“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” Titus 2:3
Uh-oh. Fail. Suppose it’s too late to get a Bible that does not include these instructions to older women, a group that includes me. I was trying to grasp all the finer points of this, trying to figure out how to improve my behavior to live more in line with the teachings of scripture. I thought back to all the times in Catholic school when one of the parish priests would come into our classroom to teach religion and the students got to ask the priest questions. And I imagined what it would be like if the priest came before a group of “older women” who got to ask questions about this passage from Titus.
Father O’Brien reads the passage from Titus 2 and all the hands in the room go up. “But Fadda, Fadda,” they say in unison.
Father: “Yes, Mary Margaret.”
Older woman: “Fadda, can you tell me how much wine this means? It doesn’t mention beer, vodka, or pomegranate passion margaritas with salt. Can we just let our conscience be our guide?”
Father: “Perhaps we need to discuss this in the confessional. Next question? Mary Anne?”
Older woman: “About teaching younger women to love their husbands and children. Do we teach them to love the ungrateful slobs when they smoke those stinkin’ cigars in the house and walk all over my clean carpets with muddy shoes and—"
Father: “Perhaps we need to discuss this in the confessional. Next question? Mary Catherine?”
Father: “Perhaps we need to discuss this in the confessional. Next question? Mary Theresa?”
Older woman: “I need you to clarify the pure thing, Fadda. What about Isabelle McCafferty when she wears those tight skirts to the K of C dances and sits on all the men’s laps?”
Father: “Perhaps we need to discuss this in the confessional. Next question? Mary Frances?”
Older woman: “About this working at home thing. Fadda, I work my ass off at home [muffled giggling in the room]. Oh, sorry, Fadda, I shouldn’t have said ass in front of you. [She makes the sign of the cross.] Except for the mornings when I drink my coffee and the afternoons when I watch my stories on the TV. I’m exhausted. How much work does this mean?”
Father: “Perhaps we need to discuss this in the confessional. Next question? Mary Kathleen?”
Older woman: “Fadda, you said women should be kind and submissive to their husbands. My late husband, Mr. McGuire—may he rest in peace—drank like a fish, played cards, and never lifted a finger to help me. He was a good man. But he told me to stop nagging, to get off his back, to leave him alone. Should I have been kind and submissive or should I have kept trying to straighten him out?”
Father: “Perhaps we need to discuss this in the confessional. I must go now and tend to my priestly duties. Have a blessed day, ladies.”
Older women, in unison: "Thank you, Fadda."
Hmmm . . . I seemed to have strayed far from the Titus text. Perhaps I need to discuss this in the confessional.