Joy Cowley on female spirituality

Feature Derek Johnson Author Joy Cowley captivated over 70 attendees at a Catholic Men’s Breakfast on 23 March with her thoughts on male and female spirituality. Hosted by Ss Peter…

Joy Cowley on female spirituality Archdiocese of WellingtonFeature

Derek Johnson

Author Joy Cowley captivated over 70 attendees at a Catholic Men’s Breakfast on 23 March with her thoughts on male and female spirituality.

Hosted by Ss Peter and Paul parish Lower Hutt at the Angus Inn, Joy started with her take on religion versus spirituality: ‘Religion is something we choose. Spiritual is what we are. We are not human beings on a spiritual journey but spiritual beings on a human journey… the challenge for us is to become fully human.’

For Joy, spirituality is ‘life experience with awareness … of where God is taking us in the Church, a journey that is all about growth.’

She also addressed the physical and spiritual union that is traditional marriage. ‘The marriage journey is essentially a journey of love through differences. There are two ways of seeing differences. A superficial view is that they can be a challenge… The spiritual view is that differences are teachers from God. Marriage is a journey held in faith and it requires patience, understanding, respect and deep friendship.’

Joy referred to a reflection, ‘Head and Heart’ (from her book Aotearoa Psalms: Prayers of a New People, Pleroma, 2008) that addresses the marriage journey, but which, she says, ‘Can be a reflection on the masculine and feminine elements in all of us…

‘It also describes the male and female aspects of the Church.’

Head said: ‘I contain the law.’
Heart said: ‘I am full of feeling.’

Head said: ‘I am logic, I am structure.
I am the stake that supports the young plant.’
Heart said, ‘I am love. I am mystery.
I am the creative force of life.’

Then Head and Heart began to quarrel.
Head said: ‘You are emotional and irrational.
You live in a world of chaos.’
Heart replied: You are cold and unfeeling.
‘You do not live at all.’
So Head and Heart went to God
and asked if they could be separated.

God laughed at them and said:
‘Not even God can do that.
You two belong together.
Apart, I’m afraid you’re nothing.
Head, you are the container.
Heart, you are the contents.
The container without the contents
is as hollow as a drum,
all noise and no substance.
The contents without the container
will disperse and be wasted,
good for nothing at all.
There’s no way you can be separate
and lead useful lives.’

Head and Heart grew anxious.
‘But we are so different.
How can we find peace?’

God said: ‘Draw close and become lovers.
Respect each other. Nurture each other.
Help each other to be equal.
You will come together as one,
and when you are one,
a truly amazing thing will happen.’
Head and Heart sat up at that.
‘What kind of thing?’ they asked.
But God only smiled
and said: ‘Wait and see.’

Joy noted the influence of women on Christ and his ministry, including: the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11), where Jesus turned water into wine, blessing marriage as his first miracle; the Samaritan woman at the well (John 7:53-8:11); and the Syro-Phoenician woman seeking healing for her daughter (Matthew 15:21-28). She noted that ‘the giving was reciprocal. Jesus and women learned from each other.’

Concluding, Joy said: ‘Today the spirit of Jesus works in our Church in new ways that bring men and women together in ministry … Lay people have their own vocation, the priesthood St Paul talked about…

‘I believe that the sexes are different because they are a gift to each other. They help each other to grow to full potential.’