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The Saints' Guide to Happiness Paperback – April 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It takes a gifted writer to engage readers in a book of insights from men and women commonly understood to have spent their lives so close to God that they were unusual in almost every way. In this eloquent, seamlessly woven and delightfully readable book, Catholic convert Ellsberg, editor-in-chief of Orbis Books, makes the spiritual struggles and triumphs of sanctified men and women accessible and relevant to believers who grapple with the tension between the desire for earthly pleasure and the call to leave all behind and follow Jesus Christ. Giving this series of life lessons a vivid immediacy is the fact that Ellsberg ranges far and wide in his choice of saintly examples, including some non-Catholics and many modern icons of holiness. In the chapter on learning to suffer, for instance, 14th-century mystic Julian of Norwich and 20th-century Catholic writer Henri Nouwen fittingly illustrate Ellsberg's point that affliction can become an instrument of grace and transfiguration. What unites all the saints, he argues, is their ability and decision to see God's hand at work in the whole composition of their lives. Interwoven with moments of gentle homage to his mentor, Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, this volume suggests to Catholics and other Christian readers the possibility that happiness can come by using the lens of holiness to illumine their lives, both remarkable and ordinary.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Saints are experts on holiness, but what do they know about happiness? The answer, Ellsberg says, depends on what we mean by happiness and on our understanding of holiness. Saints aren't all that different. They wonder about the meaning and purpose of life, and they feel disappointment and sadness. Some of the saints he discusses are reasonably remote (Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Teresa of Avila), others quite modern (Thomas Merton, Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin). They all share finely developed senses of humanity and compassion, with which they remain ordinary in the best, most expansive sense of ordinariness. They model ideal behavior, setting standards to which we all can aspire. Ellsberg explores happiness through the lives and writings of these remarkable men and women, showing how relevant their stories are today but offering no guidance in the conventional sense. He insists that there is no way to happiness. Rather, there is a way of happiness. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Darton Longman and Todd (April 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0232525439
  • ISBN-13: 978-0232525434
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,590,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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See all 14 customer reviews
This is GOOD reading -- inspiring as well as educational.
C. L. Ferle
Readers can easily sit and read an entire chapter, or read the book slowly in a reflective manner.
Timothy Kearney
There are many aspects to achieving happiness presented in the book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By James E. O'Leary on December 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I couldn't wait for this one because Robert Ellsberg's "All Saints" has been my favorite daily reading ever since it came out. "The Saints Guide to Happiness" is even better than I expected. It helps that Robert Ellsberg was personal friends with at least two of the stars in this book, Henri Nouwen and Dorothy Day. For those mourning the loss of the great Catholic spiritual writers in these harsh days, they can look to Robert Ellsberg. I want many more books from him. He keeps getting better and better. The positive editorial reviews above have it right. This book will make an incomparable Christmas gift. I am right now rereading it from the beginning. There aren't many books I own which I can read over and over and this is one of them.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Kearney VINE VOICE on January 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Robert Ellsberg's ALL SAINTS was well received by many Catholic readers and deservedly so. The biographies found in the first book are well researched and his selection of famous and not so famous Christians (and in a few cases non-Christians) is interesting. Ellsberg once again turns to the well known figures in Christian history in his newest work THE SAINTS' GUIDE TO HAPPINESS.
In Billy Joel's song "Only the Good Die Young" he has the famous line `I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints; the sinners have much more fun.' Joel's assessment is a somewhat popular misconception of the saints. In many cases we view saints as long suffering men and women who hardly see the joy in life. Ellsberg would not agree with this misconception. Using the writings of many of the traditional saints of Christian history, as well as leading religious figures who are not officially recognized as saints, Ellsberg shows that many of the saints strove to love full and vital lives while on earth and were not simply concerned with enduring life on earth to merit the joys of everlasting life. Ellsberg uses Aristotle's definition of happiness as a springboard, that happiness is not merely a feeling of joy, but rather the fullness of life. Saints lived lives to the full, whether it was through their ministry, their interactions with others, the ways in which they endured hardship and suffering, or the way that they died. Throughout the book the reader sees that Ellsberg has great admiration for his subjects and sees their lives as examples of how we can live our lives.
The book appears to be a self help book, but it is not a book that gives the reader answers.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Marie Michael, OP on March 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
When Robert Ellsberg's All Saints was reviewed on the campus of Adrian Dominican Sisters, book orders flowed from our well-seasoned readers in the spiritual life. Now with The Saints' Guide to Happiness our community was ready for more substance from Ellsberg, and we have it.
This latest work translates the lives of the saints in ways that are helpful, and most importantly, believable to our everyday experience. The eight 'Learning to' chapters offer something for everyone whether we are content with our lives, or living with boredom, or even find ourselves suffering and burdened by doubt.
Half the book is taken up with two chapters-Learning to Suffer and Learning to Die- addressing some of the most urgent questions of today in how to put together happiness with suffering and death. After reading those two chapters, one of our members whose illness once took her to the edge of death said, "After coping with a life-threatening illness get a clarity of vision and you don't waste time on small things.... The Chapters on suffering and dying in The Saints' Guide to Happiness speaks much to me... I love this book and will keep it with me and read it from time to time so that I get some more encouragement in the 'hard parts' of life."
The Saints' Guide heightens our sensitivity "to the way God is present in our lives.... The path to happiness is rooted in the place where we are, and not just some holy place somewhere else." Ellsberg's words have found a warm home here in Adrian as he has preached to the preachers a good word!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Francisco X. Stork on January 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It is not so much the great amount of interesting information about some very special (but also very normal) people that makes this book worthwhile, but rather the slow and patient vision of true happiness that it weaves. The chapters of the book are structured as lessons to be learned not in order to reach some eventual place of happiness but to lay hold of it now: Learning to Be Still; Learning to Relinquish; Learning to Work; Learning to Suffer; Learning to Die... What is so life affirming about this book is the overwhelming assent to happiness and to its pursuit embodied in persons whom we usually take to be super human in their efforts at self-renunciation. Yes, these were disciplined men and women, but they were also driven by and in pursuit of a Joy that they discovered as the true essence of their human lot. I like the way the book slowly and engagingly transforms our usual, narrow, paltry, notion of a happiness dependent on comfort to one founded on that inner certitude (which can exist even amidst suffering) that we are traveling, slowly but surely, on the path we were meant to travel. And along the way we meet some pretty inspiring fellow travelers not as different from you or me as you would first think.
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