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the other friends of Jesus

JesusWithWomenIs the Pope serious?! Or has the Vatican PR machine merely given up being concerned about even attempting to prevent publicity gaffes in the current administration? Are the half a billion women Roman Catholics mostly silently compliant? How are the world’s three-quarters of a million nuns and religious sisters reacting?

Benedict XVI is, apparently, the first pope to ever publish a children’s book. His is called “Gli amici di Gesù -The friends of Jesus”. Here is the Pope’s list of Jesus’ 14 friends: Peter, Andrew, James the older, John, Thomas, Matthew, Philip, Bartholomew, James the younger, Simon, Judas Thaddeus, Judas Iscariot, Matthias, and Paul.

Yep! You got it… they are all males! No explanation. No apology!

The book went on sale on July 22, the Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene!
[As an aside, Mary Magdalene, the “apostle to the apostles”, surprisingly (or possibly not?) is only given a Memorial in the Roman Catholic Church, the lowest rank of liturgical days (Solemnity, Feast, Memorial). She does not even deserve a feast day!]

Now, yes, we are all reading Luke’s gospel together this year – including the Pope. Has he not noticed that in the Gospel according to Luke there are 24 times when Jesus meets a woman, talks about a woman, or has a woman in a parable? And for every single one of those mentions the image is a positive one.

So here is my book of “The friends of Jesus”:

Mary – mother of Jesus
Mary Magdalene – “apostle to the apostles”
Martha of Bethany
Mary of Bethany
Salome mother of James and John
Mary mother of James and Joses
Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza
Prisca/Priscilla (mentioned first on three out of five occasions)
Junia the apostle

Oops that’s my 14 used up!

I haven’t even got to Lois, Eunice, Pilate’s wife, Peter’s mother-in-law, the daughter of Jairus, the woman with the flow of blood, the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman, the woman accused of adultery, the Samaritan woman,…

Nothing actually very notable about Jesus in his day and culture having some male friends, what was revolutionary was Jesus’ relationship with women. Jesus’ disciples included women who travelled with him (and, take note, provided a lot of the funding!). It was to Martha that Jesus declared himself to be The Resurrection. Jesus let a woman of ill repute anoint him. In a culture where the testimony of women was not considered valid, Jesus sent Mary Magdalene as the first to proclaim his resurrection to men.

Ps. My list is copyright. If you get your book out before I do – please credit me. And that includes you, Benedict XVI, if you happen to be reading this, and are thinking about doing a “revision” or a “volume 2”.

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45 thoughts on “the other friends of Jesus”

  1. i think the pope is correct about his lists of friends of Jesus on one hand, he is also honestly and forgivable wrong not to include any of the holy women who were responsible if not in whole but part of the welfare of the christian community of the messianic era. i forgive his honest mistake and applaud the corrections given Mary – mother of Jesus
    Mary Magdalene – “apostle to the apostles”
    Martha of Bethany
    Mary of Bethany
    Salome mother of James and John
    Mary mother of James and Joses
    Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza
    Prisca/Priscilla (mentioned first on three out of five occasions)
    Junia the apostle.
    authentic women of holiness.

  2. THANK YOU, Father Bosco… I love your list.

    I don’t think the Pope meant to slight women. He apparently didn’t think of them at all when he put together his book. And that is even more frightening, as well as the failure of his PR people to notice the omission.

    It’s sad. Don’t we want girls to feel that they too are children of God? That they too can be friends with Jesus, love him, be loved by him, walk with him?

  3. So true and very sad the Pope couldn’t show a better side of the Catholic Church. Wake up I would say. This way you loose followers by the day. Or by the scandal.

    Love the final words in the Ps.

  4. Thank you for writing this! I’ve always been partial to the gospel of Luke because he shows the important role that women played in the life of Jesus. I would have expected the majority of characters in the pope’s book to be men, but how could he overlook Mary Magdalene and Mary and Martha–they were close friends of our Lord.

  5. Christianne McKee

    His holiness – or “the Rat” as we used to call him when I was in grad school (with some affection because he was a source we often cited) – is afraid that ordained women would bring down the entire Roman Catholic hierarchy, which they probably would. Not a bad thin IMHO. And since he can’t deny that Junia is an apostle, he will never recognize her as a woman, but will prefer the variant texts that have “Junias” (a man’s name). Pray for a new pope.

