Mary Ward lived in a time of religious persecution, anti-Catholic laws and gruesome martyrdom for the faith. The Painted Life records her experience of God from a very early age, being shaped by her Grandmother, her parents and some very faith-filled households in which she lived. Her writing about those years reflects a remarkably personal and grounded understanding of God’s presence in and around her. She was often influenced by visiting Jesuit priests who took huge risks to minister underground to Catholics throughout England.
God is always at the centre of her life, and her desire to find and do God’s will, a constant focus. Her God-quest: finding God in all things, seeking the best way through a discernment of spirits, seeking truth and justice in works rather than words and availability for God’s mission was her feminine interpretation of Ignatian spirituality.
Unlike many women saints and notable leaders of her time, Mary Ward believed God would be found in the ordinary experiences of life, and women could have free and open access to God and God’s plans. Mary herself experienced God’s presence in a simple and intimate way, not in moments of great ecstasy or powerful vision. She translated this into an affectionate naming of God as Parent of parents and Friend of friends.