Remembering Phoebe?


It’s been almost a year ago now that I got an alert on my phone: “This is an automatic reminder.  We are still missing your preaching for theWord for 03 Sept 2022, which is in about 3 days in New Zealand.”   Any of you out there who also preach for this international Dominican website have probably gotten one of these messages at some point in time.  Alas, I am probably someone who has gotten them more than others.  I can tend to run close to deadlines.  But this message left me befuddled.  Had I signed up to preach for September 3rd?  Clearly, I had.  I ordinarily sign up for dates months in advance.  But why? I looked at the readings and they were rather uninspiring.  Usually I sign up for days when I feel some sort of connection to the scripture of the day.  That could not have been the case here.  Maybe it was because it was the feast of Gregory the Great?  I have no great devotion to Gregory but I did write a chapter on him in Redeeming Administration.  Yes, I figured, that must have been it.  I must have signed up to preach on September 3rd because I was wanting to give due attention to an administrator’s journey.  (We don’t get lots of attention on the church calendar, you know.)

So I did post a reflection for September 3rd… about ten minutes before the people in New Zealand woke up.  It is a decent reflection, I think.  A little depressing, but I’d still stand by it.  A couple months later, however, I was on a phone call with Casey Stanton of the Discerning Deacons project.  “In 2023,” she said, “St. Phoebe’s Day falls on a Sunday, so we are trying to see if we can get more congregations talking about Phoebe this coming September 3rd.”

Dang.  That was why I had signed up for September 3rd.  I had wanted to be part of this larger effort to get St. Phoebe on peoples’ radars…. And even I had forgotten about her.  You know it is hard to be a woman deacon when even those who support an organization dedicated to honoring your memory forget your special day.

In my defense, the Church has a long history of forgetting Phoebe.  Although she is the only woman explicitly named as a deacon in the Bible, the scripture verses mentioning her (Romans 16: 1-2) are not included anywhere in the lectionary, so even the daily Mass goer would never hear her mentioned.  And although her birthday has been included for longer than anyone can recall in the Roman Martyrology (the list of holy men and women that the Church remembers each day), her celebration gets trumped every year by—yes—none other than Gregory the Great whose feast got moved atop Phoebe’s special day in 1969.

But this year, I am going to do a better job of remembering.  I’ve once again signed up to preach on September 3 for theWord and will give this a second try.  Maybe you’d like to join me in this effort. One of the consistent themes that came forward from all the listening sessions conducted around the globe in 2021 as part of the Synod on Synodality was the greater participation of women in leadership roles within the Church.  Pope Francis has explicitly asked that the Church enter into discernment around the restoration of women in the diaconate.  When the Synod convenes this coming October in Rome, these questions will very much be part of the discussion.   It’s important that we do whatever we can do right now to pray for this gathering and be part of this discernment.  Here are a wide variety of resources you can use in your own parish / school / family to remember St. Phoebe Day this year better than I did last year!

What else have I been up to?

  • I’ve continued to spend lots of time up in the air with Delta--including one flight earlier this month that had me flying to Atlanta, GA from Louisville, KY via Memphis, KY and Jackson, MS and an extra stop for fuel in Tallahassee, FL.  If you board what should be a 45 minute flight and end up landing 6 ½ hours later, you know that you’ve definitely taken “the scenic route” (as my father would call it).  This has allowed me to binge watch all of Chris Voss’ Master Class on negotiation… which was quite good.  Some of this I already knew but he put a new frame on it for me.  Some was brand new learning.
  • Our atrium at St Thomas More in Decatur has started up again for the year and we are hoping to bring some CGS themes into our Children’s Liturgy of the Word as well.  Been using Paula Rush’s site to help us do this.
  • I’m working on a discussion guide for RENEW International about the healing of polarization in our church and country.  Reading this article by Rebecca Bratten Wise last week was especially helpful to me, as I think she hits the nail on the head as to why this is such a tough, tough issue to work through.  Its not just about learning to talk with one another better.
  • Getting ready to renew the final proofs on Redeeming Power.  We’ve got a book cover now, which I love.  More on this shortly!