"Women tend to know in a way and to a degree that many men do not, both the history and the cost of human flesh."
Thank you for your patience through delays in my scheduling. Perhaps with the subject matter, what is lost in the momentum of a slow pace is made up for in time to absorb deep portraits of these women.
I invite you to begin reading about Clare of Assisi in the following days, as you are able. I will soon begin posting about her chapter. Before discussing her, though, I'd like to address one last important issue from the introduction.
On pages 7 and 8, Flinders summarizes Sara Ruddick's "maternal practics" construct - certain elements of the physical mothering experience that may influence many (though certainly not all) women's ways of being in the world. Flinders finds these patterns present in the lives of the mystics she will share with us, and so she highlights them in their original form here. To summarize even more briefly than she does:
1. Mothers are required to hold close and at the same time welcome change.
2. Maternal practice gives rise to a preference for concrete rather than abstract thinking.
3. "Attentive love" is a practice mothers teach themselves and one another to cultivate. If I understand attentive love, it may be described as an intertwining of the events of being known and being loved.
4. Women strengthen themselves and one another by telling their own stories.
Personally, my response to this construct is a rather deep affinity. They each exist in various forms in feminist theology, and shape an understanding of God that is relational and nurturing. I actually returned to this list as a resource to understand my own confusion a few pages into Clare's chapter... I must confess, I don't know how these maternal practices will be reconciled with the ascetism that these faithful women lived by (and which is usually the largest obstacle I have to feeling affinity for them). I am especially fond of the words from Ruddick that I used to open this post, and of these that she quotes from Schreiner, "No woman who is a woman says of a human body, 'it is nothing.'"
These practices of mothering, while attractive, are in many ways abstract for me, though, as I have not had many models for motherhood in my life that I would wish to emulate.
I ask you: what is your response to Ruddick's maternal practices? What about the forceful description of womanhood from Schreiner? What parts ring true? Which feel false to you? For those of you who have children, how has your experience of motherhood shaped your response to the experiences described in Ruddick's list?