Mary Magdalene and the Preaching of Dominican Women
Hermana Mila Diaz Solano, OP, wrote this for the Summer 2012 issue of JUST Words, the sixth year of a 10-year observance of the 800th jubilee of the Order of Preachers that ends in January 2017. 2012 was dedicated to the theme Dominican Women and Preaching.
We thought it appropriate to share Sister Mila’s words again today, the first annual observance of the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles, declared by Pope Francis. In previous years her feast day was considered a memorial, a lesser celebration according to the church’s liturgical norms.
The commemoration of the 800 year’s foundation of the Order especially this year, dedicated to “Dominican Women and Preaching,” offers us the opportunity to remember how Jesus sent Mary Magdalene, and with her, each of us, as women preachers. It is also a promising time, challenging us to continual fulfillment of this mission. And, of course, it is a time of grace to rejoice in God’s faithfulness and trust in us.
The Risen One Urges: Go!
In her encounter with the Risen One, Mary—the disciple from Magdala—is challenged to begin a journey. She has to move with and toward a clear purpose. This meant taking the risk of being ignored and/or being taken as a foolish woman. It required boldness in overcoming the formalities of the time about witnessing, and called for conquering, once again, her own demons that held her in mourning.
With her, we, as women preachers, are sent over and over again to begin anew with an updated and meaningful mission and vision; to risk our security because of the ministerial choices we make or the stances we take—as bearers of the resurrection experience—in the face of signs of death that surround us; to let go of our comforts; and to liberate ourselves from scruples and formalism that bind our creativity and freedom.
The imperative used by the Gospel writer John highlights continuity and persistence. As in the case of Mary, our first departure may have been eager, exciting, and energetic, but to continue pursuing the goal requires perseverance to deal with the obstacles. Our elder sisters are a living preaching of this.
…To the community!
Mary Magdalene, a member of a community, was sent to her brothers and sisters—to the community. With her, as women preachers, we also are sent to preach from a particular community speaking and acting as community, for love of the community, and on behalf of the community’s growth. We have each other today to challenge us on our journey. Do we let ourselves be moved? Do we allow our sisters and community members in our ministries to shake us up and return us to the path? It is in the community where the Magdalene is called to experience the Risen One from now on. Through the experience of otherness, the embrace of diversity, and teamwork, we are formed as preachers and we experience the New Creation- Resurrection.
The mission of Mary confronted silence. Like her, we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of silence in the face of creation’s suffering. It would be complicity with death.
But what do we have to communicate? Ideas? Concepts? Intellectual brilliance? Above all, we must speak of our deep experience of God in our midst.
As did the Magdalene, so also Catherine of Siena and Rose of Lima made their voices heard. Out of love, they even questioned and denounced the lack of faithfulness of their brothers and sisters when needed.
The Risen One entrusts us: “Dominican Women, go to my brothers and sisters and preach!”
Today, we are moved by our particular way of speaking to God. Our way of speaking of God is made concrete in sustainable living, in the struggle for defending, restoring, and caring for all creation; in the constant giving birth to hope; in nurturing and seasoning the Church with our diversity; in creating spaces for encounter and feast; and in being intentionally pregnant with Resurrection. We must rejoice and celebrate because these gifts are growing in our everyday lives.
The closure of some pulpits did not detain the Word and it cannot stop the Word now. The Risen One entrusts us: “Dominican Women, go to my brothers and sisters and preach!”
Hermana Mila is a doctoral candidate at the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jerusalem, a Dominican institute.