I fired a priest today. OK, technically he’s an ex-priest who was asked to officiate my little sister’s upcoming wedding, but still. He’s also a wonderful person and if my little sister wanted a man to officiate her wedding, he would be ideal. All that said, I have to admit that asking him to step aside, so I could officiate the wedding by myself, was very satisfying and deeply significant. I swear I could hear Mary Magdalene clapping.
Yeah, I lied in the below post. I didn’t want to be a nun when I was a child. I wanted to be a priest. I heard, what many Catholics refer to as, “the call,” from what I assumed back then was from Jesus, but now realize, was most likely from Mary Magdalene. They sound so similar sometimes, mystically speaking that is, except M.M. has that deliciously dirty sense of humor, that shameless sensual sensibility, and that heaven-shattering divine feminine wisdom that keeps J.C. lovingly washing her feet with the Roman collars he steals from the Vatican. But, let’s return to my wacky childhood.
When I informed the priests at my church that I too was called to be a priest, they laughed, patted my head, and told me I couldn’t have heard the call to be a priest because women were not allowed to be priests. After all, they said, Jesus only had male disciples (M.M. shakes her red head, juts out her hip, and slaps her left cheek), but all was not lost, for of course, I could be a nun.
OK, I thought, nuns must be female priests. Fine. “Can I marry people? Can I give sermons? Can I give people the host? Can I hear confessions? Can I anoint the sick? And, uh, can I bless the red wine?” No. No. No. No. No. And finally, a no.
Wow. These men were so powerful, so intuitive, and so omnipotent that they could translate and determine my personal spiritual experiences. Fascinating. Their surprised reaction, crafted response, and staid theology communicated to me that my spiritual knowing was not real or true or right. These men told me that the voice from God that I so clearly heard, urging me to serve Him as a priest (not a nun), was false. My collect call from God was a wrong number.
Why did these men of God try to silence and reshape my hoot from the Holy? Because I was already questioning the hell out of my Sunday-School teachers? Because I enjoyed swiveling my hips when I walked up and down Church aisles? Because I wanted a pink Trans Am as my priest mobile? Because I was already showing alarming signs of my future redness? Perhaps. But the obvious reason why my sacred nudge to adorn a collar and serve God as a priest was immediately denied - was because I had a vagina. Duh. And we all know the only thing that terrifies the Church more than Hell is a vagina.
Fast forward a few decades to the Beak family Christmas 2007. That holiday week I met with a young priest for dinner. He had read my book, come to my talk the previous spring at The Sophia Institute, and wanted to talk spiritual shop with me. During our lovely time together he exclaimed a few times with surprise, “Sera, you’re a priest!” Each time he said this I shook my head, deflecting the painful title, but all the while hearing this strange hissing noise, “sssss,” from somewhere deep inside.
It was during this very Beak family holiday that my little sister told us that she and her boyfriend were getting engaged soon! After we expressed our delight, I randomly asked, “Can I officiate the ceremony?” I was kidding. Sort of. But, much to everyone’s surprise, my little sister said “yes”. Of course, my family felt that there should be a priest present as well to make it all official and proper and holy (and because my parents are Catholic, and oh yeah, because I’ve never officiated a wedding before, well, at least not in this lifetime and this wedding is big – 300 guests and counting).
And so a few months later, after the perfect proposal in Paris, we started asking various priests if they would co-officiate the wedding with me. I even asked my new friend, the young sexy priest. He said he’d love to, but his congregation would not allow it… because I’m not ordained. This was the answer we received from every priest we asked, except for the wonderful ex-priest. He said he would risk the fires of hell and officiate the wedding ceremony with me despite my lowly non-ordinated status (I do realize ordinated is not a real word, but it’s late and my brain is tired and red wine has been involved in this evening’s musings).
