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Feminist Fridays: All Saints Day Has Women Too

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Today is All Saints Day! It is also Feminist Fridays. As a Protestant I use to balk at the idea of Saints. Just a simple reading of the bible makes it clear that everyone who believes in Christ is a saint. What is it with saying some people are saints and others aren’t. Just another example of Catholic foolery.

Yet, as I grew up in my faith, I began to realize what I had on my hands was not a theological problem but a semantical one. Certainly there is a word to call all Christians. A word that acknowledges that everyone who has faith in Jesus is a part of the same people of God. In the evangelical world we us the word “saint.” But throughout Church History the word “saint” has functioned another way. Other words have been used to communicate that all who believe are saved, redeemed etc. (i.e. elect) , but the word “Saint” has been used to refer to those people whose lives have set such an example of what the Christian faith and practice should be that they are revered, honored, and imitated. This are people of extraordinary saintliness who should serves as examples for our lives. We should have a word for those types of individuals. That word happens to be “Saint.”

Today is also Feminist Fridays! Each week we write on issues of biblical theology, Christian faith, and ethics related to feminism. And given the overlap of All Saints Day and Feminist Friday what better way to celebrate than to put a spotlight on those women throughout Church History who have been counted as saints, who displayed “heroic sanctity, whose deeds were recalled with gratitude by later generations” [1]. Woman have been recognized as saints from the earliest points in the history of the church. Despite, and even in the face of, patriarchy, misogyny, and abuse, woman have still been remembered throughout Christian History not only for their devotion the Christ but for their work in caring for the needy, feeding the poor, bringing justice to the oppressed, establishing religious institutions, leading with the heart and mind of Christ, and writing great works of mysticism, spirituality, and theology. Here are Just four who have been remembered as such throughout the Church History:

Perpetua — 3nd Century AD

Perpetua - perpetuaVibia Perpetua was a 22 year old widow and mother from Carthage who was in catechism preparing for baptism. The decree from Emperor Septimius Severus at the beginning of the third century that all people must make sacrifices to the divinity of the emperor lead to her and her companions arrest since as Christians confessing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ there was no way they could comply with the decree.

Imprisoned in miserable conditions Perpetua experienced visions, preserved for us in The Passion of St. Perpetua, St. Felicitas, and their Companions, in which she saw herself as a warrior battling the Devil and defeating him to win entrance to the gate of life.  The account states, “And I awoke, understanding that I should fight, not with beasts, but with the Devil.” She refused any entries on her behalf, even that of her aged father, saying,  “I am a Christian.”

On March 7, 203 , Perpetua and her companions were sent into the arena to face a leopard, a boar, and a savage cow. As they were attacked she cried to her companions, “Stand fast in the faith and love one another. And do not let what we suffer be a stumbling block to you.” Eventually Perpetua and her companions were all put to death by a stroke of a sword through the throat. The first stroke from the solider failing to kill her, Perpetua herself guided the sword, the report of her death concluding, “Perhaps so great a woman, feared by the unclean spirit, could not have been killed unless she so willed it.” [1]

O God the King of saints, you strengthened your servants Perpetua and Felicitas and their companions to make a good confession, staunchly resisting, for the cause of Christ, the claims of human affection, and encouraging one another in their time of trial: Grant that we who cherish their blessed memory may share their pure and steadfast faith, and win with them the palm of victory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Clare of Assisi — 11th Century

Clare of AssisiOne of the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Clare at age eighteen heard Francis’ sermon at the first gathering of the Franciscan order. She begged Francis to take her into his order, laying her jewelry and expensive outer garments at the altar as an offering. Francis could not refuse. First he placed her in a Benedictine convent. When this was discovered many of Clare’s friends and relatives came to persuade her to return. She refused saying she would be the Bride of Christ alone.

Soon she was moved to a poor dwelling beside the Church of St. Damian at Assis where she was placed as Mother Superior over several other woman who joined the order which was to be called “Poor Ladies of St. Damian.” They lived an austere life of absolute poverty, begging and caring for the poor and needy with works of mercy. For the next forty years Saint Clare cared for both the needy and her nuns. She was said to have “radiated a spirit of fervor so strong that it kindled those who but heard her voice.”

