Edna Mary Mac Donald – Towards a Theology of the body: an analysis of the letters of Maria Dominica Mazzarello

Firstly, I will state my position regarding a feminist Christian spirituality in relation to embodiment.

Secondly, I will situate the figure of Maria Mazzarello within the context of Italian spirituality by succinctly exploring some major notions of nineteenh-century Italian asceticism with its particular impact on women.

In the final section a critique of the autobiographical works of Maria in reference to embodiment spirituality will be explored.

The analysis will highlight two issues: how Maria broke with convention on significant philosophical and consequently theological ascetical orientations, and it will also indicate the retrieval of an embodied spirituality.





  • Embodiment and Christian Spirituality
  • Nineteenth-century Italian Catholic Ascetical Practice
  • The Century of Asceticism
  • Nineteenth-century Italian Asceticism and its Impact on Women
  • A Theology of the Body: an Analysis of the Autobiographical Works of Maria Domenica Mazzarello
  • Care for the Body not Distrust of the Body
  • The Body Viewed Within the Realm of Selfmotivational Choices and Constant Re-evaluation of Life-style, not an Obstacle to Overcome through the Practice of Purity
  • The Body Considered Within the Notion of a Developing Self invested in Material Conditions not as a Punitive Understanding of the Spiritual Experience


Reference time period: 1800 – 1880

E. M. MacDonald, Towards a Theology of the body: an analysis of the letters of Maria Dominica Mazzarello, in «Journal of Salesian Sudies» 8 (1997) 2, 310-331.

Reference institution:
Institute of Salesian Studies
Institute of Salesian Studies

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