Women, Conscience, and the Creative Process | Spiritual Directors International

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Women, Conscience, and the Creative Process

Women, Conscience, and the Creative Process
by Anne E. Patrick, SNJM
Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2011
96 pages
Reviewed by Carol Fournier

Women, Conscience, and the Creative Process is a concise reflection by Roman Catholic moral theologian Anne E. Patrick. The text is a rich scholarly contemplation informed by Roman Catholic theology, biblical scholarship, and ethics. The content was originally presented as an invited lecture offered through the Madeleva Lecture Series at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, USA.

Patrick encourages her readers to embrace the redeeming grace of creativity when faced with limitation, oppression, and injustice. As an example, she reflects on the impact that the emergence of the Catholic Womenpriests movement has had on the Roman Catholic Church in spite of the “efforts of the hierarchy to quash it” (23), comparing this social justice impetus to the American civil rights movement that gained cohesiveness through the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other women and men. Furthermore, she reflects on the contributions of Catherine of Siena to the Christian faith as the first woman doctor of theology of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as a woman of conscience and creativity. Patrick goes on to propose that, “for those who believe the current status of women in Catholicism is not a just one, the movement represents a creative non-violent attempt to overcome oppression that bears some resemblance to the examples Jesus gave in a very different context” (23).

Challenging circumstances call for creative solutions and thoughtful implementation that supports the inspired initiatives of the Spirit. Any authentic emergence of social change that is fueled by the Holy “seizes ‘the moral initiative’ and models a ‘creative alternative’” that with perseverance and faith ultimately transforms from the inside out. She observes that when women and men consciously choose to “break the cycle of humiliation” in any circumstance, they model the compassionate and transformative nature of Christ (23).

A deeply personal interpretation of conscience, drawing on scripture, ethics, psychology, and stories of women’s lives to demonstrate the importance of the virtue of creative responsibility,

Patrick presents a wise and insightful treatise offering a call to action for those engaged in creatively seeking change, social justice, and equity for all people. Women, Conscience, and the Creative Process is a useful resource for theologians, ethicists, sociologists, anthropologists, social activists, and others concerned with issues of equity and conscience. She reminds us of the need to move towards spiritual and religious maturity through cultivation of the “creatively responsible self” (55). This small text is a gently whispered charge for social change spurred on by authentic deep listening to the call of the Holy in our times.

Carol A. Fournier, MS, MA, NCC, is director and founder of the Silver Dove Institute in Burlington, Vermont, USA. She trains interfaith spiritual directors and counselors internationally. A retreat director and author, she lives in Vermont, USA.

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