Brief Reviews, VOLUME 5

Shirt of Flame By Heather King [Brief Review]

A Brief Review of

Shirt of Flame:

A Year with Saint Therese of Lisieux.

Heather King.

Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Stephen Taylor.

The moment I began to read Shirt of Flame: A Year with Saint Therese of Lisieux, I knew that something very special was happening; an epiphany if you like.  Heather King does not pull any punches or hide her own sins.  In fact, she hangs them out for all to see and then places them in the context of her relationship to God.  There is a bravery in this act that most writers would never dream of attempting.

Heather is a wounded woman – who among us is not – but she takes all that wounded nature and by following very closely the example set by St. Therese, finds that even the smallest moment, incident, word, courtesy, is a moment for redemption.  St. Therese is famous for her “Little Way” which is nothing more than the practice of doing everything you do for the love of God.  That sounds simple, but it includes not responding in anger when you feel angry, not taking the best because it is offered, choosing to accept rebukes as charity for it leads you to humility before God.

As horrified as I was by the ways that women the world over continue to be undervalued, discriminated against, marginalized, and in many cases mutilated and murdered, I also believed that I had contributed to the situation.  In fact, some of my deepest wounds remained the three abortions I’d had, more than twenty years before: a form of violence, I realized now, against myself, my unborn children, the men who had fathered them; against all woman, all men, all life, all hope. . . . I began to see that to ache for tenderness myself was to ache for the world.  I began to see that in my loneliness, I entered into the loneliness of Christ.

As I read those words they resounded in my soul with such force that I had to put the book down and let it sink in.  “I began to see that in my loneliness, I entered into the loneliness of Christ.”  This is not pious bromides, this is the gut wrenching truth of what it means to be with Christ as Christ is in the world.  The above quote not only shows her sins but also her redemption, how all life is redeemed by Christ in a way that we cannot begin to understand.  The love of God for us, each one of us, is beyond comprehension.

I could fill this review with quotes that sent me again and again into my chapel to pray, but instead I suggest you buy this book, Catholic or not, and read it, inwardly digest the lessons, and get a new view of your own faith, your own worth, and your own redemption.

Heather King has given all of us a gift in this book, the gift of redemption realized fully, accepted, and returned with thanksgiving to the gracious God who so freely gave it to us.


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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at:

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