  6. I occasionally encounter folks like this – an author who “forgets” half of humanity – but then, I am a Chaplain in a senior care center ministering with folks dealing with dementia. Please don’t leap to the conclusion that I’m saying that Benedict is dealing with forgetfulness! I AM SAYING that he is surrounded by insensitive idiots who didn’t point out to him his glaring omission of the key women surrounding Jesus as his friends. After all, there was only ONE GUY at the foot of the cross, ALL THE REST were women! Jesus’ “best friends”, the guys, every one of them, had run away. Some friends!

  7. The pope doesn’t think of women as the Gospels portray Jesus did because his whole life has been informed and conditioned by a religious system that places the authority of interpreters, starting with the church fathers, on par with exegesis of Scripture. Unlike Jesus, the post apostolic fathers, reformers and most male church leaders since have developed philosophies and control mechanisms that reflect the cultural expediencies of the time. What is unique is that the current Pope seems to have lost touch with both the Gospels and current Western thinking.

  8. Well said, Revd Bosco!

    Like Jeffrey, I think the error is forgiveable, given that Benedict lives and moves in a culture where the virtual absence of women is institutionalised.

    What is shocking, as you say, is that nobody else picked up the serious omission of anybody blessed with XX chromosomes.

  9. When Mary of Bethany sat at Jesus’ feet whilst Martha fussed, she was sitting in the place of a disciple.

    When Mary [arguably Magdalene] broke the box of nard and anointed Jesus before his burial, she was performing the function and action of a priest.

    Mary Magdalene is also called ‘the apostle to the apostles’ from VERY early in the church’s history.

  10. Well said! These guys are afraid of women! How dare he perpetuate the “boys club” conspiracy on little children!? Jesus is, as usual being portrayed as something he was Not: a woman hater.
    Who was there when he was on the cross? Who were the first to know that he had risen? Where were gli cowardly amici? Same place they are today! Shut up behind walls, fearful of the truth!!!

  11. Cecilia Fogg Whitehurst

    Just more confirmation that Benedict XVI and his Vatican are tragically (and indefensibly) living in a much earlier century, coming after the recent paper that includes a re-affirmation of the ban on women priests in a piece about the Church’s response to the issue of abusive (male, of course!) priests! The ordination of women by by a few rogue bishops is labeled a “sin” against the church’s moral authority! *What* moral authority?!?!

  12. It’s not like the Pope arbitrarily selected 14 boys out of Jesus’ friends. He wanted to write a book for children about the apostles and named it “The Friends of Jesus”. That has nothing to do with suggesting Jesus had no female friends.

  13. Thanks for this piece, I have linked to it in my blog.

    I agree with those posters who have said it is not a deliberate slight, it is a blind spot about the presence of women in Christ’s time on earth. It is sad indeed.

    1. This site, Sue, has a significant amount of material on monasticism and Religious Life. This Sunday our church has a focus on vocations to Religious Life. I remember seeing a recent statistic of a drop in one year of 10% of worldwide numbers in Religious Life. The tradition of a nun or sister being a special friend of Jesus is lost in this “blind spot” – subliminally perhaps, for young girls… Hence, my allusion to that. Not to mention all of us, I hope, can identify ourselves somewhere in the stories of Jesus’ friends.

  14. This is really petty. Go for the gold, rev, and spell woman “womyn” while you’re going for the “inclusive” prize. None of this feigning brings us closer to Christ; it’s about how “good” our speech is. I wish you all the best, but I’m done with your feed. That and that silly Yoda “there is no try” tripe. Feh.

  15. “friends” could mean different things in different cultures. Being a children book, i Respect his choice.

    Whichever way , had some female friends been mentioned I could foresee someoone out there on the other extreme end of the spectrum some antagonist of yours coming out with a reply : Jesus had too many girl friends…

  16. And then someone outthere would say that Jesus had to many girl friends…. People will always talk!!!

    The pope addresses the whole world… Friends mean different things in different cultures. Keeping it to it’s most conservative meaning is respectable.

