Dr. Gillian Ahlgren is a dynamic teacher of Christian spirituality. She is an internationally-recognized scholar of the Christian mystical tradition, an experienced spiritual director, and a popular public speaker. She engages a regular practice of contemplative prayer, gives retreats and workshops, and consults with communities seeking renewal and resources for growth. She is the Founding Director of Xavier University’s Institute for Spirituality and Social Justice.
In her teaching and public speaking she promotes greater awareness of the transforming wisdom of spiritual leaders, past and present. She creates moments of reflection, analysis and creative visioning for individuals and communities seeking greater authenticity and self-expression.
Dr. Ahlgren is the author of six books that explore the challenges of integrating personal, intellectual, spiritual and social authenticity. Her first book, Teresa of Avila and the Politics of Sanctity (Cornell University Press, 1996), definitively shaped our understanding of the challenges that women like Teresa faced as writers, reformers and mystics. Entering Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle: A Reader’s Companion (Paulist Press, 2005), explores the seven stages of growth leading to union with God. These insights, along with those of John of the Cross, are captured in her more recent book, Enkindling Love: The Legacy of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross (Fortress Press, 2016). The Inquisition of Francisca (University of Chicago Press, 2005) recovers the Inquisitional trial of a woman accused of false mysticism, giving readers access, for the first time, to the strategies of a visionary woman defending her vocation and experience of God. The book received the 2006 award for “Best Translation” from the Society for the Research of Early Modern Women.
Her most recent book, The Tenderness of God: Reclaiming Our Humanity (Fortress Press, 2017), weaves the insights of Francis and Clare of Assisi into an exploration of the challenges of our contemporary world, opening a path toward the “new and universal solidarity” Pope Francis characterizes in his encyclical On Care for Our Common Home. The book draws upon her many years leading spiritual immersion experiences in the footsteps of Francis and Clare in Assisi and La Verna.
Dr. Ahlgren keeps herself on the front lines of social issues. Her pastoral work involves spiritual accompaniment of women seeking recovery after domestic violence and women actively in recovery from addiction.