The Double Gift and Burden of Faith

Friday, January 13, 2017

I was asked to provide my honest reflection and opinions of the new book Walk in Her Sandals edited by Kelly M. Wahlquist. I received a free copy of the book to review, but all opinions are my own.
This is a special CWBN Blog Hop! You can see the other blogs in the hop here.



The first thing that struck me about this book, Walk in Her Sandals, is that these are meaty chapters. This is not a frilly women's spirituality book that has many words yet says little.

The fiction imaginings helps the reader become immersed in what might have been going through the minds of women close to Jesus around the time of his Passion. What might it have been like to see such drastic changes in their loved ones who followed Jesus? What was it like to hear the stories about Jesus from those who actually saw them happen? What would we really do when faced with the fantastical yet real?

It's uncomfortable to think about, isn't it? It's uncomfortable to wonder if you would have really been a Christian if placed in these women's shoes (or sandals). It could not be excused as something "I just grew up with" or "what I've always done". For these women, saying they were followers of Jesus could not be hidden beneath such platitudes. They carried a true burden of faith. This is part of our Christian heritage. It is part of what it means to inherit the Christian tradition - to not shy away from what is hard or what is uncomfortable.

Often our greatest gifts are also our greatest burdens. Women know this in a very intimate way. Pregnancy is tough, and dealing with our fertility (whether hyper-fertile, sub-fertile, or infertile) is something we don't get to just forget about. That does not make these bad things, in fact, I would argue that the burden of our gifts make them greater gifts still because we have to continue to accept them as gifts.

This book has one of the most intelligent and honest reflections I've seen about maternity in a general Catholic women's spirituality book. The story they chose to fictionalize is the story of Miriam who is following Mary Magdalene to the tomb of Jesus on Easter Sunday. There is not a pregnant woman in sight, yet there is something very true about maternity in this story. It is the story of women being called to carry life, and that starts with a spiritual acceptance of life.

We often talk about "spiritual motherhood" in the Catholic Church, but I don't think it comes off well. Too often it's seen as some sort of bone we throw to women who are struggling with infertility. Like somehow caring for strangers is supposed to take away that longing for an infant of your own to cherish. Or it's assumed that we have no need for spiritual motherhood once we have our own biological children. Neither of these things is true.

We are all called to reach outside of ourselves, of our own little groups, and of our own families to care for the Other. Spiritual parenthood is not something exclusive to women - men too are called to spiritually father. One of the best insights I've heard on spiritual parenthood actually came from my bishop during a diaconate ordination. In his homily, he shared the advice he gives to priests who are having a hard time praying and being so constantly available to others: it's not about you. You aren't praying to "get something out of it". You aren't caring for a friend in need to get good karma. You are doing it to practice loving.

At a very fundamental level, Love is one of the most basic vocations in the Christian life. Love is the thread that runs through this book, as it runs through the Passion of the Christ himself. The book begins on Palm Sunday, through the Passiontide and Easter Sunday, and ends on Pentecost.




If you are looking for something to help you reflect more deeply on Christ, scriptures, and our lives as Catholic women this Lent - this might be the book for you!

It is designed to be done in a group, though I could see going through this book as a private devotion as well. Copies can be ordered on the WINE: Women in the New Evangelization website. There will be an accompanying journal available during Lent!

What experiences have you had with faith? What are you struggling with as Lent approaches? What have been your experiences with spiritual motherhood?

6 comments :

  1. Beautiful review! And, I love how you highlighted upon the concept of spiritual motherhood, and also explained spiritual fatherhood! I also loved the quote, "We are all called to reach outside of ourselves, our group, and of our own families to care for the Other." Great thought...

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  2. I love books that help me put myself in those times and actually feel what it would be like. They make me think of that type of meditation where you say "What would I see? What would I think? What would Jesus say to me?" This book sounds interesting!! Thanks for sharing your review.

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  3. I have not heard of this book but am now really excited to check it out, thanks!

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  4. Excellent review! I also found the reality of placing myself in that time and place to be very thought provoking.

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  5. Great review, and this part was especially well said: " Too often it's seen as some sort of bone we throw to women who are struggling with infertility. Like somehow caring for strangers is supposed to take away that longing for an infant of your own to cherish. Or it's assumed that we have no need for spiritual motherhood once we have our own biological children. Neither of these things is true."

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  6. I am one of those weirdos who absolutely LOVE Lent! Probably more than Advent. I love the sacrifice and camaraderie around the Catholic world at Lent. I think the fictional vignettes of each chapter where one of my favorite parts of the book. Stephanie Landsem is such an incredible historical fiction author - she DREW ME right into the time and period; and I sometimes forgot I was not the woman walking the journey alongside Jesus. Great Review Kirby!!

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