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Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves Hardcover – September 27, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Catholic women are some of the most maligned, most caricatured, and most intriguing people in American society.

America is flirting with the idea that being a Catholic female means saying "yes" to the faith as a private source of comfort, but "no" to living out its more countercultural moral and social teachings.

Catholic women are facing unprecedented questions about sex, money, marriage, work, children and the church itself -- questions with innumerable personal and societal repercussions. Is it even possible that the teachings of a 2,000 year old religion are still relevant for today's toughest issues?

A quick tour of leading cultural indicators seems to say "no." But this is far from the whole story. Many women, courageously facing questions their mothers and grandmothers would never have encountered, are finding intellectually and spiritually satisfying answers within the framework of their Catholic faith.

Nine such Catholic women -- varying widely in age, occupation and experience -- share personal stories of how they struggled toward the realization that the demands of their faith actually set them free. Their stories -- full of honesty, but ultimately hope -- shed new light and new clarity on women's continued attraction to the Catholic faith.

"Topics include: "

Navigating dating and sexpectationsFeminism, freedom and contraceptionChildren versus a "better me"Being Catholic in light of the sexual abuse scandalFaith, psychology and same-sex attraction

About the Author

Helen M. Alvare is a law professor at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, where she teaches and writes in the areas of family law, and law and religion. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, and Chair of the Task Force on Conscience Protection, as well as a Consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Helen is married with three children. She is co-author of an open letter on women and religious freedom that has thus far attracted over 30,000 women's signatures (see womenspeakforthemselves.com).
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor (September 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612786669
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612786667
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeri VINE VOICE on August 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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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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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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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!
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