As a rule I tend to have a knee-jerk prejudice against things that are “by women/for women.” Back in my feminist days I spent a lot of time buying “stuff by women” simply because they were made or written by women, geared toward women. What I too-often found was something pretty mediocre and narrow. Often I would regret my purchase, particularly if it was a book, because I would come away from it feeling like the author, assured of her niche and not feeling especially challenged, was “phoning it in,” or indulging in giddy sentimentality.
And too, I have invested some hundreds of dollars, over the years, on these sorts of small “daily meditations” and “daily affirmations” books, only to find that I rarely used them, either because the authors tried to pack too much into a day, leaving me feeling stupid and bogged down, or because the author put too little into a day and I felt cheated.
And so, being honest here, as much as I like Amy Welborn’s work, I was finding myself reluctant to check out A Catholic Woman’s Book of Days. I mean, going in, the book had two strikes against it!
What finally convinced me to read the book was Welborn’s own work, which I have always found to be muscular and intellectually rigorous without being pedantic or preachy, and…I have to tell the truth…the beautifully done cover art – an assortment of beautiful crosses hung upon a buff-colored wall – kept drawing me over to the the book and enticing me to look inside.
Well, let me say without equivocation, this “book of days” is a winner! In 365 entries, Welborn doesn’t hit a false note or play fast-and-lose with her reader’s intelligence. Her entries are never bogged down; they are often very short and pithy, but those are the readings that, ironically, pack the greatest punch.
Each day’s entry includes a scriptural verse, a notation of any particular “saint’s day,” a short exposition and a one-or-two line prayer. It is all meant to allow you to read, catch the insight and take it with you as you move throughout your day, and in that sense, this book succeeds spectacularly.
For those who practice lectio divina, or prayerful reading, the book is rich with those short lines of scripture or insight which connect in an immediate and visceral way, and one feels prompted by the Holy Spirit to “linger on this thought, today…pray over this.” That may be the highest compliment which one pay to such a book.
While Welborn is a “Catholic” writer, the A Catholic Woman’s Book of Days could be useful to non-Catholic (and even thoughtful non-Christian) women. Much of Welborn’s writing focuses on her life as a woman and as a mother, spouse, daughter and friend, and her great strength here is that she cues in on the small-but-potent happenings of a typical day but finds a moment within all of it to stop and consider how these rather ordinary events fit into the scheme of faith and one’s relationship to God. That is a habit which one might well develop through regular use of the book, and that cannot be a bad thing. There are infrequent references to Catholic sacraments, but most of these entries can speak clearly and warmly to any woman of faith.
The book itself is a lovely size; it fits comfortably in the hand and would not clutter up a handbag, glove compartment or breifcase. The text, thankfully, is clear and attractive – brown ink on ecru pages – and I do so like how each month is marked by a frontpage illustrated with one of the lovely crosses on the cover.
A Catholic Woman’s Book of Days works, and it succeeds on many levels, intellectually, spiritually and aesthetically. This is a book any woman who seeks to keep a spiritual sensibility throughout her day will find both handy and holy.
And it would quite frankly, make a terrific Christmas gift for your busy female friends and family! I’ve ordered several copies for that purpose.
SHAMELESS PLUG: You can purchase A Catholic Woman’s Book of Days via The Anchoress Bookshelf (scroll down the sidebar – 5th book down) and for the month of September the monies generated by your purchase will be donated to the Salvation Army for Hurricane Relief. So far, over $190.00 has been generated thanks to helpful Anchoress readers buying their books, DVD’s coffee and school supplies through this site.
Come October, all revenues generated through Anchoress Bookshelf purchases will once again be donated to the hospice which helped my brother S through his last illness.