There's Room for Each of Us at This Table
Letter from Claire Swinarski
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My sisters in Christ,
My sisters in doubt, my sisters making peanut butter sandwiches, my sisters in lecture halls, my sisters in lab coats, my sisters in shelters, my sisters in pencil skirts, my sisters at daily Mass, if there’s one thing I could tell you, it would be this:
There’s room for you.
I spent quite a while wondering if there was room for me at the Church’s table. I knew Jesus had room for me—he hung out with my crowd, loud mouth recovering know-it-alls trying to figure out how to follow Him. That wasn’t my issue. It was the Church, with its pearls and stained glass, its rules about candle height and liturgical music and specific wordings—that was where I wasn’t sure I was welcome.
I was one of those people that was always questioning things. I’m not great with “authority” and so just because someone told me something didn’t mean I actually believed it. I saw the Church as always elevating meek and mild women like Mary and St. Therese and I just felt completely out of place.
I spent two years as a missionary, and in 2015 I left the #mishlife. I got married and had two kids, and suddenly, evangelizing wasn’t my full time job anymore. I felt like I wasn’t spiritually multiplying or building up disciples of all nations. I was wiping a lot of butts. But did any of that matter?
And then a friend pointed something out to me: I was spiritually multiplying. I was just doing it physically.
And a priest pointed something else out: Jesus told us to care for “the least of these”, and my 2 kids definitely counted.
And most importantly, Jesus pointed something out through the Gospels: that it takes all kinds of people with all kinds of mission to build up the kingdom of God.
I am a unique being, unrepeatable. We laugh at the phrase “special snowflake”, but how corny would it be if I told you that you were a special snowflake? (Too corny, right?!) There’s nobody in the world with your particular mission and your particular temperament. Don’t get distracted by what the women around you are doing. Focus on what God has placed on YOUR heart and know that there is room for you in this beautiful, broken Church.
So I no longer feel like I should be a quiet little flower. That was for Therese. I know longer feel like I should be a missionary in Calcutta. That was for Mother Teresa. I don’t feel like I should work a 9-5 to better uphold the modern feminist movement, or like I should be a stay-at-home mom lest I traumatize my children, or like I should lead a Bible study at Church because if I don’t I’m a lazy parishioner, or like I should be a Catholic speaker because it’s the best way to promote God’s message, or like I should be praying outside of an abortion clinic because it’s what Real Catholics do.
I feel like I should be raising my kids with grace and loving my husband well. I feel like I should be hosting a podcast about world-changing women and turning my scribbles into books. I feel like I should be exactly who I am—a sometimes-snarky Midwesterner with a heart for women and a desire to follow Christ.
There’s room for me at this table. And sister, there’s room for you, too.
In Him Through Her,
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Claire Swinarski is the creator of the Catholic Feminist Podcast and the author of Girl, Arise, coming this February from Ave Maria Press. She's written for The Washington Post, Seventeen, Good Housekeeping, Vox, and many other outlets. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two kiddos.
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