Happy Fourteenth Birthday! How proud I am that you are growing into a lovely young woman, and how happy I am that you are growing more fully in your Catholic Faith, also!
As well as I remember the October 1st day on which you were born, I remember the November 18th day on which you first were gifted with that Faith--the Lord's Day on which you were Baptized.
How blessed you are that your parents chose for your middle name the name of the Mother of God. How blessed are you, too, that you were Baptized on the feast of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne.
From Our Lady, I pray that you derive a great pride in your femininity. If it be the Lord’s Will for you, I pray that someday, when you are married, you may be a mother like Mary. In the meantime, I hope you will live humbly, chastely, and with great respect for your unfolding womanhood. Like Mary, I pray you always say Yes to God.
From St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, who is an American Saint, I hope you gain the encouragement to reach out to your brothers and sisters of all ages, in any part of the world in which the Lord sends you, using the gifts and talents the Lord has given you to be of service in His Name.
(Although St. Rose was an educator, as I was, God might call you to serve in other ways! Interestingly, she was canonized by St. John Paul II, who wrote the Apostolic Letter in 1994, seven years before you were born, that defines one of the Church’s teachings that I wish, in this letter, to talk about with you.)
The blessings I wish for you today on your Birthday--and on every day of your life! --are graces that come from your Baptism. Graces that carry responsibilities--responsibilities I have every confidence you will continue living out in your very special way of being wholly and holy you!
Although God made you a female, you were Baptized into the life of Christ, into His Church, to share the life of Jesus as priest, prophet, and king. You were given the same gifts as your brother was given a couple of years later when he was Baptized. As adopted children of God, girls and boys receive the very same gifts at Baptism.
What does this threefold blessing of sharing Jesus’ mission as priest, prophet, and king mean for you? As priest, you are called to intercede for, to serve, to minister to others; to do what Jesus did when He taught and lived the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy—the Beatitudes. You are called to act in Jesus' holy Name.
As a prophet, you are called to stand up for the Truth Who is Jesus. You are called to live a life in love with Jesus, Bridegroom of His Church. You are called to demonstrate that love by doing what He said would be the sign—keeping His Commandments to love God, neighbor, and self.
As a king, you are called to rule wisely. Over whom or what do you rule? For starters--over yourself—over your emotions, over your inclinations to be selfish and to do evil. The kingdom of God is within you. Your Confirmation namesake Therese, on whose feast day you had the Grace to be born, would tell you: Jesus is your King. Give Him reign over you and He will use your hands, your heart, your eyes, and your feet to spread His Kingdom.
Isn’t it amazing that as a female you are called to be priest, prophet, and king? Does this seem strange, given that "priest" and "king" are masculine words?
Guess what, dearest Granddaughter, as a Baptized child of God, it shouldn't! As a female, there is no limit to how you can express your Faith, compared with how your brother may live his Faith—with one exception. God may call him—not you-- to His Ordained Priesthood.
Does this feel unfair to you?.... Does it seem unfair that your brother, in his masculinity, has not been given the potential gift of motherhood, and you, in your femininity, have not been given the potential gift of ordained priesthood?
Please do not think this difference in potential giftedness with respect to you is unfair. Please do not fall into the trap set by some men and women who protest against the Church's restriction of the Ordained Priesthood to men.
If you want to read the Church’s reasons for that ruling, I have provided a link in the postscript to this letter. Without trying to summarize what the document says, I want to speak to you from my heart—woman to woman.
When I was ten, your great-grandparents enrolled me in Catholic school. It was quite amazing to me to be taught by a religious sister. Like so many other children in our fifth grade class, I loved that woman. How much she inspired us to love our Faith.
Her influence on us was so great, in fact, that a small group of us would gather in your great-grandparents’ basement in order to have “Mass.” How worried your great-grandfather became. He checked with our Pastor, who assured him that as long as we were respectfully role playing, your Great-Grandfather did not have to stop us.
Guess who the sacristan was? Me! I would gather flowers and set the “altar.” The “priest” was one of my classmates—a boy. Guess what? He grew up to be an ordained priest! ...When my classmate-priest celebrated his first Mass of Thanksgiving in our home parish, your father—a few months’ old infant--slept, peacefully and quietly, in my arms. When your aunt made her First Holy Communion, my classmate-priest celebrated the Mass; he gave her Jesus for the first time in the Holy Eucharist! How elated and proud I was of his ordained Fatherhood.
