At the close of Vatican II, Pope Paul VI spoke of “women impregnated by the Spirit of the Gospel,” and more recently Pope Francis has called for a “new theology of women.” There are thousands of Catholic lay women discerning how to share their gifts and responding to ministerial calls. In many cases, these women are well-trained and highly educated professionals who bring a wealth of life experience to their work in parishes, diocesan offices, and faith-based non-profit organizations. With this profile of Kate Burke and her ministry, I am launching a series of blog posts which celebrate Catholic lay women’s vocations and profile some of the many women who are enriching the life of church. If you know a woman in ministry that you think should be profiled, please email me.
– Rhonda Miska
Kate Burke – founder of New Lectio Divina ministry (photo: Michael Bailey)
It was a cool, rainy spring evening when I gathered with six other women for a ninety minute session of New Lectio Divina. As we trickled into the church shaking off our umbrellas, Kate Burke, our facilitator, invited us to sit in a circle of folding chairs in a corner of the church sanctuary. She informed us that half the proceeds of her ministry go to a parish in central Haiti, and then invited a few moments of silent prayer to open. Next, she passed around copies of two psalms. Psalm 130 – a psalm of penitence – which begins “out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord.” And psalm 150 – a psalm of praise – with the refrain “praise the Lord!”
Well-conditioned from my scripture courses at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, I had a knee-jerk reaction to begin exegesis on the texts. What was the original Hebrew of some of the key words in each psalm? When were they written, and what do scholars speculate about the author’s intent? What would various commentaries have to say? I felt a twinge of anxiety. How could we spend ninety minutes of fourteen verses of scripture with nothing more than the words on the page?
“All you who are thirsty, come to the water!” – Isaiah 55:1
He is risen! And I am late.
Truth be told, I had a packed weekend that included three egg hunts, a birthday party and a day trip across the state to see the family, so I think I can get a dispensation for writing my Easter reflection on the following Wednesday.
Besides, Easter is supposed to be a 50-day long celebration, and that has taken on a particular meaning for me. It was around Easter of last year that my wife told me that she wanted to part ways. As I wrote in the aftermath of that, it was the joy of the resurrection that was sustaining me.
A year later, I believe that I am through the worst of it. I still have my house, my kids (albeit for less time) and my faith. My pastor even asked me to be part of the leadership team for a new divorce support group.
So I am happy to say that the Resurrection remains a focal point for me. I feel the Spirit when the lights turn on at the vigil mass as we sing “Alleluia!” for the first time in a month and a half. I move forward without knowing what lies ahead, but with the knowledge that the Jesus who defeated death itself will carry me through whatever comes my way.
“Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.” – John 13:12-16
You know what I love about the Holy Thursday mass readings? This is the only time that all three readings describe three unique events that are central to our Catholic faith.
I am the resurrection and the life: whoever believes in me, though he should die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die.” – John 11:25-26
I am writing this in a state of sin.
Sin is death. I might not get struck by a lightning bolt for it; that would be an easy way out. No, sin has the twisted purpose of destroying me from within. Sin makes me crave more sin, creating a vicious cycle of dependence and despair. My lusts, my cravings, my greedy acquisitions, my self-centered acts, they create no sense of fulfillment. Instead, there is emptiness. And I seek to fill that emptiness with more of the stuff that emptied me in the first place.
One of my go-to movies when I need a tear-jerker is A Family Thing, a 1996 tale in which Robert Duvall plays Earl Pilcher, an Arkansas good ole’ boy whose mother pens a deathbed confessional letter telling him that she is not his real mother. What’s more, Earl learns that biological mother, Willa Mae, who died giving birth to him, was black, and he also has a black half-brother in Chicago. Earl reluctantly travels to meet that brother, Ray Murdock, played by James Earl Jones. Embittered by the loss of his mother so many years before, on top of being a black man who had escaped from the segregated South, Ray is not too thrilled about the news, nor is he willing to have a relationship with Earl.
Irma P. Hall provides the prophetic voice in this film as Aunt T., a feisty old blind woman who is the sister of Earl and Ray’s mother. As Ray and his son Virgil want nothing more than to send Earl back to Arkansas, Aunt T. pointedly insists that both men accept Earl into the family, skin color be damned. Before her climactic recollection of Earl’s birth, Aunt T. takes on racism with a simple yet memorable line:
“I don’t know how he look, I can’t see him like you can, and I don’t need to. I don’t have the blessing of being able to separate people by looking at them any more.”
How many of you have faced a decision about moving to a far-off place or to a major career change? In today’s world of expansive communication and transportation, few of us can answer “no” to that question. But the fact that it is now easier to uproot oneself does not make the decision to do so any easier.