Book Reflection: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

So, I just finished reading this great book entitled Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson.  The basic (very basic) plot – It is about a young girl named Jeanette, who is adopted by evangelists who want her to become a missionary.  As Jeanette realizes her sexuality as a lesbian, her mother’s friends subject her to exorcisms.  

The richness of this book’s exploration of religion and love is overwhelming.  I have to admit that it took me a while to get into but once I did I could not put it down.  I want to share with you two quotes that speak poignantly to my faith as a Catholic woman and to my dedication to the reform of the Catholic Church.  Perhaps they will resonate with you as well.

“It is not possible to change anything until you understand the substance you wish to change.  Of course people mutilate and modify, but these are fallen powers, and to change something you do not understand is the true nature of evil.”

 I think this is a (if not the) great strength of the Church reform movement.  The leaders of the movement – generally speaking – know their stuff backwards and forwards.  They understand Canon Law and Church doctrine as well, if not better, than some leaders of the patriarchal Church.  However, this understanding does not just include mind-knowledge, it also includes heart-knowledge – being able to feel and know in your heart the depth of the Church. 

 As young people, I believe we are called to obtain this intimate understanding of the Church so that we can create substantive, long-term change in our Church.  I think the number of young adult Catholics – women and men – in Divinity schools, faith-sharing communities, and other settings show that we want to understand, to know in our minds and hearts the Church that we love so much. The Church we love enough to want to change. 

“I could have been a priest instead of a prophet.  The priest has a book with the words set out.  Old words, known words, words of power.  Words that are always on the surface.  Words for every occasion.  The words work.  They do what they’re supposed to do; comfort and discipline.  The prophet has no book.  The prophet is a voice that cries in the wilderness, full of sounds that do not always set into meaning.  The prophets cry out because they are troubled by demons.”

I am honestly still trying to put into words the reason why this passage pulls me in so deeply.  I know for me it relates to both the debate within the Church reform movement about the reform of the priestly ministry/office and my own calling to ministry.   These questions came up:  Can one be both a priest within the institutional Church and a prophet within the Church reform movement?  Do we need priests to be the keepers of knowledge?  What does it mean to be priest? What does it mean to be a prophet?  Are they different? Should they be? What am I called to be?

I think I will leave you with those thoughts and questions.  I look forward to hearing your reactions.  Oh, and I highly recommend the book!


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About Kate Childs Graham

Kate Braggs has recently completed her graduate studies in Gender and Peacebuilding at the University for Peace in San Jose, Costa Rica. In her graduate studies, she focused on the intersection of gender, sexuality, and religion in a human rights context. Currently, Kate is working as Justice Advocate for a community of women religious. She is also member of the Call to Action Next Generation Leadership Team, the Women's Ordination Conference Board, and a small faithsharing community in the Washington DC metro area.

3 thoughts on “Book Reflection: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

  1. Wow, what a great passage! And so many meaty questions to ponder. But I think a priest is the keeper of Traditions of the Past, while a prophet pushes forward. When I think of prophets, I think of Martin Luther King Jr. — a voice of condemnation and of inspiration, of sins of the past giving way to hope for the future; I think of Jonah — so tormented by God’s Word within him he tried to flee to the ends of the world. But when God has something to say, the prophet is compelled to speak and to make God’s word known.

    That’s just first impressions — lots to chew on here.

  2. Kate!

    First of all, I LOVE that you love “Oranges are Not the Only Fruit,” which is one of my favorites. When you have the time (ha ha, I know), check out another book by the same author, “Written on the Body.” I think it might possibly be even better than “Oranges.”

    Secondly, the second quote you pulled and the questions you ask have given me quite a bit to think about. Do I want to be a prophet, or a priest, or both? I think both are good and necessary ministries … and what does it mean to be a priest without institutional recognition or support? That might be prophetic in its own right. I think there’s a need for the priest and the prophet, together, apart, or integrated in one person. The passing on of knowledge reminds the prophet of her heritage, prophetic witness reminds the priest of what she believes and preaches.

    In the past few years, I’ve come to view my vocation/call/what have you as (romantically) “poet, prophet, priest” – to create, agitate, and serve with love. I only hope I can live up to it!


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