I‘m always a little scared, lately, when I agree to read something that is either biography or memoir. Though they can be well-done (and often are), they can also represent a genre that, well, sends me packing and screaming and launching a book across the room.
I was unable, though, to turn down the chance to read Colleen Carroll Campbell’s new book, My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir. And then, about halfway through, I was unable to put it down.
Bottom line: GREAT BOOK.
This was truly a look inside, and dare I say there was even a plot? I loved how there was a story woven throughout, and that the stitches of the story were some of my favorite saints.
In no way does Campbell give in to the temptation just to tell us about the saints in a long “we could find that on Google” lecture. She does not reduce the saints to her own take on them, either.
Here’s a snippet from a passage about Edith Stein:
Genuine spiritual motherhood lies in leading others to freedom, not dependence; in giving, not getting. But a woman cannot give what she does not first possess. Only in loving union with God can she find the strength and selflessness she needs to be a true spiritual mother. A woman’s craving for God’s love is not a weakness, Edith says. It is her greatest strength: “The intrinsic value of woman consists essentially in exceptional receptivity for God’s work in the soul.”
This is a book that documents an ongoing conversion in a way that I found engaging and thought-provoking. I caught myself marking passages and shaking my head.
I also found myself with tears running down my face. Campbell’s struggles with her own conversion and understanding, with her father’s declining health, and with her infertility were shared intimately in this book. It took some kind of courage to write the way she did throughout this book, and it was a light to me. After I finished the book, I wanted to email her words of encouragement, and I couldn’t help praying for her.
And isn’t that the beauty of a good book like this? It not only makes a stranger into someone we feel like we might know, it also brings us closer to some truths about ourselves. And, in the case of this book, it draws closer the communion of saints and the beauty of our Christianity.
Highly, highly recommended.