Author Helps Four Women Doctors Lead a Four-Week Retreat

This is the cover of the book “Setting the World on Fire: A 4-Week Personal Retreat with Women Doctors of the Church” by Vinita Hampton Wright. The book is edited by Kathleen Finley. (CNS photo courtesy of Ave Maria Press)

“Setting the World on Fire: A 4-Week Personal Retreat with Women Doctors of the Church” by Vinita Hampton Wright. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2022). 181 pages, $18.95.

Because we have limited options for in-person retreats these days, Vinita Wright offers the reader a much-needed opportunity to listen and reflect with the church’s four female physicians. She does this in a clear and articulate way, without being too basic or too specialized, starting with a fine explanation of what a saint is:

“Although every person in God’s family is considered a saint with a small s, some people live in such a way that their imitation of the love of Christ has a great impact on others. … This holiness goes beyond the godliness of saying prayers and maintaining other spiritual practices. … Such a saint relates to others in a truly Christian way: with humility, wisdom, passion and a certain spiritual confidence that enables them to act according to what they feel God asks them to do. Saints are brave but not haughty, resilient but not hardened. Saints often suffer greatly, physically and otherwise.

Emphasize the qualities

She further explains that “Doctors of the Church are given this title because we believe their understanding of spirituality, theology, and the church is timeless and of great benefit to all generations and situations.”

As Wright takes us by the hand to introduce us to these amazing women, she highlights a particular quality in each that may be particularly helpful to the reader, from Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, who shows us how to love God through a small path , to Saint Teresa of Avila, who encourages us to own our unique life with God, to Saint Catherine of Siena, who sets an example of spiritual power in the loving service of God, and to Saint Hildegard of Bingen, who models engaging life with great passion and creativity.

Passages of every woman

For each woman, Wright chooses excellent passages from their own writings, such as that of Teresa of Avila:

“I have often reflected with amazement on the great goodness of God, and my soul has rejoiced at the thought of his great magnificence and mercy. Bless him for all this for it became clear to me that even in this life he did not fail to reward me for any of my good desires.

She goes on to say that God graciously overlooked her faults and sins.

Wright also quotes Hildegard of Bingen:

“Holy Spirit, quickening life, / moving all things, the root of all creation, / who washes all things of impurity, / takes away sins and soothes wounds / who causes light and praiseworthy life to shine, / awakens and reawakens all things.

Wright often summarizes and applies the ideas of these wise women to our lives. For example, referring to Catherine of Siena:

“St. Catherine urged people to see the truth about their lives and the abundant love of God. She knew that a person could not bear the truth unless they felt secure in the love and purpose of God. If I trust in God’s mercy toward me, then I can face the truth of my faults, sins, weaknesses, errors, and misperceptions. God’s love creates a safe place in which I can look honestly and look at the world Catherine’s understanding of God’s unlimited mercy has fueled the courage of people throughout the centuries: the courage to speak the truth, to change their ways, to do the right thing.

lighter ink

The only way to enhance this inspiring look at these four women would have been to use a lighter contrast ink with the black, as sometimes the needed accent almost disappears in the orange ink used for the special sections.

One cannot but agree with the author that “divine love embraced each (of these wise women) in the mystery of her personality, her story, her temperament and her historical situation. It would be interesting to put them all together in one room, wouldn’t it, just to see how these four pardoned lives might interact and what new wonders would result. I suspect they are keeping each other company now, along with the rest of our great cloud of witnesses who have already left this life and gone to be with God in another phase of this existence given to us. In effect.

Finley is the author of several books on practical spirituality, including “The Liturgy of Motherhood: Moments of Grace” and “Savoring God: Praying With All Our Senses,” and previously taught in the University’s Religious Studies Department. Gonzaga.

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