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.
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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.
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?