Liberation Spirituality

Sacred Places

Sacred places,

Sacred homes,

Gracious faces of God’s own,

Come right in,

Sit right down,

Regard the holy.


Grace abounding,

Grace astounding,

Graces spreading all around,

Come on in,

Sit right down.

Regard the Holy.


Christ in your,

Christ in me,

We are one big family,

Come right in,

Sit right down,

Regard the holy,

Come right in,

Sit right down,

Regard the holy.  

Feminist Spirituality

How does she know what she knows without looking?

She leads the revolution with the way that’s she’s cooking,

Going left when the crowd is leaning right,

Listening to angels in the middle of the night,

Peering out from her shades she sees into the shadows,

Reaching out her hand she grabs hold of the battle,

Nothing passes easy, nothing’s left to hide,

Her white charger is a streetcar, her lance a subway ride.


How does she know, what she knows, what she knows?

How does she know, what she knows, what she knows?

How does she know, what she knows, what she knows?

How does she know, what she knows, what she knows?

            What does she know that she’s not telling?

            What does she know that she won’t say?

            Where does she get the strength that’s inside her?

            How does she triumph day after day?

            How does she know?


How does she do what she does without talking?

Leading the revolt with the way that she’s walking?

With the tiniest of shifts in her splintered heart,

She’s gonna pull this whole wide world apart.

How does she know, what she knows, what she know?

Two Spiritualities. They look so different. But are they really?

They start with the heart. They move toward the other in love.

And they both have the grand ambition of changing the world.


1.    What part of the material inspired your creation? Why?

a.     Sacred Places: Gustavo Gutiérrez, working with scriptures from third Isaiah, writes: “Our encounter with the Lord occurs in our encounter with others, especially in the encounter with those whose human features have been disfigured by oppression, despoliation, and alienation and who have “no beauty, no majesty” but are the things “ from which men turn away their eyes” (Isa. 53. 2 – 3). These are the marginal groups, who have fashioned a true culture for themselves and whose values one must understand if one wishes to reach them.”[1] I know these faces, and I know of what Gutiérrez speaks. But it pains me to hear that “there is no beauty in them.” There is much beauty even in the midst of despair, and much holiness also. Gutiérrez knows this well.  And there was also this thought from Gutierrez: “To sin is to refuse to love, to reject communion and fellowship.”[2] The lyric celebrates this beautiful community – from which we turn our eyes – and it offers an invitation of nurture to those who might otherwise pass it by.

b.     How Does She Know?: This lyric was written before I read our readings the week. But clearly my feminist leanings were in the ethos, though unrecognized as such by myself at the time. In the chorus I write of the internal experience of ‘knowing’ from which feminist spirituality operates. Joann Wolski Cann, commenting on what she sees as Thérèse of Lisieux ‘original vision’, writes that Thérèse “trusts her own experience of God and her own insight”, noting that “women affirm(ing) their own experience is also a feminist concern.”[3] The verses give a brief imprint of the way feminist spirituality reaches out into the community to effect change. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, writing about Divine Sophia, describes the activities of my imagined woman. “She is the leader on the way, the preacher in Israel, the Taskmaster and creator God. She seeks people, finds them on the road, invites them to dinner. She offers life, rest knowledge, and salvation to those who accept her.[4]

2.    What theme, issue, idea, concept are you exploring/expressing?

a.     With Sacred Homes, I am working with the theme of communal welcome, within the larger theme of community as the place of meeting God. “If humanity, each person, is the living temple of God, we meet God in our encounter with others.”[5] I also wanted to play with the idea of reverse hospitality - those generally regarded as outcasts are the gracious hosts. I have spent much time in these homes. Despair breeds. Hopelessness hovers. But there is also sacredness. I did not always know this, but for the tutored eye, there is much grace to be found. Where the forgotten gather, so there, is God.

b.     With How Does She Know? I was working with the idea that women emboldened by feminist consciousness are drawing their source of strength from something that is not easily identifiable, but somehow comes from deep within their own life force. Ann Carr notes that feminist spirituality frees “itself from ideologies in favour of the authentic freedom of the individual and the group as it attempts to be faithful to its own experience.”[6]

3.    In what ways does your creation express and interpret this theme/issue/idea/concept?

a.     Sacred Places: The lyrics are an invitation from the marginalized to those who may just want to pass them by and ignore their valuable contribution to the wholeness of humanity. “Come on in, sit right down, regard the holy.”

b.     How Does She Know?: I like this repetitive question, “How does she know?”, with the male voice echoing behind mine on the vocal. Within feminist spirituality there is a strong element of trust in the personal experience. The thought behind the repetitive lines in the chorus was that you can’t always understand what motivates action by a woman influenced by feminist spirituality.

