This beautifully written book recounts the compelling spiritual journey of a young woman whose love for God moves her to seek ordination to the priesthood. Autobiography and biography meet as the Rev. Shanon structures the account of her life’s itinerary with parallel episodes from the Life of Hildegard of Bingen. With humility and good humor, Shanon draws us into her candid memoir of call, courage, and commitment, with its blessings, disappointments, and upheavals. Retreat from her goal never surfaces as an option for this strong, courageous woman. Her energy, like her faith, radiates from the pages of this book. Readers will wonder how she keeps going, and they will not want to put the book down until reaching the end. Buoyed by the ever-renewing vitality of the Holy Spirit, Rev. Shanon learns, in Hildegard’s words, “to be carried like a feather on the Breath of God.”
Forbidden Grace is an extraordinary account of the lives of two women separated by 900 years, yet touched by the same divine grace. Sterringer offers readers a front row seat as she examines the synchronicities that connect her faith story to that of Hildegard of Bingen. The thematic treatment of their journeys allows a forward and backward movement like the waves of an incoming tide that allows ideas and events to seep into one’s consciousness. The reader comes away with a deep recognition of the spiritual bond between two women who have both wrestled with God. This memoir is a stunning tapestry woven of two parallel lives. Throughout, the author assures us that God’s grace is forbidden to no one despite over 2,000 years of history that has often maintained otherwise. As an ordained woman priest, Rev. Sterringer has joined the ranks of women who refuse to participate in erecting barriers against divine energy. Forbidden Grace encourages us to watch for synchronicities that nudge us to recognize and accept our own callings.
Forbidden Grace is a beautiful and spiritual masterpiece, depicting Reverend Dr. Shanon Sterringer’s journey from lay sacristan in her home parish of St. Anthony of Padua’s in Fairport Harbor to answering the call to become a female priest. Through sheer determination at the spiritual risk of excommunication, Sterringer searches for spiritual meaning in her life and establishes her own Catholic parish a few blocks away at The Hildegard Haus. Reverend Sterringer, an expert in all things Saint Hildegard of Bingen, not only demonstrates her clear emotion and devotion to the twelfth-century German mystic, but uncannily reveals how similar their lives were, as they each shattered their own glass ceilings. Compellingly honest, gut-wrenching, sad yet uplifting, we revel in the story that in the end, is ultimately triumphant. It’s an inspiring story of faith that will stay with you long after you’re turned the last page."
Throughout history women are redacted from the story. The narrative of our grief is still unripe. The green acorn still waits to fruit. The new song still hammers in the dark in search of the music for our time. It takes prophets living on the edge to listen for the song, to call us forth, to proclaim the will of God and hold us to account. Forbidden Grace is a compelling story of just such a prophet. Rev. Shanon Sterringer writes honestly of her story with its struggles, its messiness, its crests and troughs, with the mystic and prophet Hildegard of Bingen as the wind that carries her. The juxtaposition of the two words in the title is a paradox of our time and it takes a brave woman to carry that. I was captivated by her journey. Learning to consciously live in the light which is sometimes bewilderingly dark (how else can one see the stars?) Shanon reminds us of the lone falcon ‘turning and turning in the widening gyre.’ As the poet, WB Yeats continues, ‘Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold’ What Shanon knows – it is in the ‘fall apart’ comes the song of a new way, as it is the invisible sap running in the veins that ripens the fruit . . . what Hildegard called veriditas, that brings humanity to its fullness. Even as the hammer pounds, the prophet in Shanon sings us forth. For what is this song if not hope? Reincarnation? We cannot know these things. However, for those who are open we do know Spirit abides us. And for us Hildegardians we know Hildegard is speaking today.
Rev. Sterringer’s book, Forbidden Grace, is wonderfully fashioned with an open heart, an enlightened theological mind that is well grounded in the historical facts for an enchanting, compassionate and full of empathy journey into two women’s lives. Rev Sterringer transports, transcends and seamlessly interweaves the inspiring life of St. Hildegard of Bingen with her life and ministry today as an ordained woman priest. She guides us clearly in a masterful way into the inner and outer landscape of the countless challenges, pains, and woundings they each encountered. They both responded to their challenges in a respectful and dialogical process, and hopefully in which healing and evolution can continue to unfold inclusively in the world. By following God's personal calling, she is able to express her journey in translating the understanding and the embodiment of these understandings. This book is a testament to two courageous women, separated by nine hundred years, who have shown incredible tenacity, boldness, conviction, and commitment to Christ's personal call. Forbidden Grace is a wondrous journey of two souls filled with wisdom that is particularly relevant to the predicaments of our modern life. This book supports each of us and the church to reclaim and renew our feminine energy. It is a call to all God's children for inclusivity, a call to Love one another, and a call to wholeness versus discrimination. Every reader will benefit from what she shares and explores in Forbidden Grace. I highly recommend taking the journey as readers for the "Forbidden Grace" that you may find.
This is a fascinating and innovative book weaving a number of different themes into a many-layered tapestry. The story of the medieval mystic Hildegard von Bingen is interwoven with the author’s own journey into the priesthood. The significance of role models who are like you is clearly charted, along with the search for a theology to challenge the dominant culture. Both women’s stories are told in a lively way that will draw readers in and enable them to find their own story in both contemporary culture and in history – or should it be herstory? The author likens both stories to chipping away at a tunnel into a seemingly forbidden cave. This book is a significant addition to the clearing of the rubble that has blocked women’s entry into positions of authority within the Christian church.
Rev. Dr. Shanon Sterringer's work Forbidden Grace brings to us the remarkable story of Hildegard of Bingen. Through and with Sterringer, the voice of this ground-breaking Catholic woman leader resounds through to today. She adeptly shows us that Hildegard walks with us still providing companionship and inspiration especially for women like Sterringer who are breaking ground for Catholic women's leadership today.
In Forbidden Grace, the Rev. Dr. Shanon Sterringer bears her soul — and what a grace-filled, authentic soul it is. As with St. Hildegard von Bingen, her spiritual companion on the road to ordination as a woman Roman Catholic priest, Reverend Shanon’s path is one filled with both grief and joy, but most of all love. In the intertwining of her life story with that of Hildegard, Reverend Shanon’s love for God, for her family, for the people of God (and especially the flock entrusted to her pastoral care), as well as her love for the Roman Catholic Church is readily apparent. All of this occurs against the backdrop of actions of the institutional Church to deny the legitimacy of her vocation and her authentic response to the call of the Spirit. In recounting her experiences, Reverend Shanon shares the fruits of her years of research and succeeds in making the essence of Hildegard’s letters, homilies and hymns a source of modern inspiration. While a must read for any woman struggling with how to respond to the call to ordination, especially within the Roman Catholic Church, Forbidden Grace is an especially rich source of guidance for any man or woman struggling with how to reconcile the Catholic Church they love with the institutional sins of hierarchicalism, clericalism and sexism.
Welcome to the whirlwind journeys of two saintly women who share many synchronicities as both discerned their calls to follow the living light (or Holy Spirit). Although separated by nine centuries since the high Middle Ages, these two holy women have experienced humiliation, trials, tribulations, inspiration, and challenges while carrying out their respective vocations within the resistive hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church still clings to the belief that women are unworthy of ordination as they lack the “proper matter” for holy orders. However, as St. Hildegard cautions, we live in “womanish times.” Is Rome ready for the next reformation? What does the future look like for the Roman Catholic Church and the future of women’s ordination and feminine ministry? Nicholas
Visions of two gifted, holy women encountering God’s prodding by Grace kept me in awe of their fascinating lives. Forbidden Grace by Rev. Dr. Shanon Sterringer revealed many obstacles in her and St. Hildegard’s lives and how each overcame them. A great, informative read. Thank you, Shanon, for sharing so much of yourself. Joan