Fast forward a few months later when I was asked by a Unitarian Church to give a sermon. I agreed without thinking much about it. A week before my sermon, as I browsed the church’s calendar to prepare, I saw that every person who had given a sermon in the past year was ordained. Hold up. Gulp. Did the U.U. peeps think I was ordained? This assumption has happened before because the sister program at my grad school was for those who were ordained. I was about to call the kindly U.U. minister to tell her I’m most definitely NOT ordained and that she should cancel my sermon, when my body came to a halt. My spirit bit my tongue. The heat rose, pausing my temporary insanity. My heart roared and I heard, in a loving but fiercely feminine voice:
“Do you really think you’re NOT ordained?”
Like I do whenever my spiritual underpants are pulled down, I called my cosmic twin for reinforcement. She has more personal connections with “the clergy” than I do, having been through the sister program I was referring to, and she reassured me that I do not need to be ordained in order to give a sermon for the liberal U.U.’s. She then said “but la (my nickname), that’s not the point. Even if you did need to be officially ordained, you would still do this…you know what you are… you know what we are….you know”.
I’m a priestess. I’m ordained simply by the fact that I exist and have a vagina. Naturally. And so are you. If you dare to remember and if you’re willing to re-define this “priestess” role for yourself and shake off any ideas that this somewhat sci-fi, ancient-sounding, exotic title is out of your league or cheesy or woo woo or mystical or something other than a label for a powerful archetype that if appropriately reintegrated could change your life and this planet, not too mention scare the cardinal robes off the Vatican – all things we red ones try to do at least once a day.
As Jalaja Bonheim says in her brilliant book, Aphrodite’s Daughters (please go buy this book. Right now. I’m serious. And pass it along to every one of your girlfriends, sisters, and even your mother)
“Today, I would describe a priestess as a woman who lives in two worlds at once, who perceives life on earth against the backdrop of a vast, timeless reality. Whether or not she is mated to a human partner, she is a woman in love, wedded to being, to life, to love itself. Having offered herself, body and soul, in service of spirit, she mediates between matter and spirit, between the human and divine realms”
“Claiming her own authority is possibly the most important step that a contemporary priestess can take…for untold centuries, we lived as spiritual children who bowed to the authority of supposedly wiser authorities or institutions. Like all children, we often had to sacrifice our personal truth in order to conform to the rules of our religious communities. Now such authoritarian structures no longer serve us.”
After remembering and trusting something so obvious, but so repressed, I called my little sister, waved the red flag, and we decided to nix the priest. And, as we all know, there are plenty of sites online that will ordain me in a few minutes so the marriage will be legal. I am amazed and a bit embarrassed that we of the spiritually-liberal Beak family had been searching so desperately for a man to stand next to me, just so I could officiate my own sister’s wedding. It was absurd. It was sad. It’s a perfect example of how deep and subtle the roots of patriarchy grow.
My beautiful little sister who is most definitely spiritually attuned but not exactly familiar with this sort of funky parlance, called me this afternoon and said: “I don’t want you in the dress I had planned for you when you were going to be a bridesmaid, you know, that white one. Nope, now I want you in a red dress, a sexy stylish long red dress, like something a modern priestess would wear”. My eyes filled with tears, I smiled, thanked her, and immediately prayed to the fashion deities for help. Seriously, if any of you come across a sexy, long, stylish red dress in the next 6 months, lemme know. Price is not an issue. I’m sending the bill to the Catholic Church.
Reclaiming, redressing, re-igniting the inner priestess is not just for the unique or special few. It’s your inherent birthright. A priestess is every woman who trusts her individual path, determines her own life, celebrates her unique relationship with divinity, unifies her sexuality with her spirituality, and uses her innate spiritual authority to ordain herself…over and over and over again…from the bedroom to the boardroom to a wedding ceremony.
“In our day and age, the long-dormant priestess is awakening, knocking loudly on the doors of our psyche, demanding entrance, and often bringing tumultuous change and upheaval to our lives. Afraid, we may turn away and try to ignore her call. But she will not take no for an answer. “You have work to do,” she insists. “Don’t run away.”