The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



SMC lecture focuses on women, Church

Liz Harter | Friday, April 21, 2006

Saint Mary’s Center in Spirituality presented its 21st annual Madeleva Lecture for Spirituality Thursday night with guest lecturer Susan Ross, who spoke of the role of beauty and women in the Church and in the world.

Ross, a professor of theology and faculty scholar at Loyola University Chicago in Ill., is the author of “Extravagant Affections: A Feminist Sacramental Theology,” and has also authored numerous journal articles on the topics of feminist theology and feminist ethics.

The Madeleva Lectures in spirituality are named in honor of Sister Madeleva Wolff, the third president of Saint Mary’s College. They are meant to honor Wolff and her contributions to the college, especially her inauguration of the Graduate School of Sacred Theology, which was the first Catholic theological program that permitted women to earn a Ph.D.

The lecture, “For the Beauty of the Earth: Women, Sacramentality and Justice,” began with an introduction from President Carol Ann Mooney and Sister Kathleen Dolphin, director of the Center for Spirituality.

Ross spoke of the role of beauty and how it related to the Church and the world, and the place of women in sacramentality and justice.

Ross stated that while in church no women are viewed when one looks at the altar. The reason that women were not permitted to be in the same room as men during worship, and are now marginalized in the church is because women and their physical beauty in the church are said to distract or seduce men from focusing on God, she said.

“Women have nevertheless graced the presence of churches in ways that are trivialized,” Ross said, citing that women are normally the ones who complete the “housework” of the church, cleaning stained glass windows and keeping pews free of dust and clutter.

Ross pointed out that it is feminist theology shares a reverence for the Earth and the human body with Christian tradition.

“Having to choose between goodness and beauty is a false dichotomy,” Ross said.

Real beauty signifies a depth beyond its appearance, Ross said. It has and elicits generosity and therefore there is no choice between justice and beauty.

To conclude the lecture Ross recited the lyrics to John Denver’s “Bread and Roses.” She said these words were poignant because they intertwined both beauty and faith, the Bread being the Eucharist.

“From birth until life closes, hearts starve as well as bodies,” Ross quoted. “Give us bread, but give us roses.”