As a child, Kristen Wolf set up a makeshift altar in the driveway of her home, decorating a desk with a white cloth and a crucifix before proceeding to conduct a Mass and causing a stir that resulted in a reprimand.
The move came, she now says, from a sense that she was left outside the center of Catholic tradition and spirituality by her gender, a feeling that led her decades later to write “The Way,” a re-imagining of the story of Jesus with a woman in the central role.
“I had a very definite sense, even as a young child, of being somehow excluded from my spiritual experience,” Wolf said in a recent telephone interview.
“As I looked on it, the church leaders could only be male and our God was male, the main player was the Father’s only son. The women were mostly in ancillary roles … I never felt there was a heroic female.”
Decades later, after attending Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and studying the Bible and mythology, as well as reading retellings of once-male stories from a female point of view, Wolf thought there was a need for a new take on the Biblical tale of the Messiah.
The result was the story of Anna, a tomboy in ancient Palestine whose androgynous appearance leads to her being disguised as a boy and sold to shepherds. Captured and taught by a group of women who live according to an ancient philosophy, she tries to spread their teachings to ordinary people.