Gina Loehr’s Real Women, Real Saints is really, really good.
Categorized according to the virtues, the lives of the women highlighted in the book truly show that sanctity can live in any soul determined to work for it.
Gina Loehr writes:
Every story in this book tells of a relationship between the Savior of the universe and a woman who loved him enough to live in harmony with his will. This harmony-in-action we call virtue, “an habitual and firm disposition to do the good,” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines it (CCC , 1803). These women lovingly made a habit of doing God’s will—that is, “the good”—though they had to work and pray hard to form that holy habit. The canonization process recognizes this extraordinary effort with a formal declaration that a person lived a life of heroic virtue. (p.2)
Much like Lisa Hendey, Gina Loehr helped me see already-beloved saints in a fresh light thanks to countless direct quotes. From St. Monica, “Guard your tongue when your husband is angry.” (154) And St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, before her conversion to Catholicism, writing to her sister about her Catholic friends, “How happy would we be if we believed what these dear souls believe: that they possess God in the Sacrament.” (15)
Loehr also introduced me to new saints, like Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, who sanctified her chaotic household by her good example and who firmly believed that “laziness is the mother of all the vices.” (76)
Practical advice abounds in the book from women who have been there. Gina Loehr writes, “Difficult decisions didn’t scare Mary MacKillop. Instead of getting nervous about what to do, she put matters in God’s hands by praying before she made decisions. This peaceful surrender to God’s divine wisdom is a fruit of the virtue of prudence.” (88)
And then there’s my husband’s favorite story about a wise lady named Saint Catherine of Bologna:
Catherine was a perfect fit for the role of the abbess because she was a prudent woman. She ruled simply and practically, helping the women under her care thrive by insisting on three things: positive speech, the pursuit of humility and not meddling in others’ affairs. Catherine had crafted these three rules carefully to help women overcome tendencies toward gossip, vanity and nit-picking. Her devotion to the rule of prudence sets a good example for any woman who desires to shape her femininity in accord with virtue. (78)
In these strange days of modern isolation, it is such a gift to have this collection of female saints at hand when you’re in need of advice, friendship, and understanding. What trustworthy friends we find in these pages.