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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 22/100: Unruly Catholic Women Writers by Leigh Eicke, Ana Kothe, and Jeanna Del Rosso

Unruly Catholic Women Writers: Creative Responses to Catholicism - Jeana DelRosso, Leigh Eicke, Ana Kothe

“If a Catholic, after prayer and study of scripture, comes to a reasoned and deeply felt conviction that differs from the hierarchy's, she ignores that experience only at the peril of ignoring God. Nothing in the current structure allows one to act on such experiences. In other words, the rules we get from men trump the insights we get from God.” - Colleen Shaddox, “Exile”, Unruly Catholic Women Writers

I initially wasn't going to review this book because it includes an essay that I wrote; but since that essay makes up such a small portion of the whole, I decided it's worth reviewing "objectively" anyway.

This book is full of really stellar writing and vivid, evocative imagery of women's experiences with Catholicism, recounted in poetry, essays, and short stories. So many of the pieces resonated with me, but especially those in which the author grappled with a deep-seated connection to Catholicism even as she ultimately decided to move on to practice her faith in another way. When I got together with a few women who contributed to the book to do a reading, the editor wondered how many of the women included in the book continued to practice Catholicism. Another contributor, poet Lauren Alleyne, commented that, "This book has been in production so long that it reminds me I used to be Catholic!" My own essay, which is about why I decided to remain Catholic even after coming out as bisexual, is bittersweet to me now that I don't belong to a Catholic Church (although I still attend occasionally.) Overall, the book captured all this complexity and ambiguity, the deep, often unspoken ways that Catholicism continues to exist in the lives of women who may or may not still consider themselves to be "practicing." Many pieces probed at a sense of betrayal, at the moment at which a woman felt she had to leave the church to protect her own soul, and yet the love or longing she continued to feel for it.

I'm not sure what this book would have to offer to women who were not Catholic, or how it would be read differently by someone who is further outside the subject matter than I am. But for those of us who are or were Catholic, or are somewhere in between, this is a beautiful collection of voices to accompany that often-fraught journey.