The women who led the contemplative movement in the church throughout history and influenced the loving search for God over the centuries often made tremendous sacrifices and suffered a great deal. Some gave up wealthy positions, some suffered significant loss, and many of them actively sought to alleviate the suffering of others, exposing themselves to plagues and misery.
They didn’t necessarily shape the theology that we believe, but they do show us steps we can take in the deeper work of abiding in Christ. Here’s an overview of 13 female mystics from church history, but I have included three highlights below:
Catherine of Genoa wrote about a kind of internal purgatory: “The soul presents itself to God still bound to the desires and suffering that derive from sin and this makes it impossible for it to enjoy the beatific vision of God,” Catherine wrote in her book of revelations. She developed a deep relationship with God which Pope Benedict XVI described as a “unitive life.”
Clare of Assissi worked alongside Francis of Assissi: “Clare’s piety was so profound that her sister, mother and several other female relatives eventually came to live with her and be her disciples in her convent outside Assisi. The group came to be known as the ‘Poor Clares.'”
Angela of Foligno shares the common background of coming from a wealthy family or, in her case, losing family members to death: “Angela then sold her possessions and in 1291 enrolled in the Third Order of St Francis. At 43, Angela had a vision of God’s love while she was making a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Francis of Assisi.”
Consider if there are desires you may need to confess to God today in order to experience greater freedom.