In 1253 she fell ill for the last time. Around her bed many gathered, even the Pope coming to see her. She exhorted all who came to her, encouraging them to love “holy poverty” and to share what they had with others. During those last days she was heard to say: “Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for he that created you has sanctified you, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be God, for having created me.” [2]

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Clare, may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Julian of Norwich — 12th Century

Julian of NorwichLittle is know of Julian of Norwich, not even her real name.  Her writings, Revelations of Divine
Love, recount the visions she had on her sickbed while deathly ill. Having been expected to die and given the last rites suddenly the pain left her and she experienced fifteen visions of Christ’s passion which filled her with joy and a great desire to know what the Lord was meaning. Her writings explored the theological meaning of her visions. She is perhaps best know for the line in bold below.

“In my folly, before this time I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the onset of sin was not prevented: for then, I thought, all should have been well…

But Jesus… answered with these words and said: ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

These words were said most tenderly, showing no manner of blame to me nor to any who shall be saved.” — Julain of Norwich, Revelation of Divine Love, thirteenth showing

Julian retreated to a small dwelling at the Church of St. Julian (source of the name now given here) where even in her lifetime she was reveared as a mystic and a spiritual counselor to both clergy and laity alike, even being visited by the famous mystic Margery Kempe. Her book, the earliest know english work we have from a woman, is full of the tenderness and beauty of God’s eternal and all -embracing love and showing how God’s charity toward the human race is exhibited in the Passion. Throughout her work she repeatedly refers to Christ as ‘our courteous Lord.’”

Lord God, in your compassion you granted to the Lady Julian many revelations of your nurturing and sustaining love: Move our hearts, like hers, to seek you above allthings, for in giving us yourself you give us all; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Harriet Tubman — 19th Century 

Harriet TubmanRemembered as a abolitionist and suffragist along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Jenks Bloomer, and Sojourner Truth, Harriet Ross Tubman was born a slave on a Maryland Chesapeake Bay plantation. When she was twenty-four Harriet was able to escape to Canada but, unable to forget the suffering of the parents and siblings she left behind. Known as the “Moses of her People,” she worked with the Quakers to make a total of 19 journeys back to Maryland, using the Underground Railroad to free over 300 people and bring them safely to Canada.

In a vision she claims to have seen the Civil War about to take place, believing that she was guided by God through omens, dreams, and warnings, and seeing her struggle against slavery as one commanded by God. She served the Union Army as a cook and nurse as well as working as a spy and scout, once leading a raid of 300 black troops to free 750 slaves, making her the first American woman to lead troops in action.

Later in life  she moved to upstate New York where she opened her home to orphans and needy elderly. Though herself illiterate, she there  founded schools for African American children. She joined with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to fight for women’s rights while at the same time supporting African American woman to establish their own organizations to work for equality, employment, and education.

O God, whose Spirit guides us into all truth and makes us free: Strengthen and sustain us as you did your servants Elizabeth, Amelia, Sojourner, and Harriet. Give us vision and courage to stand against oppression and injustice and all that works against the glorious liberty to which you call all your children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

All The Saints

Each of these women led the way in Christian life and faith. They lived faithfully, some dying for their faith, they stood for justice, sometimes at the risk of great personal loss, they loved God deeply and fervently and invited others to do the same. They set an example that each of us as Christians can follow, regardless of gender. They are to us Saints to be remembered and whose lives can help give shape, challenge, and courage to our own. As a part of All Saints Day, as we remember all those who have left their mark as a part of the family of God, let us remember these woman and their impact, both in the times in which they lived and in our own lives through the legacy they left behind.

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

____________

[1] Information adapted from and Prayers take from The Proper for the Lesser Feasts and Fasts • 2006

[2] Learn more here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetua

[3] Learn more here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clare_of_Assisi 

[4] Learn more here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_of_Norwich

[5]  Learn more here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Tubman

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Author: Kendall Beachey

I am an aspiring Biblical Studies and Theology student living in Kansas City. My goal is to attend seminary and give myself to Christian teaching and Ministry.

One thought on “Feminist Fridays: All Saints Day Has Women Too

  1. Reblogged this on kingsfordobiriyeboah and commented:
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