Postmodern Theology as Spiritual Autobiography

By: Jean Pierre Fortin  

This paper proposes to listen to the crying voices of four “saints” of joy, faithful women who attempted to live out their Christian vocation in 13th and 14th century Europe: Hadewijch of Antwerp, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Catherine of Siena, and Julian of Norwich. By means of a contextual comparative study, it will show that these medieval mystics further our understanding of the nature of joy by teaching twenty-first century westerners how to perceive and reflect on a joy taking hold of the human heart amidst relentless suffering. These female medieval mystics teach us how to do theology without using abstract language and categories, that is, how to perceive and articulate in the mode and format of spiritual autobiography the transformative presence of God in our lives, even and especially in suffering. Understanding human existence as intimate transformative interaction with God, they have, in their persons and works, explored the conditions under which the experience and reality of suffering become the medium within which true and lasting joy can be accessed. The four landmark texts to be considered are the Poems, Visions and Letters, The Flowing Light of the Godhead, The Dialogue on Divine Providence and the Showings. These works convey the voices of gifted women called to teach both church and world on the true nature and purpose of human existence. The theology and struggle of these medieval mystics will inspire women and men striving to live authentic lives today, as they attempt to speak and minister in challenging times.

Theology Spirituality Joy
Religious Foundations
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Jean Pierre Fortin

Assistant Professor of Spirituality, Institute of Pastoral Studies, Loyola University Chicago

Holding a Ph.D. in theology (University of St. Michael's College), a Ph.D. in philosophy (Université Laval/Namur University) and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (Regis College), I am a junior scholar proficient in Christian spirituality and systematic theology, aesthetics, ancient philosophy, and philosophy of science, who is actively involved in ecumenical dialogue. My research addresses the question of the human condition in the context of an evolving world where radical evil and suffering are found abiding; a great spiritual concern of our time. I possess significant teaching experience at the graduate and undergraduate levels in theology and philosophy and currently serve as Assistant Professor of Spirituality at the Institute of Pastoral Studies of Loyola University Chicago. I have published 2 monographs, 12 articles, 5 book reviews and given more than 38 presentations at academic conferences. I have also assumed a number of administrative responsibilities sitting on program revision committees, admission committees, faculty and advanced degree councils.