There is a story that hasn’t been shared yet. It has lived lodged in the center of my heart and in the brightest moments, it shines through without even the telling of it. The psalmist says, “Truth shall spring out of the earth.” So shall our truth spring forth from us.
Today, I offer this story up like incense, because Jesus summons us, like he summoned the Twelve and this is how he has summoned me. And so, this is the story of when Jesus ordained me.
Eight years ago, I began the 30 day spiritual exercises retreat at Creighton University’s retreat center in Griswold, Iowa. This retreat was silent, except for meeting once a day with a spiritual director and it invites you to enter into imaginative prayer with the Gospel stories of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection. In that imaginative prayer, you place yourself in the story, sometimes witnessing what is happening, sometimes being part of the story, sometimes having a conversation with Jesus.
I went into the retreat kind of angry and largely scared. I was in the midst of seminary and the patriarchal trappings of the structural church and the exclusion of people from its ranks had thrown me out of alignment, as it would and as it still does. I brought questions to Jesus. And one I kept asking again and again is, where should I go? You see, I literally couldn’t figure out where to go because being called to priesthood in a structural church who doesn’t think priesthood is for you will, at times, make a person think, Where do I go?
I asked this question an abundance of times during the retreat in the midst of imaginative prayer when I was witnessing Jesus’ life story unfold. What I learned from Jesus over and over is that - this call is my truth, it is not wrong, no one can tell me it’s not true and the unfolding of this call will be and is my life’s journey. What shocked me was the clarity with which all of this came somewhere around the 25th day of the retreat. It was during a prayer period where I ended up having a conversation with Jesus and I asked my question, Where do I go? And this is what Jesus said, “Let me ordain you with my love. Go to my people.”
It was in that moment that my heart realized that this is not about permission from a structure, this is not about a structure at all, this is about what God is doing in my life and in our lives. This is about what God has ordained us to do. And I truly believe that God ordains each of us, with Their love, to be our truest, untamed selves. This is priesthood. And I was free.
Maybe this is the kind of ordination that happened for the disciples that day when Jesus sent them out two by two. Jesus sent them out two by two. Period. They did not need approval from an organization. There was no organization to approve or ordain. They were accountable to one another and to their call. They did not need approval. They needed to know in their inner knowing, in their inner wisdom that this going forth was for them, that they were called into it by that wisdom.
Dr. Christena Cleveland says, “Fear is no longer my liturgy.” May we embody this over and over as our journey unfolds. Fear is no longer our liturgy.
The Gospel invites us to consider where God is calling us. Where are you being sent? What do you want or need to leave behind? What do you need to take with you? Who are your people, your confidants? Our authority is not in doctrine or canon or religious rule, it is in love. A transformative love that we embody and that we have the ability and responsibility to share. God invites us to trust ourselves, our inner wisdom, our heart. Where is She calling you today? Remember, fear is no longer our liturgy. Truth shall spring out of the earth. Truth shall spring forth from us. Jesus says to us today and everyday: Let me ordain you with my love. Go to my people.
Natalie Terry M.Div.
Natalie Terry M.Div.
Natalie Terry is a minister, preacher and educator with an ever-evolving call to accompany people and communities in their spiritual journeys. She currently serves as the Assistant Executive Director of Villa Maria Education & Spirituality Center in Northwestern Pennsylvania. In her ministry journey, Natalie has served as the director of an Ignatian spirituality center, as a faith-based community organizer and as a high school campus minister and philosophy teacher. She is committed to John Lewis’ call to get in necessary and good trouble.
After graduating from John Carroll University with a BA in Religious Studies, Natalie served as a Humility of Mary volunteer at Villa Maria (where she works now!) and inherited a deep respect for nature and a love for radical hospitality. Her ministerial formation continued in California, where she received a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley.
In 2012 she was awarded a ministry fellowship with the Fund for Theological Education where she embarked on a project to explore modes of discernment for Roman Catholic women to explore calls to ordained ministry. Since then, her perspective on ordination has shifted and transformed tremendously, in large part after experiencing the 30-day Spiritual Exercises retreat. While the call is ever-evolving, her heart focus is now on deconstructing patriarchal spaces and creating healing space for exploration and renewal in an evolving church.
Natalie is originally from Wynantskill, New York and grew up in the Albany Diocese where her call was born amidst the leadership and ministry of her grandmother, parents, and high school campus minister. She is an alumnus of Catholic Central High School in Troy, New York.
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