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Tammy Peterson on miracles, meaning and why she is becoming a Catholic

Updated: Feb 28

Tammy Peterson is becoming a catholic

Tammy Peterson is becoming a Catholic. She will be received into the Church at Easter. Any school rebranding their house system and looking for a contemporary role model to inspire their girls would do well to dump Thunberg into the recycling box of history and open instead “Peterson House”.

Why? Because in Tammy we have a true female role model.

In 1985 Annie Lennox released a song called “Sisters are doing it for themselves”. “This is a song” Lennox sang “to celebrate the conscious liberation of the female state” It’s a song to “mothers, daughters and their daughters” to say that “The inferior sex got a new exterior. We got doctors, lawyers and politicians too” because women are “coming out of the kitchen, standing on their own two feet and ringing their own bells”

I was 9 in 1985, unaware I had a bell, let alone whether I should be ringing it or not. My father was up and out of the house before we awoke, and home long after we returned from school. My mother’s constant presence was a given. I didn’t think she was doing anything special or noteworthy. She wasn’t a doctor or a lawyer. I didn’t know what qualifications she had, and I didn’t care, because there was one thing that I always knew for certain, that I was loved. I was glad she hadn’t come out of the kitchen because I was hungry and needed to be fed.

In an artificial world that has spent decades lying to women about their value, Tammy Peterson exemplifies true femininity. She understands her role in feeding others and does it well. We met one autumnal morning with no idea about what we would discuss. I had approached her to ask if we could have a chat about her conversion to the faith and was surprised to find a response from her inviting me onto her podcast. I was nervous and felt completely out of my depth wondering what we might discuss, but as soon as we sat down together, any anxiety I had, dissipated and we were just two middle aged women; mothers, wives and daughters, talking with openness about family and faith.

There was no sense of sugar coating. We spoke of the many great joys we experienced but also of the difficulties along the way. I told her about a beautiful article written by a Catholic priest I knew entitled “Marriage as a lifetime of Suffering”, she laughed and said “Yep, I can understand that”, not because her marriage to Jordan is not a good one, but because it is a real one.

“I had to learn hospitality” she said and spoke to me about the importance of opening up that space in which others can grow. My mind went immediately to the wedding at Cana. We talked about the importance of habit in the formation of virtue, “Jordan and I always set aside time for a date night” she said, “we would get dressed up, I would put on perfume, and we would dance”. For a period of 3 years during which time they were both ill, all of that stopped, and neither were sure that they could resume it again. To their relief, the weekly practice of it had become like a muscle memory allowing them to slip back into the routine of married life, and they once again found themselves dancing together.

On all Saints Day this year my parish priest described a saint as one who “is sure of God’s love for them. When you are sure that you are loved, you go forth unafraid”.

The courage displayed by Jordan Peterson and his family is testament to Tammy’s ability to love. We rarely notice the loving sacrifice that goes into making the invisible visible, as a consequence we celebrate only that which we can see – failing to appreciate that something can only be produced if it has space to grow, if it is nourished and nurtured to ‘become’. What we become is wonderful, but how we become is mysterious.

With her sacramental worldview it is no surprise that Tammy is becoming a Catholic.

Only a sacramental worldview can draw us into the mystery which marries heaven and earth,

meaning and matter, body and soul, man and woman in perfect harmony, for it is in the blessed sacrament that the invisible God becomes visible.

“How’s RCIA going?” I asked, “It’s great” she said in her gentle voice “I just agree with everything they say”. We smiled. I thought of the many voices shouting at one another in both the world and the church. So much discontent, perceived injustice, intransigence. Tammy’s response cut through it all like Mary’s fiat.

It was only in 2018, following a cancer diagnosis, that Tammy discovered that her family were

originally Roman Catholics. She described how her Polish grandmother had changed the religion of the family to protestant when she was a young woman, perhaps, Tammy astutely suggested, because she “got herself entangled in feminism and wanted to put herself in a position of authority”.

During her sickness a cousin sent Tammy her great grandmothers rosary beads and she began to pray.

It was prayer that sustained her after being given 10 months to live. When she was in hospital a friend and catholic convert Queenie Yu would visit at 10am every day and pray the rosary with her.

After a while, when the doctors couldn’t help anymore, they sent her to Philadelphia. Before she left a priest friend Fr Nicolai gave her a novena to St Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. It was on day 5 of this novena, which coincided with her wedding anniversary, that Tammy Peterson was given the news that the cancer had disappeared. She recalled how she had told Jordan some months earlier that she would be “better by our anniversary”.

Within 30 mins she was heading back home and has not stopped praying the rosary daily.

Annie Lennox observation that “Behind every great man, there has to be a great woman” was right, but all her conclusions were wrong. Women don’t need a new exterior; we need alignment with our given interior. And the world needs it too.

In an insignificant town 2000 years ago, a small, young, seemingly insignificant girl opened up the space for love itself to become visible. It was her fiat that brought God down and saved the world.

This is the power of the feminine.

Though Jordan was rightly given top billing at the ARC conference, it is women like Tammy Peterson who will quietly and mysteriously change the world like Saint Monica and Saint Helena before her, but only if they rediscover their lost femininity, for as Gertrud von le Fort says “The world has need of the maternal woman; it is, for the most part, a poor and helpless child”

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I loved this article. Thank you. Can I add that the most difficult job any woman can do in life is to be a mother and remain in the home for her children and husband. I wasn’t one of those mothers, unfortunately. I have four children and each time I went back to work after maternity leave to my teaching job, I would tell my colleagues, I’ve come back to work for a sabbatical from my 24 hour a day job! Now I am retired after 34 years and enjoy being around my home. I still have 2 of my children with me and can pamper them a bit! I do wish that I could have been around more for…

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