As I sat in my grandma’s kitchen over a game of cards, she and I talked about various issues of prudence and pleasantries, her favorite topics. Inevitably the subject of Catholicism came up and my grandma, the good dutiful convert she is, always wants to know the “right” answer to all things Catholic. I had just finished my Master of Divinity degree and I was thrilled to think she might be accepting me as an authority on such issues! So, although I don’t remember the question, I knew the answer and told it to her. Then she said, “Well, I’ll have to ask my priest about that”. UGHGH!!! I wanted to shout at her and get on my high horse to tell her I was right and my education was more current than her priest’s anyhow!
I struggled for a few years with thinking I was not being accepted as an ‘authority’ in my ministry work because I was not ordained, even though I had the education, had extra training in hospital chaplaincy, and gosh darnitt, I knew my stuff. This was not a power struggle for me, as many opponents to women’s ordination point out. It was about being able to share the skills and gifts God had given me for the people of God in the way God wanted me to! I thought I needed a ‘label’ to make me qualified in other’s eyes.
Then I began my position in a hospital with a great reputation around the world for heart care. Because of that, many people were far from home with often very complicated and scary health issues. So, chaplains were widely utilized and I felt very fulfilled. I felt like a pastor.
It helped me to see that it was me who needed to recognize my authority. I had been fighting for people to recognize in me what I needed to recognize in myself. I had to proceed from there with confidence in hand; confidence that I had skills, could help people in need, and was (am) a vessel of the Holy Spirit. Rather than give me a big head, it gave me the strength to pull my light out from under the bushel basket. This is the flip side to humility as it’s not always about a big ego. Sometimes it is about God urging you to recognize the dignity and gifts you have as a child of God. “….not playing small…” as Marianne Williamson reminds us of in “Our Deepest Fear”.
I began to take on the confidence to do my job without pause, to minister without hesitancy. And for this I am very thankful. It has meant the world to me in terms of my work but also, the rest of my life as a young person coming into her own. My work has been my salvation (don’t read into that, I don’t mean literally). As a daughter once told me about her experience when her father was dying under Hospice care, “I didn’t know I’d need Hospice as much as he did”. Thanks be to God, my coworkers, patients and families who have allowed me to search these hospital halls for the healing graces left by God for me to find.