We are pleased to share an excerpt from Feminist Prayers for My Daughter, the latest book from TAC contributor and interviewee Shannon K. Evans. Special thanks to Shannon for sharing her work with us, and to Shelly MacNaughton at Brazos Press/Baker Publishing Group for all her assistance—Ed.
My daughter was not exactly “planned.” Quite the opposite, really. The surprise positive pregnancy test came just a few weeks before my fourth son turned one. We weren’t sure there would be any more babies after him, and certainly not for a few years, but I couldn’t find a trace of anxiety inside myself. I just knew, right from the beginning, that this was my daughter. Perhaps the sense of deep knowing came because at that time, I was in a reckoning with my faith over the ways God is masculinized at the expense of the feminine. I was angry that God can be called He and not She. I was exhausted by the all-male hierarchy within Catholicism. I was adamant that Christians needed to be disentangling ourselves from racism, homophobia, colonization, and xenophobia, and I believed that female leadership would move that work forward. I was longing to relate to God as Mother, not just Father, but was unsure whether that would ever feel comfortable.
Then, mere days after finding out about the pregnancy, a book I had painstakingly written was pulled straight off the printer by a bishop who deemed me too dangerous to represent the prominent women’s ministry publishing the book. There is no overemphasizing the deep shift that occurred in me after this, and it had more than a little to do with the fact that I was carrying in my womb what I knew to be a little girl. She gave me something to fight for – someone to fight for. In the loneliest hours of my faith, when I’ve been ready to light a match to the whole thing, the life of my daughter has made me stubborn and brave. I cannot walk away from a God who gave her to me in my time of need.
Feminist Prayers for My Daughter is a book for mothers, yes, but it is also for fathers, grandparents, godparents, aunt and uncles, cousins, stepparents, sisters, foster parents, coaches, mentors, pastors, chaplains, teachers, and family friends. It is, perhaps most of all, for women who are re-mothering themselves. It is for those who want to see a healthier, safer, more equitable world for our girls. It is for all who are determined to clear the brush, machete in one arm and daughter in the other, until there is a path for her where once there was none.
♦ ♦ ♦
For seeing women lead in church
O Defender of Marginalized Voices,
How can my daughter believe in equality
if it is not practiced in the place she worships a God of justice?
How can I tell her she can grow to be anything
while knowing her most sacred spaces have glass ceilings overhead?
How will my daughter have courage to follow your call
if she doesn’t see other women doing it too?
Surround her with such women.
Fill our churches and religious spaces with such women.
Put such women in decision-making seats there.
Give such women vote and voice and vocation.
When their knees quake,
when they are infantilized,
when they are refused,
when they are mocked,
let it be my daughter’s face they see when they close their eyes,
and may they step into their calling anyway.
Shannon K. Evans, a writer in the contemplative Catholic tradition, is the author of Rewilding Motherhood: Your Path to an Empowered Feminine Spirituality and Embracing Weakness. She is an editor for National Catholic Reporter, a writer and retreat leader for the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, and a regular contributor to Franciscan Media. Evans has written for U.S. Catholic, America, and Geez magazines. She speaks regularly at churches, small groups, conferences, and retreats on topics related to motherhood, prayer, and justice, and leads groups in guided meditation. She is a mother of five and lives in Ames, Iowa.