and know-nothings, and from some in their own congregations who don’t understand why they can’t be better, smarter, more charismatic. They suffer for the sins of the church; they pay for their otherness with a measure of loneliness and misunderstanding. They hardly ever get invited to supper, anywhere, and their intentions almost never get prayed for, because most of us are too busy either criticizing them or bringing our troubles to them.

Yet they keep at it, every single day: a life lived in service to the sacraments, in service to the sheep.

And we don’t thank them, enough.

Luckily for us, they don’t take on that duty in order to be thanked. Or even noticed, by anyone but God.

Fr. Dwight has more on priests

Deacon Greg on some even less obvious hero priests

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Gadsden

    Thank you! As a busy work-a-day Catholic, it was easy to DVR Corapi and watch him during free moments or listen to his tapes in the car and get clear, concise, understandable Catholic wisdom and advice. His strong voice and clear message effectively cut through the noise of the world for me and made an impression on me.

    I’ve just finished Benedict’s first book on Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, but it took me a while to get through it. I will investigate the sources you noted in this column. It might take a more time and effort to find and expose myself to some of it, but it is worth it.

  • Dan R

    Elizabeth, thank you for citing me in the body of this post. I’m humbled!

    I used to be an evangelical Protestant, and feared the loss of great preaching when I decided to investigate Catholicism. I started attending my current parish in 2004, about 2 years before my confirmation, and late that year, Fr. William Casey led a parish mission and celebrated several Masses for us that weekend. In my less-than-humble opinion, he’s one of the finest preachers in the Church today.

    Gadsden, do you have access to iTunes? If so, subscribe to Fr. John Riccardo’s podcasts. They’re amazing in the breadth and depth of materials covered. I’ve met him once or twice and he’s an amazing priest who pours everything of himself into his ministry. I hope you appreciate him as much as I do!

  • Gadsden

    Dan R – I do have access to Itunes and will check out Fr. John Riccardo’s podcasts. Thanks for the recommendations you’ve made in various posts on this blog!

    I don’t feel scammed by Corapi because I feel I got what I paid for. He did not solicit donations. People purchased his materials of their own free will because they liked the content. I presumed he used the proceeds to fund his ministry, pay taxes, pay health and legal bills, and donate to worthy causes. I don’t resent him having a ranch in Montana, a motorcycle, a nice car, etc.

    Father Corapi was never a drain on the church because his ministry was self funding. In fact I expect he had a positive financial impact on the church because in my case, he inspired me to be more generous with my contributions with his preaching about the critical importance of helping the poor.

    I still like the content and will still listen to the talks. We are all sinners, and I don’t fault Corapi for being a sinner, but I do expect him to own up to whatever the truth is, and repent and do penance if appropriate.

    With Father Corapi silenced, during this next presidential election season other Catholic leaders are going to need to speak more loudly to Catholics who think it is OK to vote for a pro-abortion president, and who think that big government confiscating wealth and redistributing it to people who did not earn it is a grand thing. Corapi was not afraid to do so because he had no tax exempt status to lose, and it is not inconceivable that progressive Catholic leaders and politicians were eager to find a way to shut him up. Corapi often compared politicans handing out free money to drug dealers who were getting people hooked and making them dependent, and destroying their hope and dignity. I want to hear more Catholic leaders saying those important things and preaching against the expansion of the welfare state.

  • jkm

    Oh, Hildegard! “If she lets herself be enthralled by holiness . . .” Woman or man, cloistered or in the world, clergy or lay—to what else but holiness should we ever allow ourselves the surrender of will that is thralldom? Excellent and most timely reminder!

    And a seconding cheer for the look and feel and smell and weight of books, and the sacrificial offering of time it takes to write, produce, and read them! Again, no knock on the digital epistles; different gifts, one Spirit on whose breath the best of them are lifted like Hildegard’s feather.

  • Chad Toney

    Some of my favorite homilies available online are the tempered and intellectual reflections of the “Chicago Monks” http://www.chicagomonk.org/podcast.xml

  • SMC

    OK, OK, I know I shouldn’t have noticed this but I would hope that Holy Women be also considered as Great Teachers and Great Teachers considered Holy Men!

  • SMC

    I love the cover because St. Gertrude is my favorite woman saint!

  • SMC

    And St. Dominic is my favorite because he is my spiritual father.

    So the covers are great but the titles could have been better balanced.

  • Fr. Bryan Brooks

    Thank you for the post, especially the words concerning priests in “terms of troops and soldiers”. As a diocesean priest of 18 years I have learned, at times painfully, the truth of these words and the need “to keep at it everyday”. I will save and share them with my brother priests.

    May God continue to bless you in this good work.

  • http://Www.feminismthecatholicfword.blogspot.com Christine Dalessio

    God bless Benedict for putting his proverbial money where the Church’s mouth is, and getting the words out about the holiness of women of genius throughout our history… Thankful to know that the addition to docs like Mulieris Dignitatum and Christifidelis Laici are being followed with accessible examples and hope for all women aspiring to become who God intends…

  • logmion

    Has The Rock been negligent, breached its duty of care or committed crimes against god? then tell us your truthful stories of abuse and neglect and your views.

    At C.1:Q.96, Nostradamus foretells of an iconoclastic prophet, using refined language to continually educate, who is raised in the Last Days.

    Logmion is here and says “Bring Back Petrus Romanus”

    Facebook Logmion Pilon

  • Ellen AAR

    I live about 12 miles from the monastery where Father Bill Casey and Father Wade Menenzes live. The Fathers of Mercy emphasize good preaching and some of them are truly excellent. I really am blessed to be able to hear them.

  • http://fkclinic.blogspot.com tioedong

    so to be holy one has to wear a 13th century costume and look prayerful?

    And a shiny clean Jesus looking as if he never touched anything dirty…

    Sorry, I prefer the pictures in Joey Velasco’s paintings to see what would Jesus do…

    [I don't know that anyone ever said it had to be an "either/or" -- there's room in the world for all kinds of good art and artistic interpretations. The only one placing limits on what's good is you - admin]