Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Review: Weaving Faith and Experience – A Woman’s Perspective

By Patricia Cooney Hathaway, St. Anthony Messenger Press, Publication Date: January, 2010, paperback, 127 pages.

Reviewed by JEAN M. HEIMANN, graduate student in theology, retired psychologist and educator, freelance writer, and Oblate with the Community of St. John.

In Weaving Faith and Experience, Patricia Cooney Hathaway helps women understand the relationship between faith and human experience during the middle years within the context of the whole life cycle. She uses both psychology and spirituality to interpret adult development, drawing on the insights of such psychologists as Erik Erikson and such spiritual writers as St. Teresa of Avila.

Dr. Cooney-Hathaway is a full professor of spirituality and systematic theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI. Weaving Faith and Experience came about as a result of her course on the stages of human and spiritual development for seminary students and her speaking engagements on the interweaving of women’s human and spiritual journeys. It is part of the “Called to Holiness Spirituality for Catholic Women,” series published by St. Anthony Messenger Press.

In Weaving Faith and Experience, Dr. Cooney-Hathaway examines the seasons of a woman’s life, using Daniel J. Levinson’s landmark work, The Season of a Woman’s Life (1996) as a source for selecting the image of seasons as a way to interpret the stages of spiritual development. Another important source she uses includes responses to questionnaires distributed at her conferences. She devotes one chapter to the spring (ages 17 – 28) and summer (ages 28 – 39) of a woman’s life, two chapters to discuss the autumn season (ages 40 – 65), and one chapter to discuss the winter season (65 and up).

At the heart of her book, Dr. Cooney-Hathaway discloses the “Paradoxical Faith” that women in the early autumn season experience, which she describes as a time when life bears “a twinge of sadness, if not real anxiety, about the fading of youth and the realization that half of life is over.” She seeks to remedy this crisis by introducing us to the mystics, specifically St. John of the Cross, and encouraging us to follow in their footsteps. It is in this section of the book that we begin to find answers to the concerns and dilemmas that face us during this stage of our spiritual journey.

In the later years of autumn, women experience an “Intentional Faith” that is characterized by four separate pairs of polarities introduced by Levinson, which include: young/old; destruction/creation; masculine/feminine; attachment/separation. Dr. Cooney-Hathaway offers new ways of experiencing these polarities by providing corresponding theological themes of: childlike faith, sin and grace, Christian personhood and a sense of community where God becomes the center of our relationships.

In the final season and last chapter of the book, the winter of life (age 65 and up), we are taken to a time where women experience “A Trustful Faith”. It is in this chapter that the author describes in detail St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle (using a helpful concentric diagram). We are also reintroduced to St. John of the Cross and introduced to St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Overall, I found Dr. Patricia Cooney-Hathaway’s book Weaving Faith and Experience -- A Woman's Perspective to be a rich resource and a treasure chest of spiritual helps to aid the adult woman on her spiritual journey. I highly recommend it.

~ © Jean M. Heimann January 17, 2011

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program for The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to purchase Weaving Faith and Experience – A Woman’s Perspective.  The Catholic Company is also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.


Heidi Hess Saxton said...

Jean: Dr. Cooney-Hathaway is my thesis director at Sacred Heart, an adoptive mother and a fine writer. I also highly recommend her work, and am looking forward to reading the book!

Heidi Saxton

Jean M. Heimann said...

Lucky you! She certainly is a wonderful writer. I would love to hear her speak sometime. I'm sure you'll enjoy the book, Heidi. :)