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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For anyone who's loved the "Surprised by Truth" series
This thoroughly enjoyable read is a collection of mini-autobiographies by women who are trying to live out their Catholic faith today.

Anybody who's read one, then two, then all of Patrick Madrid's "Surprised by Truth" series will understand why you will be engrossed by this book. You can't get bored when each author is only given the length of a short story...
Published on August 22, 2012 by Amazon Customer

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed the personal stories best
I am a big fan of first-person essays and stories of personal faith, so I was eager to read this book.

The collection begins strongly with an essay by the editor concerning her (at first reluctant) acceptance of children into her life. The second essay, from an ob/gyn, is a gripping read of her growing unease with the procedures she was expected to perform...
Published on October 26, 2012 by N. B. Kennedy


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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For anyone who's loved the "Surprised by Truth" series, August 22, 2012
This review is from: Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves (Hardcover)
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This thoroughly enjoyable read is a collection of mini-autobiographies by women who are trying to live out their Catholic faith today.

Anybody who's read one, then two, then all of Patrick Madrid's "Surprised by Truth" series will understand why you will be engrossed by this book. You can't get bored when each author is only given the length of a short story for commentary. And besides, these are so nakedly personal. So real.

And it's also so encouraging to read the stories of women whose struggle to be a faithful Catholic is so close to your own.

There can be no question that to be a believing, practicing Catholic for a woman today means that you have to take a stand against the corrosive tide of today's culture.

The first essay is written by the editor herself. She's a doctor who didn't want to question the orthodox liberal acceptance of abortion and birth control. And she had very good, personal reasons for refusing to listen to the Church.

When she was in medical school her position was that she was "appalled that the Church banned what I believed to be some of the best achievements science had to offer" (p 36).

Returning to her faith and to acknowledging that abortion and birth control were wrong would be a painful, difficult journey.

Another essay was written by a woman struggling to date and remain Catholic, even though casual sex is practically a given in our culture. There is another, very moving essay by a woman who chose to enter the cloister. There is even one written by a woman tempted by same sex attraction.

These are touching essays about living the faith in a modern world. They will move you and inspire you.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought for Catholic women, September 6, 2012
This review is from: Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves (Hardcover)
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To be honest, I leafed through this collection of essays and wondered what would I have in common with these women? Lawyers, doctors, a Catholic Sister? Did these highly educated women with advanced degrees really struggle with faith issues the way that I did, with far less education?

In reality, they did.

What I found weren't boring essays that read more like lecture notes on a given faith-based topic. They were very personal stories outlining the contributors' journeys of living their faith, written, for the most part, conversationally. As in, you felt like you were having a deep conversation about faith with a friend or neighbor.

One essay in particular, was written by a physician who struggled daily with reconciling her Catholic faith and prescribing birth control and performing abortions. Hers wasn't an overnight transformation, but one that took place in baby steps and throughout the essay, you could feel her anguish, her pain, and yet understand her point of view. I can understand her because I've been offered birth control by doctors in the past...to which I politely declined with one phrase: I'm Catholic. Sometimes I would get a strange look -- is that a yes or a no? I'm sure they wondered. I'd like to think that this doctor would have understood my response immediately and smiled a little in her heart.

This collection of essays isn't just about abortion, and other topics are addressed as well. Dating and being Catholic, with the "sexpectations" of the modern world, Homosexuality (discussed at length as same-sex attraction), and of particular interest, the essay by the Catholic Sister that revealed one Sister's journey to a consecrated religious life and offered a few heart warming moments to make you smile too.

Overall, I liked Breaking Through. I felt that I took something away from each essay.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed the personal stories best, October 26, 2012
This review is from: Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves (Hardcover)
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I am a big fan of first-person essays and stories of personal faith, so I was eager to read this book.

The collection begins strongly with an essay by the editor concerning her (at first reluctant) acceptance of children into her life. The second essay, from an ob/gyn, is a gripping read of her growing unease with the procedures she was expected to perform. Later on in the book, a nun talks about her call to the religious life. I thoroughly enjoyed these three essays.

