For this post, I'd like to take the opportunity to offer a quick book review on volume 1 of the Encountering Women of Faith series, written by Saint Catherine's Vision, a group of Orthodox women who are educated scholars and seminary graduates. By their individual lives and this collective work, these admirable women elegantly demonstrate good stewardship and thanksgiving of the educational gifts and talents with which God has graced them.
In Enountering Women of Faith, Volume 1, we are given the stories of eight female saints revered by the Orthodox Christian Church in a beautifully intimate style reflecting each saint's personal impact and influence on the respective author: Susana the Righteous and Susana of Palestine, Elizabeth the New Martyr, Melania the Younger, Deaconess Olympias, Xenia of Petersburg, Mary Magdalene, and Catherine the Great. Each account is not only personal, but it highlights virtues and ministries that are relevant to women today and can be practically applied in a manner that truly glorifies God. Such examples include philanthropy, voluntary kenosis, sacrificial love within marriage, maternal love for children, unwavering witness of faith in Jesus Christ at times of great stress, education in the context of growth in Christ, and roles in service to the Church, among other gems found deep within the texts. I personally enjoyed this work because it made these female saints alive for me. Of course, the stories presented the strengths and accomplishments of these saints by the work of the grace of God in them, but also, their human weaknesses were seen--this is what made them more real and more human to me. Often, we tend to focus on the victories and the final perfection of our Saints and less on their daily martyrdoms of battling their own weaknesses and passions, which comprise the majority of their human lives. We see here that these saints were truly real women who dealt with tragic circumstances throughout their lives, and with whom both men and women can identify. And thankfully, we see in their examples that in their patience, they won their souls, as our Lord has admonished us all to do likewise (Luke 21:19).
I highly recommend this book for learning more about these saints and applying their examples to our own daily lives. Each chapter also has focus questions at the end that are wonderful for a discussion and study about the lives of these saints with teenagers and college students, as well as in parish groups. For further information, the stories are also well-cited with original references. I am waiting for my copy of the second volume to arrive, and will post another review soon. Also be on the look out for volumes 3 and 4 in the future! Please see the website of Saint Catherine's Vision for more information.