Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Book Review: Holy Women by Pope Benedict XVI

When Juliana [St. Juliana of Cornillon] was sixteen she had her first vision which recurred subsequently several times during her Eucharistic adoration. Her vision presented the moon in its full splendor, crossed diametrically by a dark stripe. The Lord made her understand the meaning of what had appeared to her. The moon symbolized the life of the Church on earth, the opaque line, on the other hand, represented the absence of a liturgical feast for whose institution Juliana was asked to plead effectively: namely, a feast in which believers would be able to adore the Eucharist so as to increase in faith, to advance in the practice of the virtues and to make reparation for offenses to the Most Holy Sacrament.
This eventually became the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

I don't remember ever hearing of St. Juliana and you'd think I would if I had since my given name is Julianne.

Thank goodness for Holy Women to give me a vivid sampling of the many ways female saints have contributed to the Church.

Pope Benedict is renowned as a scholar and theologian. I repeatedly see people say that he writes on such an intellectual level that he is difficult to understand. However, the Pope's homilies must be easy to understand since they are delivered to all sorts of people. It is these homilies in which he often speaks most directly about what it means to be a regular Christian in search of God.

Benedict's homily series about seventeen female saints is collected for our meditation in Holy Women. Although we may think of saints as being too holy to understand, no group of people could disprove that idea more than these women. From St. Gertrude the Great to St. Therese of Lisieux, from abbesses to holy housewives to queens, Benedict gives us history that shows how God works through all sorts of people, in all sorts of times.

As always, Benedict's greatest gift in this writing is when he brings us face-to-face with our own similarities to these saintly women. I found personal inspiration in St. Elizabeth of Hungary who influenced her husband, the nation they ruled, and everyone she encountered (except for scheming relatives ...) by her charity and personal service.
Elizabeth's marriage was profoundly happy: she helped her husband to raise his human qualities to a supernatural level and he, in exchange, stood up for his wife's generosity tothe poor and for her religious practices. Increasingly admired for his wife's great faith, Ludwig said to her, referring to her attention to the poor, "Dear Elizabeth, it is Christ whom you have cleansed, nourished, and cared for" — a clear witness to how faith and love of God and neighbor strengthen family life and deepen ever more the matrimonial union.
Recommended reading for every person who says that the Church keeps women down.

Thank you, Pope Benedict!

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Holy Women. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.