Most of the other essays are treatises from attorneys and academics on vague topics, which I didn't find as enjoyable to read. The one essay I did appreciate was an examination of same-sex attraction. It presented a more nuanced view than we get in the loud, polarized debates about homosexuality that we're usually subjected to.

I am not Catholic, but I don't think you have to be in order to appreciate these essays. I always enjoy hearing the viewpoints of others.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected, September 11, 2012
This review is from: Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves (Hardcover)
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Seeing the title the thought that came to me was there was zero chance of it catching my interest . Sounds just like a title given to a typical Catholic dissent-fest. Later the same day on EWTN I heard this book referenced in a positive manner.

Considering all the media coverage and the phony "war on women" meme and the fact that Catholic women who are dissenters are constantly being presented to us this book is quite timely. This book is partly a response to the attacks on religious freedom and how the narrative was shaped concerning Catholic women and the use of contraceptives.

This book in some ways could have been called "Surprised by the truth of the Church's teachings on sexual morality" as it is partly a "Surprised by Truth"-like format of conversion stories. Not the common Protestant-to-Catholic conversion stories but mostly concerning Catholic women who were in opposition to Church teaching and who came to see the wisdom and the truth of her teaching. These women from a variety of backgrounds and professional experience not only provide the genesis for how they came to accept Church teaching, but explain those teachings in a very accessible way. All of these chapters were very well written and had me quite captivated by their personal stories. Along with these stories are also a couple of essays that go with the subject at hand.

Seeing how God worked in these women's lives was a joy to see and a couple of the stories related really had me praising God - which unfortunately is not something I do as much as I should. The story of one women's affect on another headed to get an abortion is worth the price of the book - just so awesome! This book covers a lot of topics including: fear of children, contraception, same-sex attraction, beauty, the ends of dating, the sexual abuse crisis, stable marriages and family life, etc.

Even as a man I could relate to some of the background of the stories on how secular feminism had shaped their lives. Being raised in a house that subscribed to Ms. Magazine and Psychology Today and where Alan Alda was the pinnacle of what a man should be -- it is not just women who get subverted by this message.

This book is a great antidote to so much of what we hear and it presents faithful Catholic women who can fully articulate their faith and who have had the same struggles as so many others. Maybe the title that confused me is a positive thing and I sincerely hope that those who struggle with the truth of what the Church teaches will pick this book up. They might be seriously challenged by what this book presents, but they won't be talked down to or feel attacked by it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Catholic women in today's world, September 2, 2012
By 
Pippa Lee (Honolulu, HI USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves (Hardcover)
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I wasn't raised in a Catholic family but I grew up in a Catholic country. And though I don't go to church every Sunday and haven't gone to confession in years, I've always believed that casual hook ups are out of the question for me and that a child deserves to be raised by a mother and a father. I may be a non-practicing Catholic but Catholic values still play a part in shaping my choices and my identity. Now that I live in a society that increasingly seems to run counter to those values, I wondered about how people like me and those who embrace Catholicism wholeheartedly, navigate the challenges posed by both, the Catholic tradition and the mainstream culture.

In "Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves," nine women share their thoughts as well as the conflicts they've experienced as they tried to live up to the Catholic teachings while facing personal and professional dilemmas. In Chapter 1, Helen M. Alvaré addresses her once own reluctance to have children. Dr. Marie Anderson writes about her journey to becoming an NFP (Natural Family Planning) practitioner in Chapter 2. In the next chapter, Elise Italiano takes on dating expectations and single Catholic women and challenges the Church to pay attention to them. In Chapter 4, Sister Mary Gabriel writes a very personal essay on renunciation and the joys of service to others while in Chapter 5, Mary Devlin Cappizi embraces her responsibility as the family breadwinner and finds role models for today's professional women in saints such as Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux.

The second half of the book opens with Rebecca Vitz Cherico's reflections on the Church and the sexual abuse scandal. In Chapter 7, Mary Hallan FioRito makes a case for a return to moderation in the face of the increasing prevalence of consumerism and materialism in today's society. Michelle A. Cretella explores the origins of SSA (same-sex attraction) in Chapter 8. Helen M. Alvaré becomes a contributor again as she writes about single motherhood and the Church's potential role to assist and educate young women (and men) on this issue. The book closes with an exhortation by Kim Daniels to rebuild Catholic culture as women build up communities through friendship.

All the contributors to "Breaking Through" are well-educated and accomplished women. They are professors, attorneys, and doctors. However, I would have liked to see a personal essay written by an actual Catholic single mother or the opinion of a Catholic homosexual thrown into the mix too. Including Catholic women from all walks of life would have made this anthology less elitist and much more courageous and admiringly frank. But the contributors remind us that they are also mothers, daughters, and wives. As much as I was interested in their views on today's hot-button issues, I was as equally moved by how they found the way to make peace with their Catholic beliefs and the demands of their personal and professional lives. Helen Alvaré summarizes it beautifully: "[D]ecide to love; decide to give; try mightily to learn the truth; then leap."

"Breaking Through" tries to dispel the image of Catholic women as passive followers, oppressed by an antiquated male hierarchy. The contributors of this collection of essays are intelligent and active participants in their chosen professions and in their faith. With "Breaking Through" they teach other women that to be Catholic in these times requires a balance between prayer and action. It is a balance that starts with listening with our hearts to God in order to find the truth about who we really are and from there, act.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful for thoughtful people regardless of religious affiliation or sex, September 26, 2012
By 
W. Jamison "William S. Jamison" (Eagle River, Ak United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves (Hardcover)
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Here are ten excellent essays on practical issues regarding Catholic life and being a woman in contemporary America. There is no theology in this but the practical nature of the reflections on experience of ten different aspects of modern life are really precious and insightful. Not always giving a rosy picture or explicit answer to dilemmas women face, they none the less express how real Catholic women cope with various difficulties that are specifically caused by being a woman following the Catholic faith and trying to live up to the ideals while at the same time facing the onslaught of modernity through consumerism, birth control, the changes in culture that affect marriages, work and raising children. I highly recommend the book even if you are not a woman or a Catholic since the answers and experiences offered are wonderful for thoughtful people regardless of religious affiliation or sex.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From a Presbyterian's Pew, October 19, 2012
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This review is from: Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves (Hardcover)
I chose to read this after reading the reviews of this book written mostly by Catholics. I was interested in comparing what the authors had to say about women in the Church today and their views of contemporary issues as they pertain to growing in their Catholic faith and their lives. I found "Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves" edited by Helen M. Alvare to be an extremely interesting, spiritual and enlightening book. The nine women who wrote the essays come from professions of law, medicine, a Religious Sister, and several others who have interesting backgrounds. The women seemed joyful in what they are doing and in their commitment to the place in the Catholic Church that they see reserved for women, not as oppression, but as a special role in the service of God and carrying out what He wants them to do. Their vigilance with prayer, their attitudes and beliefs of being here to serve and help others and forward God's love to people really stopped me in my tracks and made me think that this isn't just a Catholic call to service, it's for all of us.

What I found most interesting of all is that I didn't read anything, except a few small things, that are any different than what I have been taught being raised in the Presbyterian Church and worshipping in it all my life. I was born into the Presbyterian Church and will die in it. There are stereotypes of my Church members as well, that we're all Puritanical, can't have any fun, etc. We use grape juice, not believing in using the fermented fruit of the vine, but it is still Holy Communion, grape juice or not.

The one theme that carries through a lot of the essays is the role of mothers, and I was especially interested in reading about the working mother vs the stay-at-home mother. It was very reassuring to me to read that the Church takes on the position that each is doing equally important work and reaffirmed for me that I did what I thought was right for me and my family and stayed home. It was a particularly difficult time because my neighbor with whom I had been very friendly and our families were friends, also, suddenly decided she had had enough and all of a sudden I was babysitting her little son who was sick while she was miles away at work after spending weeks hundreds of miles away training for her job. It seemed to be the height of the working mother vs the homemaker/mom dispute. The book gave such a good positive validation for both, that both are described as equally important.

Not much is said about the saints in my Church and that is something I'd like to read and learn about.
I greatly admire these strong women who have offered their thoughts, words and time in this book. I feel a kinship with them, even though I'm Protestant, and hopefully some Catholic women will feel the same way towards me.

