By Hannah Coley
Hannah Coley is a Jesuit Volunteer in Belize. Over the next few months, check out #JVStories as she examines the way women in Scripture have given her clarity and resolve as a women in the Catholic Church.
Spiritual Inner and Outer Discovery
I was on a community retreat with my three community mates in a village outside of Punta Gorda Town. I came across “Soul Sisters,” a compilation of poems written about women in Scripture by Edwina Gately and portraits of women in Scripture by Louis Glanzman. We were welcomed into the home of the Sisters of Charity, a community of women who make me feel authentically religious and spiritually female.
This week, I reflect on igniting feminity with Elizabeth. A woman from Scripture whose life is explored further in the book “Soul Sisters.” When examined closer, Elizabeth is someone who defied the odds and judgement of others similar to how JVs enter into a year or more of vital (and challenging) service despite doubt or questioning from others.
Igniting Femininity with Elizabeth
“When Elizabeth’s time for delivery arrived, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives, upon hearing that the Lord had extended his mercy to her, rejoice with her.”
Elizabeth was not only cousin to Mary, but her elder confidant, the knower of her heart and the keeper of her emotions. She was a mother figure for Mary. Elizabeth knew of the fire in Mary’s womb before Mary’s words shed the news because she, too, had a similar kindle burning.
We know very little about the anxiety and the pain that Elizabeth may have experienced all her life. Similar pains by which women both young and old feel plagued by systems of power, expectation and value. I imagine Elizabeth must have been comforted by and had confidence in her own sisters.
Perhaps most of Elizabeth’s prayers were out of desperation to feel adequate or worthy by way of carrying a child. In Elizabeth, I see all women who do the unexpected–who move themselves in unexpectedly awesome ways. There was an expectation of her to “fulfill” her womanhood in a specific way and she faced judgement based on her age and her capability by both society and perhaps even her own husband. I imagine this pressure was in an effort to weaken, shake and silence Elizabeth.
These kind of societal judgments and expectations attempt to dismantle the fortress of physical and mental strength of women around the world. Yet, Elizabeth was joy-filled when she felt the news of abundance in her womb. This joy was not for her husband or her community, but because of her own resilience and faith that hoped her baby boy into existence.
Hannah Coley graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2016, prior to signing the covenant as a Jesuit Volunteer in Belize for the 2016-2018 program year! She serves as a Youth/Liturgical Coordinator at St. Peter Claver Parish.