Review: Holy Women by Pope Benedict XVI

Disclaimer: This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Holy Women. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.


One of the biggest criticisms from secularists about the Catholic Church is that our Church is a male-dominated, female-dismissing, group who don’t give women credit for anything. If you, dear reader, believe this … please read the recently published Holy Women by Pope Benedict XVI.

This book, a compilation of the Pope’s catecheses during his weekly general audiences between September 1, 2010 and April 6, 2011. During these public audiences, the Pope spoke about different holy women, women in the Catholic church who are exceptional, women who are to be emulated, women who all are a source of reason and piety in today’s world. The women he discusses?

  1. St. Hildegard of Bingen
  2. St. Clare of Assisi (whose feast is today, August 11th, and one of my patron saints!)
  3. St. Matilda of Hackeborn
  4. St. Gertrude the Great
  5. Bl. Angela of Foligno
  6. St. Elizabeth of Hungary
  7. St. Bridget of Sweden
  8. Marguerite d’Olignt
  9. St. Juliana of Cornillon
  10. St. Catherine of Siena
  11. Julian of Norwich
  12. St. Veronica Giuliani
  13. St. Catherine of Bologna
  14. St. Catherine of Genoa
  15. St. Joan of Arc
  16. St. Teresa of Avila
  17. St. Therese of Lisieux

Holy Women by Pope Benedict XVI

This list includes Catholic women of world-renown as well as those whose story may not be known to many (I’d never heard of a couple of these ladies) yet each has in common the virtues of faith, hope and charity … each is an amazing role-model, appropriate to emulate in our world today. In St. Hildegard’s writings (from the mid-1100s) we find “rich theological content” written in with poetic and symbolic terms … content that teaches us to this day. In St. Clare we read about her humility, piety and charity, hidden in the cloister and yet her faith and spiritual motherhood has come down to us today in the Poor Clare’s.

Biological sisters, St. Matilda and St. Gertrude the Great (mid-1200s) share their faiths in slightly different ways: St. Matilda’s emphasis is on liturgical prayer, celebration of the Holy Mass and her intimacy with Jesus in reception of the Eucharist. St. Gertrude’s emphasis is on “writing and popularizing the truth of faith with charity and simplicity, with grace and persuasion, serving the Church faithfully and lovingly” in writings that are still studied by today’s theologians.

And Pope Benedict continues on through these great women — giving brief biographies of these women, placing them in historical perspective, and then explaining why they are of such great help to us today. Pope Benedict illustrates the living out of the Gospel through criticisms and martyrdom … how we must die to self to live for Jesus … as these great saints did. St. Joan of Arc never wanted to fight for France … but God called and she answered YES. St. Veronica Giuliani lived in deep suffering, receiving the stigmata willingly, believing that “to suffer with joy is the key to love”.

This book is filled with stories of faith and love and hope. Stories that talk to us today through the very readable words of Pope Benedict. I highly recommend this book for all, especially those who think our Church is male-dominated. Pope Benedict gives us a glimpse at just a few of the women who effected their time and still have an effect on our world today. In the Pope’s words, “those who change the world for the better are holy, they transform it permanently, instilling in it the energies that only love inspired by the Gospel can elicit.” (pg 22)

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