Gerald May Seminar

Thirteenth Gerald G. May Seminar—with Bernard McGinn
“The Compassion of the Mystics”
November 9 & 10, 2018

Bernard McGinn, PhD, is a Roman Catholic theologian and scholar of spirituality who has written extensively on various aspects of mysticism. He currently is Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology and of the History of Christianity in the Divinity School and the Committees on Medieval Studies and on General Studies at the University of Chicago. He is best known for his seven-volume history of Christian mysticism in the West under the general title, The Presence of God, which includes: The Foundations of Mysticism; The Origins of Mysticism; The Growth of MysticismThe Flowering of Mysticism; The Harvest of Mysticism in Medieval Germany; and The Varieties of Vernacular Mysticism.


  • Overview
  • Register and Directions

As a central practice in the Christian life, compassion is a virtue with a long history and many components. One way to understand the practice of compassion is to consider models of living compassion, especially the mystics. Three mystics who provide especially rich examples of compassion are Francis of Assisi, his contemporary the Belgian Cistercian Ida of Nivelles, and Francis de Sales.

Friday, November 9, 7-9 PM
Francis of Assisi made his breakthrough to a life of loving service through tending the outcasts of society, the lepers, and expressed his sympathy for the whole universe in his “Canticle of the Sun.” Ida of Nivelles, known as “Ida the Compassionate,” was noted for her skill as a compassionate spiritual guide, especially toward rejected sinners. Francis de Sales was famous for his universal availability and his teaching regarding compassionate love for all members of society. In this Friday night lecture, Dr. McGinn will draw on the works of these three great Christian mystics to illustrate the power of compassion to transform life.

Saturday, November 10, 10 AM-4 PM
In this Saturday workshop, Dr. McGinn will continue to explore compassion through the examples of Francis of Assisi, Ida of Nivelles and Francis de Sales. He will also address the question, “What is Mysticism?” The day will provide an opportunity to go deeper into the lives of these mystics and will include time for journaling, silence, and small group sharing.

Online registration is closed. Walk-ins are welcome.

Directions to access LiveStream recording will be in your receipt email. Recording is available to view as many times as you wish for 2 months after the event.

Directions to Event

Unity of Fairfax

2854 Hunter Mill Rd
Oakton, VA 22124

Past Gerald May Seminar YouTube Playlist: