(Okay, so that’s really an 8-book list.)
If you listen my podcast, Among Women, you know I have a passion for three things: first, to encourage women to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and their Catholic faith; second, to celebrate the beauty and genius of their womanhood; and third, to call women to serve others with love. With those three goals in mind, let me share with you my top picks for great reads from 2012, and the some of the podcasts that highlighted them. These books are grouped by the three aforementioned themes, and not ranked by priority or preference. They are ALL good, that’s why I’m sharing them.
(For the men reading this, you may enjoy these titles too, or give them to the women in your life! That book from Fr Gaitley, 33 days to Morning Glory, is for all, not just for women! Most especially, the books from Helen Alvare, Mary Eberstadt, and Colleen Carroll Campbell, have mass appeal as well.)
Books that build your faith:
He Speaks to You, by Sr Helena Burns, FSP (Pauline Books and Media)
Though released in 2011, I didn’t catch this title until 2012. The publisher describes the book this way, and its spot on: “What is my purpose in life? How do I best utilize my gifts and talents? How does God call upon me as a young Catholic woman? Discerning your vocation can be difficult. But endowed with the spiritual guidance contained within this daily discernment book and Jesus as your lifelong coach, you’ll be on your way to self-discovery rooted in faith.”
So, with that said, JESUS is the “He” in the book title. This is a great book for women in their 20s and 30s… but even though I’m no where near that age category anymore, I loved, loved this book… for its page-a-day wit and wisdom, and its great suggestions for daily prayer and Christian action. I think it could also be a good fit for women in high school.
This is a book to pray with; it’s a faith-builder for sure. Check it out. Give it as a gift.
Listen to the author — the energetic Sr Helena Burns, who has a spitfire faith-and-media blog named “Hell Burns” — chat with me on Among Women 143.
33 Days to Morning Glory, by Fr Michael Gaitley MIC (Marian Press)
Though released late in 2011, this book didn’t catch fire until this past year, so like Sr Helena’s book, I’m including it. This book is a four and a half week retreat for your soul. What I love about it is that it is an updating of the tried-and-true Consecration to Jesus through Mary that I’ve been doing for many years. So if you’re ready to entrust yourself to Mary, and become her daughter in a meaningful way, or you want to increase your devotion to the one who is most blessed among women, here’s a good book to help.
(Through the years, I’ve privately used the formula found here by St. Louis de Montfort. Some people have mixed reactions to it, since its a bit “old school” in its language and approach to the daily prayers. I still like it, but that’s me. Blessed John Paul II recommended it, so that was enough for me to trust its efficacy.) However, I also like this new book on Marian consecration and let me tell you why.
I’m grateful for Fr Gaitley’s approach, because I think many more people will consecrate their lives in this way, using this book, with its updated language and friendly sensibilities as a spiritual guide. What’s more, Fr Gaitley introduces Montfort’s method essentially, but then incorporates wisdom from other modern Marian-devoted saints, (beyond the 18th century “classic” notes of St. Louis de Montfort), thus widening and deepening the wisdom pool that he draws from. It’s a beautiful, easy-to-read result. Besides Montfort, Gaitley also explains the Mariology of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and Blessed John Paul II.
You can do the consecration using this book on your own, or with a small group. I enjoyed doing it with a small group last Lent, and will renew my consecration later this year, either privately or corporately.
Finally, and this is worth noting: This book does not stand alone; it is part of a new parish-based initiative known as HAPP (Hearts Afire Parish Program) that you can look into.
So go to it. I’m here for conversation on this subject, if you choose to take on the 33 days.
Books that capture the feminine genius, as applied to women’s issues:
Breaking Through, edited by Helen Alvare. (Our Sunday Visitor)
For years, I’ve been reading articles and insightful commentary from Helen Alvare on the sexual politics in our culture, law, religion, and family life. Most recently, in light of the controversy surrounding the HHS mandate in relation to Obamacare, she became the co-author of an open letter on women and religious freedom that has thus far attracted over 37,000 women’s signatures, including my own. (See womenspeakforthemselves.com). Breaking Through, grew out of that effort, and contains a series of essays from nine women who take on the myths and media messages that often malign Catholic women today, or that tries to squeeze women into a one-size-fits-all caricature. Topics include:
- Navigating dating and sexpectations
- Feminism, freedom and contraception
- Children versus a “better me”
- Being Catholic in light of the sexual abuse scandal
- Faith, psychology and same-sex attraction
Adam and Eve and the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, by Mary Eberstadt (Ignatius Press)
This book has one of my favorite titles of recent memory. But besides its pithy headline, this book has excellent social, religious, and political commentary on its subject matter, which is, what the sexual revolution hath wrought. Critically and intellectually, this is a tour de force, not to mention it is superbly written and researched. In light of the present testimony presented, Eberstadt asks probing questions, as she proceeds to answer them, such as: Is food the new sex? Is pornography the new tobacco?
This book stretched me and forced me to think deeply, as it gave me hope in light of the problems it examines. I agree with NRO Editor Kathryn Jean Lopez’ assessment that Eberstadt’s book “is a treasure and a resource and a cultural catechesis.”
(I had hoped to interview Mary Ebestadt on Among Women last fall, but Hurricane Sandy pre-empted us. We’ll see if we can re-book the professor at a later date.)
My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir, by Colleen Carroll Campbell (Image Books)
This well-told memoir from Campbell, a popular journalist and EWTN host, plus a former White House speech-writer, describes her quest for meaning in light of her Catholic faith and contemporary feminism. Her story is woven with wisdom from St. Teresa of Avila, St. Faustina Kowalska, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
When I was reading this book, I felt like I was reading about my younger sisters and younger friends, who like me, have waded through much of cultural feminism’s promises and been found wanting.*
Campbell is a masterful writer, and given all the lives of the saints that I’ve profiled over the years on Among Women, you know that I appreciate when someone integrates their saintly wisdom with care and modern application. As for the writing craft, this is probably the most well-written book on this list.
Books that serve others with love:
After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman’s Companion to Healing and Hope, by Karen Edmisten (Servant Books)
When something like one in four pregnancies can result in miscarriage, you know this is a sad event in the lives of many women. There is an amazing amount of comfort packed into this little book of 120 pages. Stories, theology, prayers, comfort aids… just good, solid help and a come-alongside attitude to soothe the hurts on multiple levels that accompany miscarriage. Every Catholic family should have this book as a resource. Give it to your parish priests or your parish library. This kind of love-in-action book needs wide distribution.
My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, by Dawn Eden (Ave Maria Press)
Many women, and countless listeners of Among Women, have suffered from sexual abuse and trauma. This podcast featuring my interview with Dawn Eden was in the top three downloads of Among Women in 2012. That alone tells me this book is a needed resource. Of course, I give the author props for utilizing the lives of the saints as source material, but the book is that and more. Eden tells of her own path to recovery as she shares her conversion to Catholicism and through it, her on-going healing from sexual trauma, thanks to the graces of the sacraments and the wisdom of the Faith. I won’t say this is an easy read, given the emotionally-tender content, but it is accessible and practical. Listen to Dawn Eden’s visit on Among Women 140.
This common-sense title says it all. With passion, intelligence, wit, and beauty, Emily Stimpson – who also writes for numerous Catholic publications and websites – puts it all together with prayer, excellent facility with theology of the body and the feminine genius in particular, and profound honesty and care for her reader. (Yes, this little book touches all three categories of this blog post.) Stimpson tackles a variety of topics with nerve and verve: vocation, dating, sex, finances, work, depression, and more. You’ll enjoy her candor and stories on Among Women 144.
Note: If you choose to purchase these books through the links provided above, a small portion of your purchase will benefit the ministry of SQPN.