Author and podcaster Kat Armas shares how honoring the voices of our female ancestors enriches our faith. She calls it “abuelita theology”:
Scripture testifies to the power and influence of grandmothers among the people of God. For years I overlooked this detail because I hadn’t been trained to recognize the importance or value of women in the Bible. . . .
I overlooked the introduction to Paul’s second letter to Timothy until one day it caught my attention, affirming my curiosity and conviction of the importance of both abuelitas and the faith of my ancestors. In this short passage, Paul says: “I’m grateful to God, whom I serve with a good conscience, as my ancestors did. I constantly remember you in my prayers day and night. When I remember your tears, I as my ancestors did long to see you so that I can be filled with happiness. I’m reminded of your authentic faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice. I’m sure that this faith is also inside you” (2 Timothy 1:3–5, emphasis mine).
Here Paul names the power and importance of abuelita theology.
By acknowledging Timothy’s faith (a faith birthed from his abuelita and his mamá), Paul honors [and] . . . acknowledges that their faith is a communal faith that takes seriously the impact of . . . the women who formed and shaped him. . . . I often wonder what Abuela Lois and Mama Eunice’s faith looked like. How did they live it out? Were they dedicated to serving the community like Tabitha? Were they leading house churches like Lydia did or instructing leaders like Priscilla did?
Armas recounts losing sight of Christianity’s communal nature, and how the communion of saints inspires her:
I internalized the hyperindividualistic view of faith and salvation. . . . I bought into the idea that my spirituality is private, that my spiritual growth has absolutely nothing to do with my community, my ancestors—the cloud of witnesses, those I knew directly and indirectly—as well as the countless number of people who have influenced me or even those I myself have influenced. . . .
The communion of saints has enriched my theological imagination, particularly when it comes to my ancestors and las madres of the faith, the women throughout history who have gone before us paving the way, building their own tables, and offering a perspective of the divine, without which our faith would be lacking. . . .
My hope is that those without power or privilege in society, many of whom hold our families together, would be highly honored by all. . . . My desire is that the stories of these women in Scripture and beyond illuminate something new in us so that when we see those on the margins living life en la lucha, in the struggle, we would be drawn to their experiences and drink from their wells overflowing with sabiduría, wisdom, about the divine.
Kat Armas, Abuelita Faith: What Women on the Margins Teach Us about Wisdom, Persistence, and Strength (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2021), 33–34, 35, 36, 37.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Native American elder and Episcopal bishop Steven Charleston experiencing God as a grandmother.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Jeremy Bezanger, Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (detail), Egypt, photograph, Unsplash. Jon Tyson, Untitled (detail), 2018, photograph, Unsplash. Rasam, Takht-e-Jamshid (Persepolis) (detail), 2020, Iran, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
Image inspiration: Human ancestors leave legacies in physical and cultural bones, while stones carry meaning and memory. How will you listen to the wisdom of your ancestors?
Story from Our Community:
The Daily Meditations bring me great deal of clarity and direction. I was inspired to think of my own ancestors when I read Felicia Murrell’s reflection: “We cry the tears our ancestors could not. We feel the fatigue they were not allowed to feel. We give in to the vulnerability that would have cost their lives.” In the past, I have blocked an emotional response to my mother’s life, but those words allowed me to feel for her with different understanding. Thank You. —Alpha H.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.