From Publishers Weekly
The stories Catholics often hear about the saints can give the impression these people emerged from the womb with halos. Craughwell, a well-respected Catholic diocesan newspaper columnist, provides the rest of the story. His semi-irreverent collection assembles 29 sinners-cum-saints from Christian history in an enjoyable and riveting account of their lives and times. The table of contents reads like a most-wanted list: thieves, embezzlers, murderers, cardsharps, and even a warmonger. Some, such as the apostle Matthew, a former tax collector, will be familiar to readers. The brief biographies of the more obscure saints, however, are often the most fascinating to read. Craughwell introduces us to intriguing figures like St. Moses the Ethiopian, a violent gang leader who embraced a life of fasting and prayer after seeking shelter with monks in the Egyptian desert in the fourth century. St. Alipius, a student of another notorious sinner, St. Augustine, was "obsessed with blood sports." Craughwell does not dilute his belief that it is only through divine grace that these women and men were able to overcome their self-centeredness and redirect their lives for a greater purpose. His tone is occasionally patronizing, but the take-home point is vital: while we are all sinners, there is always hope. (Sept. 19)
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Saints aren't born they're made; out of, as Craughwell's sketches of 28 of them demonstrate, oh-so-imperfect human beings, some well-known--St. Augustine, St. Patrick, St. Columba, St. Thomas Becket, St. Francis of Assisi--many others not. They include all manner of thieves (St. Dismas), bigamists (St. Fabiola), egotists (St. Ignatius of Loyola), and even the occasional Viking conqueror (St. Olaf). Craughwell provides biographical detail and, of greater interest, discussion of how particular saints have appealed to a collective sense of right and wrong and notice of how some saints have entered pop culture in modern guise (such as the St. Dismas-like hero of the movie The Hoodlum Priest
). The saint among these 28 whose story is the most moving is probably the Venerable Matt Talbot (1856-1925), a chronic alcoholic from Dublin who quit drinking cold turkey to pursue a truly saintly, humble life thereafter. June SawyersCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved