toni mcnaron's garden
into the paradox: conservative spirit, feminist politics

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Contradictions can be “decided,” one way or the other—it either is raining or it is not raining, it cannot be both raining and not raining. Paradoxes, on the other hand, cannot be resolved one way or the other. We must simply try to accept them and live within the uncomfortable mystery they create.
—Toni McNaron

As a practicing Catholic and feminist scholar, Toni McNaron embraces the seemingly unresolvable and accepts the inherent paradox arising from her preference for conservative spiritual practices while remaining committed to radical politics. Residing patiently in this “uncomfortable mystery” has allowed her to explore the deeper spaces of her spirit—not insisting on consistency or certainty or even agreement as she strives to expand her connection with the God of her understanding in today’s post-modern world where paradox is often valued.

McNaron’s compelling and inspirational faith journey reveals that we need not harden into inflexible creeds or harsh judgments of other people’s way of finding meaning. Rather, living in paradox can enliven our lives and ultimately open us to the wonder and joy of God’s amazing creation in all its diversity.

Into the Paradox exquisitely reveals a woman’s path to a moral life in which she fills her heart with the beauty and community found in the daily rituals of the Catholic Church while devoting herself to progressive politics. McNaron teaches us that the sources of spirituality are multifaceted and not subject to the false gods of reason and rationality. Once read, this book undoubtedly will have an enduring presence as readers meet each day’s gifts and challenges.

—Mary Louise Fellows, Professor Emerita, University of Minnesota Law School


This is a beautifully rendered journey of faith, grounded in both heart and intellect. McNaron’s memoir lights the way to a reconciling spirituality that transcends the limitations of religion and finds nurture in its liturgy and community.

—Carol Miller, Professor Emerita, Native American Studies, University of Minnesota