In the life of the Church, the contribution made by women comes in many shapes and forms, which become evident and exemplary in the concreteness of living experience. Today, their contribution is able to indicate a path for the Church’s regeneration, and more besides. After having recounted the lives and stories of Samaritan Women and the Prophetic Rebels in previous issues, in the September edition of Women Church World we are taking a journey to explore great spiritual friendships between men and women. These articles demonstrate that common and co-responsible work, as an inclusive “combination”, has always been fruitful in the life of the Church. In fact, it is often precisely these “couples” who have initiated innovative processes.
In this issue of Women Church World, we recount stories that have marked different moments in the millennial history of the Church, and which are characterized by intense and rich relationships. These relationships are expressions of a spiritual love, like that between Clare and Francis, or fraternal as that between Scholastica and Benedict, or absolute like the relationship between Eloisa and Abelard. These stories are also interesting human adventures between distant personalities, like that of the energetic Joan of Chantal, follower and at the same time inspirer of Francis de Sales; or, in more recent times, of the calm and sunny Romana Guarnieri who was converted to Catholicism by the restless and tormented Fr Giuseppe De Luca.
It is important to talk again about these extraordinary friendships in the history of Christianity because, albeit with different accents, and measured by the culture of their time, they are partnerships based on equality. These are testimonies to a different order in relationships, in which there is mutual recognition of the same dignity, appreciated both by hierarchies and by the world at large. Sometimes, in these couples, it is precisely the female leadership role that is most pronounced. For example, the energy with which Armida Barelli supported the projects of Agostino Gemelli, with whom she founded and managed the Catholic University.
These experiences are laboratories. These women and men have worked on a common project, and trusted and valued each other as they did so. In addition, they have made this project available to their church.
Their confrontation gave rise to spiritual and theological insights and comparisons. From the strength of their friendship, a social commitment has sprouted, which was aimed at mankind in the here and now, on earth. What’s more, organisations have sprung up that have helped the Church to change its approach to tackling the scourges of the world. For example, what the two giants of charity in Louise de Marillac and Vincent de Paul achieved.
To talk about this again is important for several reasons. First, because it is a wealth that risks being lost; second, some of these questions are being posed by the Church today; and finally, to the covenant between man and woman “God has entrusted the earth” (Synod for Young People, 13). (DCM)