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 Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your family Advent activities and supplies this year, such as Advent wreaths and calendars for kids, as well as Christmas decorations such as nativity scene sets and religious Christmas gifts for the whole family. The following review is my honest opinion of this work of non-fiction.

Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves

Reading the secular media, one would get the impression that there is a major “war on women” being waged by first, the Republican party, and second, the Catholic Church. Both groups are often painted as male-dominated, old-fashioned bastions of chauvinism who only want to keep women “barefoot and pregnant”. Leaving aside the political issues (though I will note that I am a woman … a Republican … and neither barefoot nor pregnant), I have found a wonderful answer, if only partially, to the criticisms leveled at the Catholic Church, leveled at my Church and Faith.

Helen Alvare, a law professor at George Mason University (Arlington, VA), has compiled a series of essays by nine women who are “in the world”, women who make it their daily work to evangelize (through their words and, more importantly, their actions) about how best to be a Catholic woman in the United States today. These are women who are daily “in the world” but not “of the world”, who are doing their best to live the Faith they own:

  • Helen Alvare, JD, MA – a law professor at GMU, senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute (and chair of their Task Force on Conscience Protection), consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Laity. She is also a wife and mother and often consults for ABC News on matters concerning the Catholic Church. Her initial essay is about fear of having a family, loss of career and how she broke through those fears. She includes a second essay in the book about single-motherhood and the Church’s teaching on embracing all life, no matter how conceived.
  • Marie Anderson, MD — ob/gyn and medical director at Tepeyac Family Center(Fairfax, VA),member of the INOVA Fair Oaks Hospital Ethics Committee, president of the Northern Virginia Guild of the Catholic Medical Association. She is also a wife and mother. Her essay is about her initial disagreement with Church-teaching on contraception and how she came to realize that contraception (literally, against life) is morally fatal
  • Elise Italiano, MA — teaches at a college prep high school in the Washington, DC area and has a master’s in theology from Villanova and a BA in humanities from Providence College. She is a young, single woman. Italiano’s essay is about living modestly in a very secular environment.
  • Sr.Mary Gabriel, SV — member and novice director the Sisters of Life, a New York-based community dedicated to protecting and enhancing the sacredness of human life. She writes about finding joy in the religious life while working on the streets with the poor and despairing.
  • Mary Devlin Capizzi, JD — a practicing lawyer in Washington, DC and a member of her firm’s government relations and regulatory affairs group; she also serves as legal counsel and secretariat for industry consortia in the life sciences industry. She is a wife and mother of five daughters and one son. Her essay discusses the balance between being a married career-woman, raising a family, and living the Faith.
  • Rebecca Vitz Cherico, PhD — a former professor at NYU, University of Pennsylvania, and Villanova, she currently is a stay-at-home-mom, active in the Catholic lay-movement, Communion and Liberation. Cherico’s essay discusses the need to heal the wounds of the clerical abuse scandals, the need to move toward “a more authentic appreciation for Christ and the Church and to commit to renewing the Church and Her members through prayer, sacrifice and service.
  • Mary Hallan FioRito, JD — attorney and assistant to Francis Cardinal George in Chicago, she was the first Vice-Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago and director of the Respect Life Office in Chicago. She is a wife and mother of three daughters. Her essay shares concrete examples of selfless giving to others and God’s blessings from that giving; this is a particularly appropriate chapter for the upcoming holidays — how much do we really NEED and how much can we GIVE to others?
  • Michelle A. Cretella, MD — a board-certified pediatrician, vice president of the American College of Pediatricians and member of the board of directors of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. She is a wife and mother of four. Her well-researched essay explains the Church’s position on same-sex attraction, detailing the facts and misconceptions of this issue. Her main point is “hating the sin, loving the sinner”.
  • Kim Daniels, JD — “mother of six, a lawyer and coordinator of Catholic Voices USA”. Her essay, the last in the book, sums up the living in the world while retaining our faith. Not defending it in a belligerent, crusader way, but rather through our actions. Daniels’ thesis: through cultivating strong faith family and friendships, we Catholic women can live our lives to their fullest.
  • This book is a fabulous read … one that will get dog-eared from reading and re-reading these different essays about true Catholic women trying to do the good. I highly recommend this one!

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