4.    In what way does your creation reflect the style of expression of the assigned reading- or not?

a.     I am not sure either of the songs reflects the style of any of the erudite readings. But the style of Sacred Places is deliberately a simple blues tune. In the poverty-infested homes where I have spent time, they love the blues. James H. Cone, a black liberation theologian, writes that “suffering and its relation to blackness is inseparable from the meaning of the blues. Without pain and suffering, and what that meant for black people there would have been no blues.”[7] I was thinking of a particular home in Toronto when I wrote these lyrics. Not everyone there is black, but everyone suffers the humiliation of poverty and rejection. The blues is the music of hope in the midst of despair.

5.    In what way does your creation reflect the conceptual understandings of the assigned reading, or not?

a.     Sacred Places: This blues ties my personal experience of poverty and community with Gutiérrez’s more extensive experience, observation and emphasis on the importance of solidarity with those who are impoverished. (I have never before read of this experience of solitude through community which Gutiérrez’s addresses. But I know it to be true, for it is my experience also. One enters the community of the forgotten, and in the midst of it is drawn to solitary despair at the breadth and depth of the problem. Sitting in the midst of the community, one experiences simultaneously a deep loneliness and a communal connection. “There is an aloneness of oneself and with God that, however hard it may be to endure at certain times, is a requirement for authentic community.”[8]

b.     How Does She Know?: Here too, I am tying my own work with that of other like minded women working from their growing understanding of themselves as valued creatures reaching out in aid to others in whatever way suits their context. “A Christian feminist spirituality is universal in its vision and relates the struggle of the individual woman . . . to the massive global problems of our day.”[9]

6.    How does this express your own spirituality? Or the intersection between yours and the spirituality presented for the week?

a.     I knew about liberation theology and feminist theology, having studied them at seminary. But I never connected the heart of their spiritualties to the very heart of my own. I suppose I stand at the cross-roads of both liberation spirituality and feminist spirituality and that is a brand new thought.  And somehow, they both, for me, tie in with my recent reading of Thérèse of Lisieux’s hidden charities and devotion to incarnating love. Thérèse, for all her smallness, had great ambition, working in seemingly tiny increments to take the elevator directly to God, and in doing so become a saint.  Latin American liberation theology and Feminist theology both work from small, seemingly inconsequential movements to the ambitious business of reshaping humanity. Liberation spirituality, desiring nothing less than the creation of a new humanity,[10]has at its heart “an insistence on a love which is manifested in concrete actions.”[11] Feminist spirituality may begin within individual women’s hearts and the web of relationships the then ensue, but as Sandra Schneiders notes, “Feminism is a worldwide movement that envisions nothing less than the radical transformation of human history.”[12] This is, I am afraid, where my spirituality resides: in this place where small, concrete acts of love effect a tectonic shift in humanity's collective consciousness.

7.    What questions were raised as you created and lived into your piece?

a.     Sacred Spaces: Gutiérrez writes of an aloneness with oneself and with God that must be endured. I wonder how I will bear this aloneness sometimes. At the same time I wonder how I can draw others to this place, knowing the pain of it. And I wonder how I will manage not to get caught in the endless abyss of need that surrounds me.

b.     How Does She Know?: How did I not know that feminist theology was part of my spirituality? It seems so obvious, and yet, I missed it. (The clue should have been the number of sentences I write that include the phrase 'in my own experience.) I am so seriously white, as is the world I currently live in, I am beginning to be overly conscious of this. What is all that about? And what, if anything, might I do about it? The third wave of feminism, as delineated by Perrin, separates itself out from 'white, privileged women'. Where, exactly does that leave me? Or is the idea to at the least be aware of who and what you represent to others?

8.    What do you hope the piece will convey to those who encounter it?

a.     I hope that ‘Sacred Places’ will convey the possibility of the Eucharist in the midst of a place where it might least be expected, a divine communion where one can pass from solitude to community in welcoming embrace.[13] And I suppose, I want the beauty of those gathered in such community to be seen.[14]

b.     I hope that ‘How Does She Know?’ will convey admiration for the women who are actively engaged in the duel process of understanding their own sacredness[15] while they work in their chosen fields to realign the current off kilter balance of power within oppressive social structures, moving to a fuller understanding of the richness of all human contributions to the whole.[16] It is a difficult balance they/we have taken on, and so often it goes unnoticed. The hidden part has shades of Thérèse of Lisieux's approach. But still, I wanted the unseen to be sung about.


[1] Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation : History, Politics, and Salvation. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1973), 116.

[2] Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation, 113.

[3] Joann Wolski Conn, “Thérèse of Lisieux from a Feminist Perspective,” in Women's Spirituality : Resources for Christian Development. (New York: Paulist Press,1986), 318.