Never then, when I was ten, nor any time since, have I resented not being able to be an ordained priest. I fully accept the Church’s dictum that as a female, ordained priesthood is not God’s Will for me--as it wasn’t for His own Mother, or for any of the other female saints, like St. Rose Philippine Duchesne or St. Therese.
Likewise, I fully recognize that as a Baptized Catholic woman, I have plenty of “priestly” jobs to do for the Lord, in accordance with my Baptism. Although I have lived more than half a century as a priest, prophet, and king, under my Baptismal gifts and responsibilities, I have in no way maximized what I can--or should--do in living out those blessings.
Because there are some women, unlike me, who are adamant about women being entitled to become priests, I want you to be prepared for the arguments that you might hear to the contrary of the Church’s teachings. Arguments that try to convince you, too, to be indignant and outraged by the restriction born of gender, and to be adamant that it is your “right” to be a Catholic priest.
Please don't succumb to or join in with those prideful demands. Please respect the Lord's right to distribute His Gifts as He Wills. I trust that, led by God and with the help of His Blessed Mother, you will come to peace with your ordained priesthood limitations.
Meanwhile, please allow me to share my viewpoint. God is our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. He made us; we are His—males and females; He makes the rules that are best for us.
Ordained Priesthood is not a reward for personal goodness. Ordained Priesthood is not a job to apply for. No. Ordained Priesthood, rather, is a calling from God. Remember when Jesus told His followers that they didn't choose Him; He chose them? (John 15:16) It's still like that. Jesus does the choosing. His Church teaches that Jesus chooses men to represent Him in the Ordained Priesthood.
Don’t get me wrong. I never want you to be treated in a lesser, prejudiced way because of your gender. If you are the most qualified person to get a job, I want you to get it. If you and a male worker are doing the same job, I want you to receive the same salary. When it is time for you to choose a college, I want your application to get the same reading and consideration as would any male’s application. If you feel called when you are thirty-five years of age to run for President of the United States, I want you to be considered on your strengths and competencies, not your gender.
When it comes to ordained Catholic priesthood, I have no regrets that you will not be considered eligible for that sacramental service.
Be holy. Be happy. Be fully human as a female. Most importantly, be fully female Catholic. And if God calls your brother to the ordained priesthood, please know that if you pray for him; if you enter into his ordained ministry by assisting him however you can, God will give you an ordained priest’s reward.
The Church needs good holy women—women like the great female saints, and, of course, Our Blessed Mother. If ever you are tempted to join the ranks of those who protest against the teachings of the Church regarding ordained male priesthood, please think of Mary.
If any woman had the “right” to be an ordained priest by virtue of her blood relationship to Jesus, as well as her personal holiness, it would be His Mother, don’t you think? Can you imagine Mary demanding that she be an ordained priest? …Surely, if Our Blessed Mother thought that having women priests would be good for Her Son's Kingdom and for our spiritual good—for our salvation, surely she would have asked her Son for that grace, as she asked Him for another grace at the Marriage Feast of Cana when she perceived a need. Remember how she told Jesus that the guests had no more wine? (John 2:3). Remember how He saw the good she was asking for, and fulfilled her request?
Be happy today and always, dearest Granddaughter. Take pride in being a female. You have no reason to feel diminished in not being able to be an ordained priest. Accept in humility that God has the right to choose whoever He wishes to act in His person. He has the right to distribute His Gifts as He wills.
Inasmuch as Jesus chose to redeem us as a male (not a female), inasmuch as He is Son of God, not daughter, He has the right to gift men with the privilege and responsibility of acting In Persona Christi—in His Person. Would you deny Him that right? As a member of the Church, He is your Bridegroom. Pray for and respect the men He chooses to take His place in a sacramental way.
If ordained priesthood is something you love and wish to be close to, pray to become mother, sister, or grandmother of a priest, as I confide to you that I have done for many years.
God bless you. Be fully female, fully Catholic. Live fully your Baptismal gifts. In the Name of Jesus and for the love of His Kingdom, be the best possible priest, prophet, and king to which your Baptism calls you.
God loves you; with all my heart, Dearest Granddaughter, I do, too.
Please pray for your sister in the Faith, your dear Grandma Taylor, who thanks you for taking to heart this letter.
p.s. If you want to see for yourself the Church's teaching concerning women and the ordained priesthood, please read APOSTOLIC LETTER ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS OF JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON RESERVING PRIESTLY ORDINATION TO MEN ALONE