Seven Holy Women: A Book Review
Updated: Oct 20, 2020
Written by: Melinda Johnson, Laura Jansson, Georgia Briggs, Molly Sabourin, Anna Neill, Summer Kinard, Katherine Bolger Hyde, and Melissa Naasko
As ByziMoms, we often live from day to day in a whirlwind of lesson plans, carpools, soccer games, and meal preps, with a sprinkling of intercessory prayers or petitions thrown in here and there as necessary. We rise before the children, bounce from commitment to commitment throughout the day, and then drop exhausted into bed each night... after washing the dishes, of course.
Caring always for the physical and spiritual needs of the members of our household, we think nothing of neglecting our own spirituality and, when we do have that brief moment of internal peace when we can finally slip away and become silent, we are dumbstruck as we realize we are strangers to our own souls. We are often surprised at ourselves as we wonder exactly who it is that we’ve become in God’s eyes.
Seven Holy Women, written by a group of eight friends, is based upon the notion that each of us is an individual unit in the one “whole” that is the Kingdom of God.
Each soul is distinct, yet upon consideration, we realize that each is also the same. The reader catches a glimpse of the world through the eyes of seven different, holy women. After reading the first-person account, the reader considers her through a historian’s eyes and learns her life’s details. Finally, the reader contemplates the saint’s experience from her own perspective and comes to understand that the saint’s strengths and weaknesses are also her own. Seeing the same reality from three distinct vantage points gives the reader a deep and full understanding of the traits that made these women valuable. It soon becomes apparent that we all have these very traits hidden deep within ourselves! Each woman considered is a saint in the eyes of the Church. Each is identified by an element in nature, a stone, a song, a leaf, a dream, a river, a dragon, and a flower, signifying an aspect pertinent to the saint’s life. As we read, we understand that we can find the saint’s natural characteristics in every woman, including ourselves. The traits are further explored and are identified within the reader using the introspective study questions that accompany each story. Exploring the character of the woman who is the subject of each chapter, it becomes clear that we must first make the intention to set aside some precious time to understand ourselves and like Kassianni, one of the saints in the study, we are asked to set aside our immediate feelings as we finally, freely, and intentionally, write down the song of our lives.
Like all women I know, the desire to grow spiritually is sometimes overwhelming, but we wonder how we will ever have the time to self-reflect, course-correct, and refine our spiritual lives. Like the first saint considered, Morwenna, the monotony of carrying our daily burdens already stretches us so thin already and we often set ourselves aside. The brilliant format of this book provides deep and pertinent questions about our own perspective, and coaxes the reader not only to explore her outlook but to dare to dust off her deepest dreams and hidden aspirations, often surprising the reader, herself!
Because we all share these common traits, we are asked not merely to delve into the book alone, but with friends!
After contemplating our personal relationship to the story of each saint, we can trade our reflections with a friend or share in an open forum like a book-club, to see how similar we are, what different approaches we might take, or how we might learn from each other to navigate similar struggles.
I have neglected my spirit for much too long now, and I am grateful to have found the impetus to correct my course using this book. I pray in thanksgiving for example of the seven holy women about whom it centers, and for the eight women who were inspired to write such a useful book. I ask God to bless all those women who will read and become enlightened and refreshed by it.