Photo: Jennifer Mertens and FutureChurch Chair, Jocelyn Collen, on Pilgrimage in Greece
By Jennifer Mertens
It is a joy, challenge, and adventure to teach religion at an all-girls Catholic high school. I am privileged to witness my students’ search for a faith that embraces their whole selves as young women. Frequently, I am also reminded of the central role of God-images in this journey. Many adolescent girls explore questions such as: Who is God in my life? What does God look like? What does it mean to know God as a young woman?
As part of this faith journey, it can be transformative for girls to explore the full breadth and depth of Christian speech for the Holy. In class, we imagine God as a bright sunbeam reflected through a beautiful and intricate stained-glass window. Each colored piece of glass represents a word or image for God that reflects God’s divine light in a unique way. Royal Red: God as a just and powerful leader. Teardrop Blue: Divine Comforter. Springtime Green: Gentle Sower of New Life.
Exploring a range of God-images is a holy, exciting and even unpredictable enterprise. For teen girls, encountering female images of God in the Christian tradition can be especially powerful. From Wisdom Sophia to the parable of the woman searching for a lost coin – our faith can invite girls to more fully know themselves in the Divine image. In a unique way, female images for God affirm the sacramentality of girls’ own bodies and draw them into deeper participation in the body of Christ.
Girls who encounter a rich array of Christian God-talk can grow in their relationship with God and with the Christian tradition. They can notice how the many panes of a stained-glass window – of our God-images – mediate our experiences of the Holy and function as a lens for our own self-image. Girls can also articulate more clearly the possibilities and historical challenges of naming women’s bodies, minds and spirits as beautiful images of God.
Today, young women need a God whose flesh makes sacred their own. Our Catholic community can respond by fully attending to the connection between human dignity and human speech for the Holy. This means delighting in a colorful array of names and images for the Divine. It especially involves recovering those God-images, particularly female ones, which too often remain buried or suppressed within our tradition.
Let us pray for hearts courageous enough to encounter this Living God – She who longs to be known, named, and celebrated within our young women today.