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The intimate-spiritual journal of a Spanish journalist

Then I discovered that ‘la Chiesa’ is “il Chiesa”

 Poi ho scoperto che...  la Chiesa è “il” Chiesa   DCM-003
02 March 2024

It was Mother Isabel’s idea. She picked up the phone and called me, “Why don’t you come spend an afternoon with us and tell us what you do in Vida Nueva?” Said and done. I went there and return there often since. This was the house’s refectory, which I had seen so many times from a distance from the San Jose schoolyard. Several decades after leaving my student uniform behind, I would sit at the table with those nuns who had taught me how to pray, to read, and to do addition. In addition, even sew! I belong to the 1980s generation. Madrid’s movida was filling Spain’s TV sets with color, staggeringly consolidating democracy and the beginning of when we could sense equality in its streets. The Catholic schools there became co-ed. The friars allowed girls into their classrooms and the nuns opened their doors to us children. This was a full house of religious teachers and lay professors.

They were in charge back then, and now they guard my memories of those chocolate snacks, cookies and the shared confidences. They are my second mothers. They were the ones who showed me the merciful face of Jesus of Nazareth. They made me both feel and ‘be’ Church. In Spanish, this was a Church with the female article “the” and not with the “male one”, as Francis emphasizes. From kindergarten to secondary school. They were consecrated by their proper names: Pilar, Asunción, Ascensión, Carmen, and Esther. These women -Maruchi, Tere, and Ángela-, were lay educators by vocation. I have not forgotten a single name, because each one of them brought out the best in me and transmitted the joy of a Gospel without additives or artificial coloring to me. They prepared me for my First Communion, they made me discover the wings of freedom of conscience with The Jonathan Livingston Seagull. They introduced me to an interiority through the slides of El Bosque de no talar, they opened me to encountering others in my first camps, they awakened my missionary impetus with the Domund [Editor’s note: World Mission Day] piggy banks, they inculcated me with “nonviolence”, every time José Luis Perales played on a Peace Day. They spoke to me about God with their lives. In the style of Father Bienvenu Noailles, a 19th century French priest  who laid the foundations of a family that was prophetic because of its being synodal, in that it was made up of priests, contemplative nuns, women religious of apostolic life, and lay.

The high school required me to change institution, to the Divine Shepherdess, two streets up. In the class, there were five boys and about 30 girls. In charge, once again it was religious sisters. The Calasanzan mothers entered my life to stay there to this day. To straighten out an adolescence of distractions, to trigger vocational questions, to face the following of Christ with maturity, to feel the warmth of the Christian community. Friends and sisters. Alternatively, vice versa. They have accompanied me through every event etched in the story God had dreamt for me. Whether that was my first WYD, my first job, my first love story disappointment, my father’s death, and my crises of faith. Today, I am a Calasanz layman, living Calasanz-happily. “Blessed among all women”, as some of them remind me. Daughters of the Divine Shepherdess and de facto and de jure pastor because of the efforts of a Scolopian, St Faustino Míguez, who propped up a project to redeem little girls from ignorance at the dawn of the 20th century. Consecrated women saving other women. Apostles who seek out and reroute children, youth and women as they did me. Missionary disciples who save the Church from the temptation of patriarchy. The Lord is my shepherd and they my shepherds.

The Calasanzas and the Holy Family of Bordeaux are the Church that I experience and have made my life. And with them, the Hospitallers of Jesus Nazarene, the Daughters of Charity, the Servants of St Joseph, the Daughters of Jesus, the Crusader missionaries, the laywomen of Christians without Borders, the women of Brotes de Olivo, the voices of Ain Karem. A Church in which they have the word and wear the pants.

Therefore, when, as a young man, I came across the diocesan context one day, I was shocked to discover parish dynamics and episcopal structures where those who had shown me Jesus, had no voice. Those that bet on a Church in the peripheries were suspected of confabulating with strange anticlericalism.  Those who had cast aside their robes were accused of “decaffeinating” their vows. And I, who had grown up in the light of dedicated and courageous women who kept the books of a business but also cured your blisters on the Camino de Santiago, found that they were relegated to the last pews. They were cast aside because of a misinterpretation of what ecclesial citizenship should be. Even today, this still displaces me. The first ones to believe in the Risen One, who never denied Him, are barely considered grown up, when by the Holy Spirit they have a voice and a vow, like everyone else, since Pentecost.

My name is José. I studied in the San José school. I entrust myself to the Bridegroom of Mary. He who could see, he who can see, that every day in the Church is and should be Women’s Day.

Director of "Vida Nueva”, Madrid