PETE: Your book My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir goes into many details of your personal life. What led your to bring your story to the public?
COLLEEN CARROLL CAMPBELL: I didn’t originally intend to write a memoir. My Sisters the Saints actually began as an essay-style book exploring the themes of femininity, feminism and Catholic teaching as it relates to the lives of contemporary women. But the more I wrote in that style, the more I realized I wasn’t getting at the heart of what I wanted to say. I wanted to address the tensions between our human desires for both freedom and commitment, spiritual growth and worldly success, avoidance of suffering and the wisdom that comes only through trials – tensions that are particularly pronounced for Christian women living in our post-feminist culture. And in the end, I found myself agreeing with Flannery O’Connor. She said, “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way … You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate.” It just so happened that the story I needed to tell was my own – mine, and those of the six women saints who guided me on my journey.
PETE: We are near the feast day of Saint Edith Stein. What are your thoughts on this great saint?
COLLEEN CARROLL CAMPBELL: Edith is a remarkable saint and an inspiration in so many ways. She was a woman of formidable intellect, unflinching courage and profound faith. She didn’t come by that faith easily – it was a gift from God, of course, but her journey toward embracing that gift took many twists and turns. And along the way, her journey was marked by an uncompromising commitment to truth. That commitment – to pursuing truth, proclaiming truth, and living the truth no matter the consequences – characterized every major phase of her life, and especially her martyr’s death. Women seeking an image of feminine warmth married to feminist strength could hardly find a better role model than Edith. She is the embodiment of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s call for a “new feminism.” And there are few writers anywhere who have so masterfully captured the joys and challenges of being a woman the way Edith does in her Essays on Woman.
COLLEEN CARROLL CAMPBELL: I am in a Franciscan phase right now, partly due to the election of Pope Francis and partly due to other factors that preceded it. So my reading list reflects that. I’ve been ordering and digging into a number of works on Franciscan spirituality and the lives of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi lately. Next on my list is Francis and Clare: The Complete Works. I’ve also been reading a lot of Fr. Jacques Philippe in recent weeks. He’s a member of the Catholic Community of the Beatitudes in France and the author of several small, powerful books on the spiritual life. They are perfect for a busy lifestyle – you can read just a few snatches at a time and still walk away with transformative insights.
Colleen Carroll Campbell is an award-winning author, print and broadcast journalist and former presidential speechwriter. She is the anchor of “EWTN News Nightly with Colleen Carroll Campbell,” a television news show that broadcasts from a studio near Capitol Hill and airs across the English-speaking world on EWTN, the world’s largest religious media network. She has written and contributed to numerous books. You can read more about her at her website www.colleen-campbell.com.