  17. Yes, Chidi, you are totally correct IMO. Jesus was criticised exactly for this in his lifetime. He was not “respectable”. His words and actions were scandalous enough to the religious authorities that they had to do away with him.

  18. I disagree that this is an oversight and not a slight. In the Episcopal Church we ask for forgiveness of things done and things left undone. An oversight is still a slight.

    All that aside, thanks, Bosco. When are you publishing a book of women of the OT?

  19. http://www.piccolacasaeditrice.it/scheda_BXVI2010.pdf
    This is the website that contains the advertising blurb for the book along with the cover illustration.

    Bosco!! What a bunch of kerfuffle about nothing. This is a book written for children and teens about Jesus’ choosing of the apostles. The cover of the book shows a cartoon version of Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper with ten of his apostles. Even from the cover illustration it is obvious that the book is about the apostles. In John chapter 15, especially in verse 15, but also in verses 13 and 14, in the context of instituting the Supper, Jesus calls the apostles his ‘friends’. If I am writing about Christians and I say that Christians are God’s children, does that mean that I cannot also believe that Jews and Hindus and Muslims and Buddhists and Pagans are also God’s children? Why would I (or Benedict for that matter) not be able to refer to the apostles as Jesus’ friends withough making it the exclusive list of Jesus friends, especially when John specifically has Jesus calling his apostles his ‘friends’. Here is my line for line rough translation of the book blurb, followed by the intro from the website that introduces the book:
    (The Friends of Jesus)Gli amici di Gesù
    (Excerpts from the Holy Father’s Audiences dedicated to the Apostles and to St Paul) Brani dalle Udienze del Santo Padre dedicate agli Apostoli e a san Paolo
    (Introduction by Julian Carron) Introduzione di Julián Carrón
    (Edited, Little House Publishers, Milan, 2010) Ed. Piccola Casa Editrice, Milano, 2010
    (Price: 12 euros) Prezzo 12,00 euro
    (Cover size: 20cm by 20cm, 8inches by 8 inches) F.to chiuso 20×20
    (48 pages plus illustrated hard cover)48 pagine + copertina cartonata
    (Color illustrations inside) Interno colori con illustrazioni
    (Weight: 250 grams) Peso 250 grammi
    (ISBN number…) Codice ISBN 978-88-904252-3-3
    (The illustrated book, “The Friends of Jeus” recounts several exerpts from the General Audiences that Benedict XVI dedicated to the Apostles and to St Paul) Il libro illustrato “Gli Amici di Gesù” raccoglie alcuni brani tratti dalle Udienze generali che Benedetto XVI ha dedicato agli Apostoli e a san Paolo. (It is a course that leads the reader to the origins of the Church through the experiences of the first men who encountered Jesus and who became his friends.) Si tratta di un percorso che porta il lettore alle origini della Chiesa, attraverso le vicende dei primi che hanno incontrato Gesù e che sono diventati i suoi amici. The book, aimed at children and teens, contains the description that Benedict XVI gave of the most significant moments of each apostle’s meeting Jesus, involving the reader in those events from two thousand years ago as though they were witness to what happened.) Il volume, rivolto in particolare a bambini e ragazzi, raccoglie la descrizione che Benedetto XVI fa
    dei momenti più significativi dell’incontro di ogni apostolo con Gesù, coinvolgendo il lettore in quei fatti di duemila anni fa e rendendolo testimone di quanto accaduto. (In his preface Julian Carron writes, “The Pope takes them by the hand and accompanies them to discover who were Christ’s first companions and how he met them, and how they were convinced by him to the point of deciding never to leave him) Nella sua prefazione, don Julián Carrón scrive: “Il Papa ci prende per mano e ci accompagna a scoprire chi erano i primi compagni di Cristo, come Lo incontrarono e come furono conquistati da lui fino a decidere di non abbandonarLo mai più”.

    1. Thanks, Randal, for your contribution. The length of your response appears to belie your contention that this is “a bunch of kerfuffle about nothing.”

      Your pointing to John 15:15 is interesting as Jesus deliberately sends Judas Iscariot out prior to calling those left “friends”. Yet the pope’s children’s book includes Judas as one of the 14 friends. Why is Lazarus not included? Jesus specifically, individually calls him a friend in that same gospel.

