Throughout the Bible one can find stories of women who considered themselves failures, were disillusioned, suffered physical and emotional wounds, and felt abandoned and broken by the circumstances life had inflicted on them. Even so, their stories have a message for women today, says author and television host Danielle Bean.
“God calls each of us to greatness. Despite our failures, our sinfulness and our woundedness, God calls us, sees us and tells us He has a plan for us.”
Bean delivered the keynote speech at the 10th Annual Norwich Diocesan Women’s Conference, which focused on what women can learn from the stories of biblical women. The conference was held in October in a virtual online format.
In her first presentation, Bean shared stories from the Old Testament about women who were considered outcasts and suffered social stigmas. Despite the labels society imposed on them, God chose them as instruments to fulfill His plans for salvation. Like these biblical women, “God has a message for each of us,” she said. “God uses all of us in His plans for His mission…God doesn’t care about our labels, our failures and our flaws… God will bless us in our vocation to womanhood and honor our dignity as daughters of God.”
Bean based much of her conference presentation on material in her two books: You are Enough: What Women of the Bible Teach You about Your Mission and Worth, which focuses on women in the Old Testament; and You’re Worth It! Change How You Feel About Yourself by Discovering How Jesus Feels About You, which focuses on women in the gospel stories. She also hosts The Gist, a show about women’s issues on CatholicTV, and has a successful podcast for Catholic women called Girlfriends.
With stories of women in the New Testament as a backdrop, Bean emphasized how Jesus is looking for a real relationship with each of us. “Jesus wants to enter your life in a real way and heal you wherever you find yourself broken,” she said. “Jesus knows each one of us and loves us right there inside the messiness of our lives.”
She encouraged the women to be steadfast in their prayer and to read Sacred Scripture to discover ways that Jesus may be speaking to them through the lives and stories of biblical women. She praised the women for taking the time to nurture their faith lives by attending the conference. “Don’t let the gift you have given yourselves in attending today end here,” she said. “Let it inspire you in your connection with Jesus Christ and with other women who share your faith.”
The conference also included two workshops on Mary, the Mother of God. The first was entitled Mary Not So Gentle Woman given by former Diocese of Norwich Chancellor Sr. Elissa Rinere, CP. (See story Workshop Challenges Women to See Mary as Not So Gentle) The second was on Mary As Model of Lectio Divina given by Dr. Lisa Gulino, academic dean of oncampus programs, dean of women, and director of professional development for parish life and Catholic schools at Holy Apostles College and Seminary.
Lectio Divina is a form of prayer in which one reads a passage from sacred Scripture, prays, meditates and contemplates on it. From this interaction with the Word of God, one would then be moved to take some type of action in which the results of their prayer can bear fruit. Gulino illustrated how Mary modeled this style of prayer in the story of the Annunciation in the Gospel of St. Luke. “Mary models how to pray for us in this passage,” she said. Mary heard the Word of God as spoken through the Angel Gabriel, she pondered or meditated on what this could mean for her, dialogued with the Angel about it, listened for a response, responded to God’s request through her Magnificat and acted on the Word by bearing the Son of God.
By Mary-Jo McLaughlin