Edna Mary Mac Donald – “Towards a Theology of the body: an analysis of the letters of Maria Dominica Mazzarello” in “Journal of Salesian Studies”

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.




  • Introduction
    • 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
  • Conclusion

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 Studies» 8 (1997) 2, 310-331.

Reference institution:
Institute of Salesian Studies
Institute of Salesian Studies

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