Circle of Stones

     In her book, Circle of Stones, Woman’s Journey to Herself, Judith Duerk asks women:  How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you?  A place for you to go…a place of women… a place where you were nurtured from an ancient flow sustaining you and steadying you as you sought to become yourself… waiting to be released…A place of women…How might your life be different?

     We experience life uniquely every single day. Jesus experienced life and trusted his experience.   Through the influence of the people in his life, the events in the world around him, Jesus learned what was good and he learned what was not good. He made decisions and choices based on what is good, what is loving.  

     Do not believe something simply because that’s what you were told.  Do not believe because many have said you should.  Do not because it has been some religious rule, or because it had been handed down by some tradition.

     From your lived experience, take what you have seen and learned, hold it up to the light of reason and ask this question: is this good; does this benefit our world and all creation?  If so, then accept it and live up to it.


At best, religion is about human kindness.  Religion should join people together… showing all the beneficial and amazing ways that all are connected. 

         Build a bridge…. Reach out to another person… even though someone’s circumstances may be different than yours… include them… for we are all equally God’s beloved children. 

         In meeting with the Samaritan woman Jesus broke the rules.  Period.  No big deal to us.  But a huge deal at that time, for that culture.  His disciples were not happy about what he was doing:  “Why are you talking with her?”  

     Jesus walked the border places where challenge and trust become the foundation for change.  In communicating with the Samaritan woman, Jesus establishes a relationship.  Through that connection, others came to believe.  They are both from different cultures, different ways of doing life… The woman says: your people worship in that temple… my people believe God is over in this mountain.  Jesus breaks beyond both ways of believing and tells her: God is Spirit and Truth…. The time has come… Real praise isn’t designated by place or denomination or the form of your prayer… true worship is the hearts of believers joined together in Spirit and Truth. 

     A woman I know, a friend, was invited to speak to a group of catholic women. A group called the Columbiettes.  Columbiettes are the wives of —the knights of Columbus.  They were founded in 1949.  If you go to their website, it says that the purpose of the Columbiettes is to instill a steadfast conviction relating to the proper place and function of catholic women.  So, what is the proper place and function of catholic women? 

     My friend is a person of remarkable goodness.  She’s deeply spiritual and loving.  Any group would be blessed to hear her speak.  In her talk with the Columbiettes, she used this gospel, Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  The story raises important questions and makes very clear where Jesus stands on those questions. 

     The talk proved a little too much for the Columbiettes.  One person in the crowd hollered out, “I’ve had enough of this…” and stormed out.  She was the parish secretary and she immediately went to tell “Father.”   During the lunch break, “Father” came over, and, using obscenities, chastised my friend, telling her to stay in line, to remember her place.

     So, what is the proper place and function of catholic women?


In 1990, a movement by the name Call to Action, published a full page statement on Ash Wednesday in the New York Times.  The document endorsed women at all levels of ministry and decision making.  And I quote, “We call upon the church to discard the medieval discipline of mandatory priestly celibacy, and to open the priesthood to women and married men, including resigned priests.” 

     The document called upon lay people to be involved in developing church teaching on human sexuality.  They demanded participation in the selection of new bishops.  There was a call for new forms of liturgy. 

The document was printed in the New York Times with the signatures of 4,500 people… including mine.   It received a lot of media coverage.  I found myself inundated with calls from newspapers and television reporters, asking for my comment about the document. 

     The next day, Delaware’s News Journal ran a front page article about the “Call for Reform” and I was quoted in the piece.   To my surprise, the News Journal pointed out that I was the only priest in the diocese of Wilmington who had signed the document.  I was shocked.   But, what made all the difference, the article stated that a “former priest” George Cora, had signed the document.  I knew George Cora, and knowing that I was standing up with someone like George Cora, I never doubted that what we did was the right thing to do. 

     What’s the proper place and function of women?  This past week, I considered calling my friend who had spoken to the Columbiettes.   I thought about inviting her to join me at mass, at the altar, to prepare the meal of bread and wine.  It would be prophetic for a woman to stand at the altar and offer the prayers of consecration.  I assure you it would not be the first time it has happened.  But, I did not invite her.   I did not want to put her in a position that might endanger her standing within the roman catholic church. 

     Where do we stand as roman catholics? 

     In 1633, the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic church demanded, under the threat of torture, that Galileo recant his teaching that the earth is not the center of the universe. 

     It wasn’t until 1992 that the church admitted it was wrong about Galileo. Did you know that the catholic church did not officially condemn slavery until 1965?  Most people are aware that St. Joan of Arc was burned to death at the stake.  This 19 year old girl was condemned by the Pope, outraged that she had forgotten the bounds of female decency, by putting on the clothing of the male sex.”  It boggles the mind.

         Where do we stand? 

     Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister says we must say NO to everything that is not of God: NO to the abuse and denigration of women.  NO to the rejection of the stranger.  NO to the destruction of humankind for the sake of more wealth, more power, more control for a few.  NO to the culture of death.

     We are called to say YES to equal rights for all.  YES to alleviating suffering and exclusion.  YES to embracing the diversity of peoples and creation.  YES to the God of LIFE and LOVE.

     Where do we stand?

homily August 20, 2020

One response to “Circle of Stones

  1. Oh my…I just had a chance to read this! I didn’t hear this homily. I wish I had. My name was there also… My heart continues to ache concerning these issues of faith and life in the church. During these Advent days, I am trying to find greater peace of heart but it leaves me tired and sometimes disjointed in going about my day. The gift that comes each day is the LOVE from our Creator God and the call to have zeal for what is right and good for all peoples of the earth. It is indeed a daily challenge but I know God walks with us each moment of each day.
    For that, I am grateful. Especially at this Christmastime, I remember all the dear ones who have been part of my life these 80+ years…I have been greatly blessed. Memories of times shared in love and hope flood my being.
    Thank you, Greg.


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