I have struggled to write this book review. Colleen Carroll Campbell’s My Sisters The Saints: A Spiritual Memoir is thoughtfully written, compelling and and personal. She opens more than just a window into her life’s journey as she explores her spiritual transformation with the reader. Truthfully, I loved this story and connected with Campbell on many points.
My struggle with writing this review comes into play as soon as I start talking about the trials of Colleen’s life and how she chose to face them. Colleen’s father, a strong spiritual figure in her life and one of the guiding forces which lead her to encounter spiritual mentors such as St. Maria Faustina and St. Teresa of Avila, suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease. These sections were difficult for me to read because my own great-grandmother suffered from this disease. I hope that anyone who reads this book and has a personal connection to Alzheimer’s will find Campbell’s writing inspirational, even if it does highlight wounds and loss, fresh or otherwise.
One of Colleen’s and her husband’s greatest crosses which she humbly shares was their struggle with infertility. The Campbell’s road to parenthood was long, complicated, full of feelings of defeat and hopelessness, and required all of their faith and trust in God. Through this process, Colleen discovered through the Blessed Virgin Mary and Mother Theresa what spiritual motherhood truly means. She also beautifully expressed what it means to carry one’s cross:
I wanted to analyze and dissect my cross, to know how long I would have to carry it and how my carrying it would glorify God. Like a groggy patient fighting to sit upright amid her operation so she can monitor her surgeon’s progress, I wanted to stand outside my suffering and scrutinize God’s work in my soul as he accomplished it.
Jesus, I realized, wanted none of this. He did not need my supervision, and he was not asking me to understand my cross. He was asking me to carry it. He wanted me to wake up each morning, bend a knee on the cold wooden floor beside my bed, and offer that day’s sufferings and joys for whatever purpose he wished to use them. He wanted me to joyfully embrace my daily duties and leave the big picture to him.
I’m not going to spoil what happens in the book. But I do feel obligated to offer a word of caution for anyone who has struggled with infertility. Campbell’s struggle was real, constant and long. In today’s world of fertility treatments and options, more and more Catholics are choosing to use alternative means to try and conceive their children. These children are beautiful gifts of God and are cherished joys for their parents, no matter how they came into being. Hopefully, the Campbell’s story will encourage and inspire those families who share the same struggle and choices that they faced.
Maybe I’m overthinking the issues, but I want to make sure that anyone thinking about reading this book is ready for the journey ahead of them. It was a beautiful book and for me at least, very life giving.