      I suggest obvious caution in your seeming identification of John 15:13 with the apostles.

      Your lengthy response avoids the issue of the use of the definite article, “The friends of Jesus”. No one is denying that the apostles were friends of Jesus. Just as no one is denying that dogs and cats are animals. However, if I am a world authority on animals and have a billion people constantly interested in my teachings on them, there may be appropriate surprise if I write a book for children and teens titled “The animals on planet Earth” and this book only has dogs and cats in it.

      If it’s a book about the apostles as your fine print has it, why not call the book, “The apostles of Jesus”?

  20. I like your list, Fr. Bosco, but why, why, why complain about the Holy Father’s book? I think his effort was beautiful and will be a great blessing to children. Boys and girls will read the book and come to understand that they can be a friend of Jesus, also, unless an adult with an agenda spoils it for them.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Fr Michael. Imagine girls reading a book about fire fighters, and every single one of them is a man; imagine her reading a book about doctors, and every single one of them is a man; imagine her reading a book about police, and every single one of them is a man – I’m not as convinced as you that she will easily come to understand that she can be a fire fighter, doctor, police also. Imagine a boy reading a book about teachers, and every single one of them is a woman, or a book about nurses, and every single one of them is a woman, or a book about …

  21. I’m pretty sure this is a book written by an editor, who abridged and edited the Pope’s Wednesday audiences on the Apostles in 2006 – 2007. The Pope did not actually write this children’s book. If you look at his talks on the apostles, you will see that he dedicated one talk to a disciple couple: Pricilla and Aquila. In the following audience he mentioned the many women who were disciples, including the Prophetess Anna, the Samaritan Woman, the Syro-Phoenecian Woman,the Hemoraghic Woman, the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdelene, Joanna and Suzanna. The unedited book for adults makes it clear that it is a text primarily about the apostles, with additional informaiton about women disciples. Here’s a link to the audience specifically about women: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20070214_en.html

  22. Thanks, Rick. So do you think it very unfortunate that the pope gave his permission for this particular editing and didn’t demand that the many women who were disciples, including the Prophetess Anna, the Samaritan Woman, the Syro-Phoenecian Woman,the Hemoraghic Woman, the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdelene, Joanna and Suzanna be included?

  23. Greetings (Fr?) James (Jh)
    Thank you for your enthusiasm about my site.
    In your linked blog-post rather than address my points, you appear to melodramatically relish the controversy that the Catholic and other media will generate when the English version appears. As the pope is not infallible in the choice of this book’s title, would it not be more positively productive to work to encourage the title for the translation to become, “The Apostles of Jesus”?

  24. This is my first intro to your site. Thankful for the stand you’ve taken. I agree no malice on the Pope’s part, but just more of the same old, same old of women being completely off the radar screen.

    We just received an elaborately printed history volume commemorating Mexico’s bicentennial (9/16/2010). Starting from the pre-columbian native population up to the present day there are a total of four women depicted. One is a stone statue (Coatlicue); one an image (Virgin of Guadalupe); one a 17th century nun Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz); and the most recent was a woman who “helped” the revolutionary leaders in 1810.Just how is not mentioned. No mention even of Malinche, without whom Cortes would have been totally lost. Diego Rivera, si. Frida, no. Give me a break. I’m starting to believe women DO live in an alternate universe, or might as well for all the notice they receive from HISstorians.
    Oh — and I included a good portion of your list in my new book
    Virgin Territory: How I Found My Inner Guadalupe.

    1. Ashleigh, an assertion like that has to go on more than feelings IMO. Arguments about Jesus’ marital status go both ways and, if married, Mary Magdalene is generally seen as the most likely option as his wife. That they had children is getting into the area of conspiracy theories IMO.

  25. Nnadozie Onyedika

    This is very good! I was writing a book on friendship when I came across this. I wanted to include that Jesus had decent relationship with females but I was a bit afraid. Although the Anglican family where I belong might accept it, I was wondering how the rest of my Father’s Kingdom will feel and here I saw a post written with clear conscience. thank you sir! this is an encouragement to me here in Nigeria. may God bless His Church .

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