by Jen Owens
Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life.
The song from which this refrain comes, “Hosea” by Gregory R. Norbet, OSB, has become a part of my childhood Lenten memories. Sitting in Mass, resting my head on my mom’s arm during the Preparation of the Gifts as a child, I didn’t think much about what it might mean.
But in the present, I am reminded of the second verse:
The wilderness will lead you
To the place where I will speak.
Integrity and justice
You shall know.
Today marks Ash Wednesday, the beginning of our Lenten season, and as a way of remembering that, a handful of groups are forming around the country to design reading guides for From the Pews in the Back: Young Women and Catholicism. Before putting this collection together with Kate, I often felt like I was in a place of wilderness, struggling on my own to find answers to questions and concerns I had about being a woman in the Catholic Church. Although I hardly feel that our work has addressed all of the questions and concerns that emerge from developing a feminist consciousness within the Catholic tradition, it has brought to me a new sense of community, a sense that I am not alone. This work helps me to hear the ways in which God speaks to me. I am reminded that the doing of it is a way of having integrity, of bringing out into the open questions and concerns that can have the potential to bring justice and healing to the communities of faith to which we belong. And in the community that has developed around this book—in my friendship and working relationship with Kate, in the honest dialogue that the book already has begun to foster in the communities to which we, the authors, and our publisher belong, especially on this website—questions of justice are being raised, hopefully with a tenderness that reminds us of the nature of our God.
The refrain of this song reminds me of the ways in which the challenges of today’s Gospel—almsgiving, prayer, and fasting—bring us into right relationship with God. However we interpret these three guideposts of our experience of Lent, our process of reflection and action on them bring us home again, bring us back to the basics of our faith, so to speak.
This song and these readings remind us that we can always return to God, that there is always something new to discover on the path toward discipleship.
Image from Weston Priory.
Jen Owens is a co-editor of From the Pews in the Back and has been cantoring Catholic Masses since she was confirmed during her sophomore year of high school. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA.