I recently befriended a woman at the Catholic Church in my college town. She generously left two copies of a book in my mailbox that she and other women of the parish are studying together every week. Deferring other work, I began reading with interest. I was eager to see if a book that was worth the time of these busy mothers, wives, and working women could intrigue me, a single college student, as well. Quickly I realized that the beauty of the book, a memoir titled My Sisters the Saints, is that it is relevant to women in every season of life.
They wait for God when they face difficulties and trust in his presence in their lives.
In the memoir, author Colleen Carroll Campbell shares the progression of her faith life. She begins by writing about her life as a college student surrounded by a shallow party culture. As she evaluated her relationships, she began asking, “Is this all there is?” After college, Carroll Campbell took a job as a White House speechwriter and she shares the conflict she experienced between her aspirations for both a successful career and future family life during this period. We later see Carroll Campbell leave DC, marry, and journey through about 48 months of infertility. In each part of this progression, Carroll Campbell takes time to share about the ongoing care she provided for her aging father. She and her mother cared for him, a devout and joyful man, as he progressed through each stage of Alzheimer’s disease.
In the midst of these challenges, Carroll Campbell expresses both the darkness of life’s heartaches and the light of faith. Through the retelling of her story we meet 5 women saints whose stories carry Carroll Campbell along and help her to draw closer to God. By the end of the memoir, Carroll Campbell lists Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Therese of Lisieux, Saint Faustina, Saint Edith Stein, and Blessed Mother Teresa as some of her closest friends. Campbell’s story is a valuable reminder that we are all capable of making friends with the saints and allowing their stories to light the dark roads we walk.
Reading My Sisters the Saints has encouraged me to keep the faith. Despite facing many periods of confusion and longing, Carroll Campbell never gave up. She and the holy saints included in her memoir each wait for God when they face difficulties and trust in his presence in their lives. They model deep faithfulness to God by turning their moments of heartbreak, fear, and uncertainty over to Him through constant prayer and participation in the sacraments.
This memoir acknowledges that suffering is an unavoidable part of our life stories. However, as Catholics we have a whole family of saints who have suffered before us and can teach us how to turn our suffering over to God. Carroll Campbell’s story can inspire us to embrace suffering, embrace the Saints, and in the end more fully embrace God.