Women of Spirit: Prayer and the Radical Gospel

Wendy M. Wright 

This first segment of the course will consider the words, lives, and spiritual practices of selected women in the Christian tradition whose responsiveness to the Spirit broke boundaries. Martyrs, medieval mystics, early modern, and modern reformers will be considered. 

Primary texts include selections from women across the sweep of Christian tradition such as The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas; Hadewijch of Brabant’s poems, Hildegard of Bingen’s liturgical compositions; Mechthild of Magdeberg’s Flowing Light of the Godhead; Catherine of Siena’s Dialogue; Jane de Chantal’s letters of spiritual direction; Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, Quaker Margaret Fell’s letters, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s The Women’s Bible; writings of Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells-Barnett on slavery and emancipation; Elizabeth Ann Seton’s dairies; Dorothy Day on Therese of Lisieux’s “little way.”  

Students will also be asked to read contemporary scholarly articles about these figures that employ various interpretive lenses (i.e. historical, literary, ecological, theological, feminist, psychological, queer theory) in order to become familiar with the range of interpretive approaches. 

Through these texts and articles students will explore the relationship between prayer or attentiveness to the Spirit in its various forms and radical gospel insight as it has emerged in the lives and thought of Christian women in specific historical contexts.  

The last segment of the course will focus on studies dealing with the contemplative insights of two contemporary women, Franciscan Ilia Delio and Carmelite Constance Fitzgerald, and their contributions, born of spiritual practice, to contemporary issues such as the nature of God, racial justice, global poverty and climate change.  

The texts are

 In Her Words: Women's Writings in the History of Christian Thought. Ed. Amy Ogden. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994.

Desire, Darkness and Hope: Theology in a Time of Impasse, Engaging the Thought of Constance Fitzgerald, OCD.Ed. Laurie Cassidy and M. Shawn Copeland. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2021. 

Delio, Ilia. The Humility of God: a Franciscan Perspective. Franciscan Media, 2006. 

Dates for this class Spring 2022

The course is Hybrid. There will be two in-class weeks Monday through Thursday mornings February 14-17th and March 21 – 24th as well as online course work both before and between the weeks.