[4] Elisabeth. Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her : A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins. (New York: Crossroad, 1983),133.

[5] Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation : History, Politics, and Salvation, 110.

[6] Ann Carr, “On Feminist Spirituality,” in Women's Spirituality : Resources for Christian Development, ed., Joann Wolski Conn (New York: Paulist Press,1986), 54.

[7] James H. Cone, The Spirituals and the Blues, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2008), 110.

[8] Gustavo Gutiérrez, We Drink from Our Own Wells : The Spiritual Journey of a People. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1984),132.

[9] Ann Carr, “On Feminist Spirituality,” in Women's Spirituality : Resources for Christian Development, ed., Joann Wolski Conn (New York: Paulist Press,1986), 55.

[10] Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation, 116.

[11] Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation, 113.

[12] Sandra Schneiders, Beyond Patching: Faith and Feminism in the Catholic Church, (new York: Paulist Press, 1991), 27. As quoted by Perrin in Studying Christian Spirituality, 324.

[13] Gustavo Gutiérrez, We Drink from Our Own Wells : The Spiritual Journey of a People. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1984),132. “The journey through the desert creates a community flowing with the mild and honey of the fellowship of those who know God as their Father.”

[14] I am thinking of a favourite quote from Simone Weil, “Love sees what is invisible.” The full quote is: "He who has absolutely no belongings of any kind around which social consideration crystallizes does not exist. A popular Spanish song says in words of marvellous truth: 'If anyone wants to make himself invisible, there is no surer way than to become poor. Love sees what is invisible." Simone Weil, Waiting for God, trans. Emma Craufurd, (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1951), 91.

[15] Andrew Dreitcer, ‘Spiritualities of The Margins’, background notes, 7. Under the section exploring where feminist spirituality finds its most profound sense of God, Dreitcer writes of “a growing sense of sacredness at the centre of one’s being – a sacredness that one shares in. Or better, an experience of being sacred.”

[16] David B. Perrin, Studying Christian Spirituality (New York: Routledge, 2007), 323. “ At the core of feminisms, and feminist spiritualities, lies the desire to expose the debilitating hierarchical structures of the world, that by their very nature, transforms people and the natural world into objects to be exploited for ideological or financial reasons. . .  Feminism works to expose hierarchical and dualistic relationships and replace them with structures, knowledge, and beliefs that recognize the implicitly equality of people, the importance of the natural world, and the desire to construct justice for all – in society or in the churches.”

Additional Material:  ‘Questions of Critical Edges’

I was glad to see that Perrin took an enlightened approach to the standard, and in my view, unnecessary, polemic between Christian spirituality and science. It is true, as he notes, that while religion is concerned largely with “the enormous world of the unseen, which cannot be observed at will, measured with an instrument, or quantified by human means,”[1] science is concerned with the verifiable facts that can be measured and recorded. But Perrin points us to their mutuality, steering away from standard dualist thinking to note that both science and spirituality “probe beyond humanity’s immediate grasp in the universe” stretching “the boundaries of what is know of life at this time to help gain an ever more profound, yet always incomplete, understanding of the world.”[2]

Perrin’s writing on feminist spirituality gave further clarity to feminist consciousness, separating it out from women’s spirituality by the explicit “awareness of systematic and structural character of women’s oppression sustained either intentionally or indirection through patriarchy.”[3] His dividing the emerging of the feminist movement into three waves gave further guidance to a movement which has always baffled me, even though I am clearly in the midst of it.

I found Perrin's notes on New Age spirituality somewhat dismissive.  I found myself agreeing with several of what he called the negative aspects of this spirituality. He seemed to place the Christian church in opposition to many aspects of this movement, which I do not. [4]

I read somewhere that when Andre Trocme, the 20th century charismatic Protestant minister of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France, was asked why he and his wife risked their lives to hid Jews in the Second World War Trocme simply responded, “I didn’t want to be separated from Jesus.” This has always made the most perfect sense to me. It reduces all my theology to a single sentence. I don’t want to be separated from Jesus. I suppose much of my spirituality flows from this thought, and determines how I read the various spiritualities.

And just as a concluding remark, I think the idea of being a co-producer with the divine spirit and with others in the spiritual transformation of humanity seriously rocks - which definitely puts me in the liberation/feminist spirituality camp. 

[1] Perrin, 299.

[2] Perrin, 299

[3] Perrin, 321.

[4] Perrin, 317.

In both (Latin American and Christian Feminist Liberation spirituality) there is a certain emphasis on humans as being co-operators with God: co-creating, co-shaping, co-operating, co-stewardship.
— Andrew Dreitcer, Spiritualities of the Margins, Background Notes, 2