Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir

Can women with very different lifestyles focused on doing the Lord’s will above all else be companions, true guides, and sisters for women of today?  Absolutely!
My Sisters the Saints illustrates the truth of the adage that you should choose your friends wisely because you will become like them in some interesting and unexpected ways. 
The six saints most prominent in Colleen Carroll Campbell’s life and spiritual memoir are holy women also very dear to me: Teresa of Avila, Thérѐse of Lisieux, Faustina Kowalski, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Blessed Mother Teresa, and Our Mother Mary.  The concept of considering female saints as sisters is one I believe in and have embraced wholeheartedly.  For many years, I have felt a greater closeness to some of the saints and my sisters in Christ than I have sometimes shared with my two biological sisters.
I have had a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother and a deep admiration for the four Teresas since I was young.  The bravery of saints named Teresa was one of the main reasons why I suggested Theresa as the name for my youngest sister 20+ years ago when I was still only in fifth grade.    
Sometimes I try hard to resist being affected by something I read, particularly when it surfaces a wellspring of pain, unanswered questions, and what feels like fruitless prayers, but with My Sisters the Saints, I couldn’t help it.
I expected to find some similarities between this Catholic woman’s journey and mine, but I didn’t think they would hit quite so close to home.  The challenges of keeping up a long distance romance relationship, deciding about education and career goals, watching the painful deterioration of family ultimately consumed by Alzheimer’s, being one of the main caregivers for my father as his health declined while I was still in my twenties, and mourning the loss of his life, are just some of the ways our journeys overlap.The depth of suffering and longing Campbell and her husband experienced is too powerful to overlook and too poignant not to react to on some level.
I love how Campbell describes and defines motherhood in a much broader sense than many people tend to think of it these days, and how she holds up the six saints that have been integral in her faith journey who lived out the feminine genius in their own lives of nurturing others in mind, body, and spirit. 
The inclusion of Catholic prayers and how they affected Campbell, her relationships with her husband, family members, work, and the Lord, make this book accessible to both non-Catholics and cradle Catholics alike.  Though Campbell is by nature an avid researcher and scholarly writer, she emphasizes the necessity of studying, then letting God speak to you in the silence of your heart in order to discern His will. 
By weaving Scripture verses, excerpts from related papal encyclicals, writings of and/or about the six female saints whom she considers to be her sisters, and the telling of her own struggles in faith, we are given a picture of what holy women now in Heaven can teach us about doing God’s will on while still on Earth. 
Infertility was a heavy cross that Campbell and her husband John carried for many years.  They were deeply hurt by well-meaning people who told them matter-of-factly that if you just do this or that, then you’d have children.  Again and again they were sorely tempted to give up hope that they would ever have a child of their own by means not morally objectionable to the Catholic Church (because they are not respectful of human life from the moment of conception). 
Why is it worth holding on and living out all of the tenets of the Catholic faith if it might rule out the possibility of having biological children?  Find out.  Here’s a hint: Nothing is impossible with God.
For more information about this spiritual memoir and/or to purchase your own copy, check out My Sisters the Saints at Image Catholic Books.

This book review post is part of a special virtual book tour you can read more about here.         
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