Thursday, November 30, 2017

Research in the Vatican Library

Vatican Library
In the New Year I will be traveling to Rome with students from Saint Mary's College of California on their Jan term pilgrimage "Walking in the Footsteps of the Early Christians."  
In the Vatican Library I will be researching primary source material on some of the women in the early church I have a special interest in, and I'll be touring the catacombs and basilicas where their relics are venerated.  The Vatican Library allows access to three documents per day to scholars with special credentials.  These are the documents and artifacts I am asking to access.  I ask you to pray for divine illumination as I strive to comprehend the lives of these great women and what they mean for us today.
  • Gesù appare alla Maddalena
  • Twelve Women of the New Testament and the Early Church 
  • Epistola di Paolo Apostolo ai santi in Roma (The Letter of the Apostle Paul to the Saints in Rome) 
  • Chiesa di S. Prisca (The Church of St. Prisca) 
  • The Cemetery of St. Priscilla and Recent Discoveries
  • Petro apostolo baptizatur S. Prisca & altera mulier secum (The Baptism of Saint Prisca)
  • La vita di S. Macrina (The Life of Saint Macrina)
  • The monastic life as philosophy in the life of Saint Macrina 
  • Les deux vies de sainte Mélanie La Jeune (The two lives of Saint Melania the Younger) 
  • Lettres à Olympias (Saint John Chrysostum's Letters to Olympias)
  • Vita di Santa Olimpia vedova e diaconessa della chiesa di Costantinopoli (The Life of Saint Olympia)  
  • Sancta Olympias (Saint Olympias) 
  • Les diaconesses (The Deaconesses)
  • Ordinatio Sacerdotalis; Iona, Tara, and Soissons (The Origin of the Royal Anointing Ritual) 
  • Women's Ordination as a Theological Issue: a Study of the Controversy since Inter Insigniores

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Women in Hospitality and Healing

Ancient House Churches

This project contributes to ongoing and current conversations about the formation of women for Christian service. The scope is limited to practices and rituals related to the ministry of hospitality and healing between the birth of Christ and 400 CE.  It identifies the call of women to serve in the early Church, the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit and the characteristic qualities of the women involved.  It is organized two parts that appear in reverse order in this blog.

Part One discusses the custom of hospitality in the Middle East as it relates to the story of Abraham welcoming the three strangers and how that custom has been passed down through Hebrew, Christian and Islamic beliefs.  It explores the roles of Mary of Nazareth, Mary of Magdala, the group of women known as the myrrh-bearers, and women of high standing who accepted the teaching of Jesus and provided for the early Church out of their own resources.  It identifies the plants women used in healing rituals in the Middle East and gives the quotes from the Bible referring to their use.

Part Two explores profiles several women who provided for the first gatherings of Christian converts from their own resources including Phoebe, Lydia and Dorcas, three Greek women who provided financial support for the churches in Corinth, Philippi and Joppa respectively, as well as Priscilla and Aquila, a Jewish couple who played a key role in the development of the church in Rome. Amog others, Olympias, a Christian noblewoman of Greek descent dedicated her life to the church in Antioch; Macrina, a monastic who had a profound influence on the development of the church in Caesarea; and Melania, a monastic who owned grand estates in Iberia, Africa, Numidia, Mauretania and Italy and contributed to the establishment of the early Christian church in Africa.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

When Ministers are Lacking

Mosaic in the Church of Saint Praxedis in Rome.

The Council of Orange 411 CE called for a cease to the practice of ordaining women to the diaconate. Canon 26 says clearly, “Altogether no women deacons are to be ordained, but there is evidence on many funerary inscriptions and later discussion in canon law that the practice women continued both in the West and in the Eastern orthodox churches.  The reason the Council called for a cessation is not given, but it is widely speculated that somehow scandal was caused by the practice.  Whether this was a result of the women's behavior or prejudice is unknown.  Scholars have speculated on both sides of this question, but no evidence supports either conclusion.  Canon 230, § 3 says, “When the necessity of the Church warrants it and when ministers are lacking, lay persons, even if they are not lectors or acolytes, can also supply for certain of their offices, namely, to exercise the ministry of the word, to preside over liturgical prayers, to confer baptism, and to distribute Holy Communion in accord with the prescriptions of law.”  Therefore, although Canon 1024 emphasizes the fact that “Only a baptized male validly receives sacred ordination,” women and other members of the laity could minister in many ways that might have been reserved to the clergy. In the United States due to the shortage of priests particularly to support the many Catholics in hospitals requiring anointing of the sick and last rites, exceptions are regularly being made to provide for what the priests cannot.  The question arises now as to whether there might be a return to ordaining suitable women to provide the sacrament of the sick for those about to undergo surgery or suffering from a debilitating illness, and the sacraments of reconciliation, communion and anointing at the end of life.