Lives of the Saints is a go-get-it-now book, an I've-been-waiting-for-this book, a thank-God-it's-on-good-paper-cause-I'll-still-be-reading-this-10-years-from-now book. Believers are drawn to saints because their witness and their teachings are inseparable: saints are the ones who lived what they believed. And we hope that, by learning about saints and meditating upon them, our own beliefs and actions will become more integrated. Author Richard McBrien, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame and author of the equally indispensable Lives of the Popes, is particularly interested in the relationship between the lives of individual saints and the life of the Church. In his preface to Lives of the Saints, and in its excellent essays about the history of sainthood, veneration, and the process of canonization, he repeatedly asks: "What do the saints tell us, individually and collectively, not only about the character of Christian discipleship, but about the meaning of human existence itself? And what does the action of the Church in proclaiming or canonizing various types of Christians as saints disclose about the fundamental religious values of the Church itself?" Lives of the Saints also includes biographical sketches organized by feast day (January 1 is Mary, Mother of God; December 31 is Pope Sylvester I). The book's clear structure and simple style ensure that it will serve many readers' needs: it may be used as a reference or as a devotional, or it may be read straight through. In any case, it will help Christians (or any interested reader) address what McBrien calls "the question of sanctity," a question that lies at the heart of all of our lives: "In what does a human life fully consist?" he asks. "What does it mean not only to be 'good,' but to be 'really good,' even outstandingly so?" --Michael Joseph Gross
From Publishers Weekly
Eminent historian of Catholicism McBrien (Catholicism) provides in his new book the same lively, detailed historical and theological sketches of the saints that he did for the papacy in his earlier The Lives of the Popes. In magisterial fashion, he discusses the definition of sainthood, the process of canonization and its politics and the significant contributions that various saints have made to Christian history. McBrien defines saints as "ordinary people who happen to live the gospel in extraordinary ways." Arranged according to the yearly calendar, the central section of the book offers fresh and engaging biographical sketches of the saints. In addition to officially recognized saints, McBrien embraces a wide range of individuals who fit his broad definition of sainthood, such as Dorothy Day, George Herbert, John Donne, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Abraham Joshua Heschel and Mohandas Gandhi. The book includes a helpful time line of saints in history and exhaustive tables of the feast days of the saints, places and their patron saints, patron saints and the groups and causes that adopt them, emblems in art and iconography, saintly "firsts," and papal canonizations. For instance, we learn that Thomas Aquinas is one of the patron saints of booksellers, and Clare of Assisi is the patron saint of television. McBrien's magnificent and comprehensive compendium offers rich insights not only into the lives of the saints but also into the reasons that these fascinating holy people continue to play such an integral role in the history of Christianity.
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