Other topics include contraception and abortion, the sex scandal in the Church, the single mother, the religious life, SSA (same sex attraction) and other issues which are relevant to society today.

Highly recommended book.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book on women in the Catholic Church, August 23, 2012
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LexOrandi (Glen Cove, NY) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves (Hardcover)
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Much has been going on with defining the role of women within the Catholic Church. I am in the formation process to be ordained a Catholic deacon and this book has helped me to be more sensitive to women's viewpoints and issues. We are in a continuing period of change with women's roles in general and the Church as is its nature is lagging in its reaction. Anyone in Catholic ministry needs to educate themselves as to what concerns people have. With the issues raised some I agree with and some I disagree with but it is important to hear from both sides. In our culture today, too many people take sides without really fully understanding the concerns of the other side. Books like this help to educate all.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Viewpoint of Catholic Women the Media Ignores, August 27, 2012
This review is from: Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves (Hardcover)
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I'm a Catholic woman, and, like many of us, I have thought and prayed deeply about many of the subjects that affect my life and my society. But, after this study and reflection, I agree with the Church. If I believed the view of Mainstream Media instead of the vibrant, intelligent Catholic women I know, I'd think I was hopelessly out-of-step with other Catholic women.

But my own experience, as well as that of the women who wrote the essays in this book, tells me I'm not. Instead of being all those name-calling labels believing Catholic women are labelled with here are women who are admirable and successful both by their own standards and by the standards of the world.

These brilliant women have turned there attention to subjects of discussion and controversy in the Church today from ones affecting us as women most directly (having children, or the marriage market) to issues affecting society as a whole (single parenthood or Same Sex Attraction) to questions affecting the Church (the role of women religious and the clerical sex abuse scandal). The all are discussed with great understanding, thoughtful ideas, and, often, deep scholarship.

And they come in with acceptance of, and respect for, the position of the Catholic Church on these issues. Even more, the essays show how reasonable, even by the lights of secular society, the positions are. It gives you new respect for the Church's thought on so many things. It also makes me wish so much that those positions would be given the respect and thought they deserve and would be heard.

Reading these essays I know that in real life I would find many areas of disagreement with these women. They may not agree with me on politics, raising children, or on any one of a host of other issues. But on these topics, not only do we agree but I learned so much from reading these essays that I was strengthened by this book.

If you are a believing Catholic woman facing questions in your life, read this book; you won't feel so alone. If you are a dissenting Catholic man or woman, read this book; you'll hear explained clearly and honestly what the Church teaches. If you are not Catholic but wonder if you are seeing the whole picture in the media, read this book; you'll see what isn't covered. If you disagree with the Church, read this book; you'll learn how to argue for a point honestly with scholarship, intelligence and graciousness.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A worthy endeavor, November 15, 2012
This review is from: Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves (Hardcover)
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Reviewer's note: In this review I refer to Helen M. Alvare, who is the editor, as the author. Although the book contains chapters written by others, she is one who writes both the introduction as well as the afterword. She also writes two chapters.

This is probably one of the most difficult reviews I've ever written. As a woman who was raised Catholic, with many close Catholic friends and family, I've seen firsthand how misunderstood women who embrace the church have been. I have been longing for a book like this, a book where real women with a strong sense of faith, talk about their journey as Catholic women.
I am determined to begin this review, and close it, talking about the positive aspects of this book. In that spirit I thank the author, most sincerely and respectfully, for her undertaking. She gathered a nice range of women to speak about their experiences, in that there is a youthful perspective as well as my own middle-aged perspective.
I eagerly awaited the arrival of this book, and as one often has when looking forward to something, there was some expectation and hope about what I would find in these pages. Selfishly, I wanted to open the book and immediately read the words of a woman who could compassionately and bravely discuss her faith as it relates to these modern times. I wanted to hear from women who can articulate their views with Christ in their heart, as opposed to defensive sarcasm and the projection of superiority. This book does indeed contain the above, but one must be willing to suffer through the caustic introduction.

