Document 30: Priscilla Ballou, "The Gospel According to Priscilla," liturgy handout, c. 1981-82, Women's Ordination Conference Records 1/3, Marquette University Archives, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Catholic feminist liturgy flourished in the early 1980s. By this time, many Catholic feminists created unique liturgies for women only, designed to reflect women's experiences of the sacred and to counter institutional sexism. A small proportion of these liturgies were considered radical because the women consecrated the Eucharist without a priest. A group of women in the Boston area celebrated one such liturgy in 1981. One of their number, a laywoman named Priscilla Ballou, wrote a feminist re-telling of the story of the women at the tomb for the gospel reading. This re-imagined story noted how the women felt when the apostles rejected their knowledge of the resurrection. The women retreated to the kitchen, a female space, and together remembered Christ in the breaking of bread.
On the first day of the week, when the sun was just coming up, we went to the tomb, taking with us the spices and ointments we had prepared before the Sabbath. Among us were Mary of Magdala, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several others of the women who had loved and followed Jesus. When we arrived, we found to our surprise that the stone had been rolled away and, inside, that Jesus' body was gone. We were standing there in confusion when suddenly there were two bright figures there with us and from them we heard: "Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen. Remember what he taught you--that he must be handed over and crucified and rise on the third day." Just as suddenly, the figures were gone and we were left standing, staring at one another in amazement, a new joy growing in our hearts.
As we returned to the house where the company was staying, some of us laughed and sang, while others puzzled among themselves about this strange and wonderful news --Jesus risen. When we reached the house, we went to the room where the men were gathered and immediately burst out speaking: "He is risen! Everything has happened as he taught. Two bright figures--angels--appeared to us and told us. He is risen!" At this Peter jumped up and ran out in the direction of the tomb. To our amazement, instead of rejoicing with us, the other men turned their backs on us. "What incredible nonsense," they said. "Trust the women to come up with a crazy story." In a few minutes, Peter was back, panting. The body was gone, he said, but of the bright figures, angels or otherwise, he said he saw nothing. At this the men looked at us reproachfully, angry that we had disturbed their sorrow with what seemed a foolish hope.
Dismissed from their presence, we gathered in the kitchen. Our rejection by the men saddened us, but nothing could for long dampen that joy growing out of the confusion in our hearts. "He is risen!" we whispered and sang to one another as we went about our chores. And as we worked we talked about the Teacher and what he had said, how he had told all of this to us but we hadn't seen before. When time came for the midday meal, we kept telling stories. As we ate the bread we had baked that morning and shared a cup of wine we remembered his last meal with us. We told each other what he had said, how he had called bread his body and wine his blood. For us there, gathered in that kitchen, amid the heat from the ovens and the smells of cooking, he was there with us. Our beloved Teacher, or friend, was with us, and we Knew that despite the fact that our story went against reason, it was the truth and nothing would ever be the same again.
Prepared by Priscilla Ballou
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