Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review: My Sisters the Saints

My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell

Yes, it's another saint book, but this one is a little different from most saint books. While it briefly tells the life of each saint, it focuses on the impact of the life and works of the saint on the life of the author.

It's about the author's rediscovery of her Catholic faith and how the writings and lives of six particular saints were a source of hope and solace to her in the most difficult moments of her life: on her college campus, as a presidential speechwriter, balancing work and family, through her father's illness and death, infertility, and a difficult pregnancy. Even if you have never struggled with these particular issues, the memoir shows clearly how reading what saints have written and studying their lives can have a deep and lasting impact on our own spiritual journeys.

As a young writer in Washington, D.C., Ms. Campbell struggled with a separation from her fiance and the necessity of delaying their marriage. For a year, she vacillated, waiting for an "unmistakable sign" from God to show her what to do.
All this time, I realized, God had not been asking me to obey him. He had been asking me to trust him. I could stay in DC or return to St. Louis. Either way, he would be with me. But going home was the desire he had put in my heart, and going home took more trust. It would take the sort of trust that Faustina had: that no-holds-barred, no-looking-back faith that allowed her to risk looking crazy for love of Jesus and made her a powerful conduit of his grace as a result. The only way to gain that trust was to act as if I already had it, to step out in faith with nothing other than God's hands to catch me if I fell.
So St. Faustina helped guide the author not to the proper decision, but to trust in God and in the subtle call he had placed in her heart.

In her heartbreaking chapter on the infertility she and her husband experienced, she writes of her thoughts after a doctor emphatically insisted they would never have children without the use of IVF (a procedure considered illicit by the Catholic church).
I knew God could forgive me for choosing IVF. I knew that if he allowed me to conceive a child using IVF, he would love hat child as much as one conceived according to his plan. Yet I also knew my relationship with him would never be the same if I purposely made such a fundamental, life-altering choice against what I knew to be his will for me. I suspected that the presence of a child conceived through IVF would always be tinged with sadness for me, since it would remind me that, at a critical juncture in my life, I had chosen my need for control over God's invitation to trust.
While the author is talking about her struggle with infertility, the thought of choosing our own control over trusting God is one that applies in so many situations, especially in our modern world so full of temptation and voices telling us to follow our own desires rather than those of God.

In the book, the author talks often of her father as he suffered the effects of Alzheimer's. After his death, she found herself studying the experiences of Mother Teresa.
It seemed too simplistic for the deep-thinking Christian I considered myself to be. But day after day, as I soaked up Mother Teresa's words in that chapel and stared at that silent host, I grew in my conviction that such simple perseverance might just be the essence of authentic faith: showing up to pray when you feel nothing, continuing to confide in God when he answers you with silence, loving and serving him even after you accept that he may never give you what you so desperately want or answer the question that confounds you the most. That was the blind faith that sustained Mother Teresa through her decades of desolation. It was the faith that sustained Dad through his crucible of dementia. And it was the faith Jesus was trying to teach me, through the very trials that I kept begging him to take away.
The last line in particular struck me. How often we pray for God to take away our trials and suffering, but they may be the very method of our growth. We become discouraged when we cannot feel God's presence or hear his voice, but it may be that times of closeness to God are the exception rather than the rule. Continuing to pray in the silence is all he asks. Our priest has said, "There is no prayer without God." So if we pray, we are with God even if we can't feel him.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are my own.

1 comment:

  1. My mom let me borrow this book and I really enjoyed it. In fact, I've been hanging on to it, hoping she won't ask for it back! :)


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