When you put yourself out there as a member of any community, you become a representative of that community and have the responsibilities that go along with that representation. No one expects Catholics to be perfect. As humans, we all have the moments of exasperation, times when our buttons are pushed, times when we can no longer counter an attack (be it real or imagined) with compassionate patience. We all have our share of bad moods when we blurt out something nasty.

The introduction of this book begins with the author relating an experience she had at a hair salon. It's only the second sentence, and she writes "my stylist brags to his friend: `Helen here just came back from Pope Benedict's first mass. She went over as part of the US delegation.' His friend doesn't miss a beat: I'm so sorry, he says. I hear this guy is terrible on the whole woman thing.' I do miss a beat, but then I'm ready: `Wow', I say in a dangerously silky voice, 'you're amazing'. " When the unsuspecting person responds with `What?' he is put in his place with a sarcastic "You're amazing. I don't know three people who have read everything Pope Benedict has said about women, but apparently you have..."
From this a very brief scenario it is clear that the author had an opportunity to educate someone or explain her views, but instead chose sarcasm and snottiness. From what she shares, the man did not indicate he was an expert on the Pope, he was simply saying that he heard that the Pope was not pro-woman. She could have explained her views, but, at that moment, gave a condescending quip. I would chalk that up to one of those times that we all have, if the rest of the introduction were not riddled with similar negative and arrogant attitudes. It's as if she can't explain herself without being so defensive that the style of writing is downright painful to read.

She asks readers that might be curious about Catholic women to listen to the women who have written the articles for this book saying that they "avoid triumphalism in favor of humility". For the most part, that is a true assessment of the women in these pages, however, the author's words in this book do not reflect this.
It becomes apparent in the intro and her two articles, the author has not worked through her feelings of betrayal and victimization, sexual and otherwise, all directed (rather obsessively) at the hands of 1970s feminism. It becomes clear to the reader that these feelings were in place long before the feminist movement could be blamed. She indicates that as a young child she `wondered how people could stand having children'. She explains that `my repugnance underwent several mutations over the years from childhood to young adulthood'. Once again, for most of her writing, my discomfort was akin to watching someone exhibit behaviors that show how damaged they are, yet they are so deep in denial that they would bite your head off if you expressed sympathy for their pain.

Another example, in her chapter titled `Fear of Children', she relates a college story where she petitioned to equalize funding that was apparently based on gender, and then writes `some readers are shaking their heads over my gullibility, my wholesale swallowing of the feminist propositions of the late 20th century'
The nonstop near obsession of the evils of feminists and the need to use sarcastic and derogatory terminology (of which there are many examples of) makes for a difficult read when you are expecting a book showing the best of sisterhood in faith. I tried to give every benefit of a doubt, perhaps she meant it as humor. Rarely does it come off that way.
Other women contributed chapters. One in particular, called finding 'Finding Joy: The Mystery of the Religious Life', by Sr. Mary Gabriel, S. V., was so uplifting and affirming that I would encourage anyone to purchase this book for that chapter alone. It's that good. And of course, everyone wants to hear how other Catholics feel about the abuse scandal in the church. The woman addressing that issue does it with brutal honesty and helpful insights for those that struggle with the dichotomy of this issue. And on the lighter side of things, other women discuss everything from dating, to shopping, and the guilt over being a woman of faith who is driving a really cool expensive car!

As I write, I'm oddly brought back to the thought of feminism. It strikes me that so many of those early feminists had to be 'out there' in order to be heard. So many did indeed find the need to be abrasive and pushy. History has shown, time and time again, that whenever one group of people is denied true equality, there is a backlash. That backlash includes abrasive and pushy leaders that pave the way for the more meek of that particular minority population. The author was unable to forgive the more abrasive and radical feminist, even though she enjoys some of the fruits borne from the movement. Yet in exactly the same way, it's clear that the author identifies the Catholic woman as a misunderstood minority, and it is her own abrasive and pushy voice that will pave the way for many Catholic women. Although, as was the case for me personally, it may be hard to read, the aggressive and defensive voice is still a voice worth listening to. The world will always need women like Helen M. Alvare.
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Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves
Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves by Helen M. Alvare (Hardcover - September 27, 2012)
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