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173 of 176 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 12, 2006
I knew I'd probably enjoy James Martin's MY LIFE WITH THE SAINTS as soon as I started reading it. I've read other books by Martin and have found him to have the rare gift of writing about himself and his experiences while at the same time creating a book that really isn't about him. Anyone who has read even portions of IN GOOD COMPANY or THIS OUR EXILE will probably agree. Martin uses his own experiences to share something larger, namely faith and how we find God. Some critics have even called him a modern Thomas Merton, something Martin would probably eschew (see his chapter on Merton and you'll know what I mean), but like Merton, James Martin is using his skills as a writer to articulate faith in a way that is inviting for those who are searching and engaging for people looking for something deeper.

Enjoying MY LIFE WITH THE SAINTS did not surprise me, but what did impress me was Martin's original approach to the lives of the saints. This is not a dry collection of short biographies of well known Catholics, most of whom are canonized saints, and are somewhat well known. It's a combination biography of the saints and memoir. We learn about the person's life, but we also learn how the saint touched Martin's life in a somewhat chronological order. The saints and people included are not unexpected. Any self respecting Jesuit would have to include Ignatius Loyola, Aloysius Gonzaga, and Pedro Arrupe. Since Martin is a writer and strong voice for social justice, Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day were not far fetched figures to include. Therese of Lisieux and the Apostle Peter are again beloved and no surprise. The fact the writing is concise and engaging is again, no surprise. What impressed me as being a great way of writing about saints is Martin's organization. He orders the people he includes in the approximate order the people impacted his life. So we get not only a biography of some giants in faith, we see how these lives have influenced his life and how he has grown as a Christian on account of their lives and holiness. Each significant portion of his life had a spiritual mentor and can challenge the reader to look at the spiritual heroes and heroines who have touched their lives.

I've not only read the book, I've used it as well. His St. Jude story is a perfect Lenten story for people reexamining their faith, so it became a homily. His idea of finding significant faith figures who have mentored his life became a Confirmation lesson. Very soon his book is going to be the selection of our parish's book club. I'm thinking it will also be great for an adult education class. However it's used, readers will find this is a book that will have staying power and can be read for both enjoyment and enrichment.
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2006
I picked this book up at my local library several days ago. It's wonderful. So wonderful, I am going to purchase my own copy. I felt like Father Martin was sitting next to me; talking about his faith journey. With his telling, I feel more equipped to discern my own journey. Now, if he just had not listed books to read in the back of the book. Stacks of books I want to read are conquering my household.
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79 of 86 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 19, 2006
Father James Martin, author of the wonderful new spiritual memoir My Life With the Saints (Loyola Press, March 2006, hardcover, 411 pages) has great news for those of us who may feel that we fall short of the devout role models provided by the saints. By sharing his own spiritual journey, Martin offers the reader an intimate insight into the holy men and women he looks to as inspirational companions. What is refreshing about Martin's book, however, is its "down to earth" look at these revered individuals. Far from portraying them in airbrushed holy card fashion, Martin shows them as individuals with struggles, foibles, and difficulties just like the ones each of us face in our own day to day trials to live as God would have us live. 

As a wife and mother, I find myself dually concerned with leading a holy and meaningful life and with setting a good example for my children.  Sometimes, in the midst of the eighth load of laundry or the fourth toilet cleaned, it can feel difficult to make the connection between domestic duties and a life of meaningful service.

In my own mind, I frequently encourage myself with thoughts of St. Therese, the Little Flower, and her Little Way.

When I read Fr. Martin's book for the first time, I felt like I was listening to the voice of a friend - here was someone, like me, who found friendship, consolation and encouragement in relating to the lives of the saints.

Martin's saintly compatriots are shared chronologically in the book, in relation to his encounters with them along his own spiritual path. This book is readable, inspirational, and informative. A wonderful compliment to any spiritual library!
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 18, 2007
MY LIFE WITH THE SAINTS is a deeply reflective and often moving treatment of several Catholic saints, some ancient, some modern, some declared, some yet-to-be, some contemplative, some active. Their stories are told in the context of a young priest's encounter with them in his formation as a Jesuit.

James Martin, S.J. paints short vignettes of the lives of the saints as he meets them along the path of his vocation, from graduating The Wharton School of Business to serving as a new priest. Martin's story is not that of a pious Catholic school graduate who was always steeped in traditional Catholic culture. Neither is he a particular rebel or outcast who's come back into the fold. Martin is, rather, a kind of ordinary American guy who turns out to have had a vocation to the priesthood. What's more, as shown in this book, he has a true gift as a spiritual writer.

I once had a spiritual director who referred to everyone as "saints"; from the perspective of "holiness," I know I sure didn't feel like one, even less, perhaps, these many years later. Most of my acquaintances, then and now, joke about *not* being "saints," that they are too fond of nightlife and generally having a good time to be regarded like someone they think of as pious and self-abnegating. Indeed, Ambrose Bierce described a saint as "A dead sinner revised and edited." He continued (THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY), "The Duchess of Orleans relates that the irreverent old calumniator, Marshall Villeroi, who in his youth had known St. Francis de Sales, said, on hearing him called saint: `I am delighted to hear that Monsieur de Sales is a saint. He was fond of saying indelicate things, and used to cheat at cards. In other respects he was a perfect gentleman, though a fool.'"

Martin's book shows one instance after another that though some saints and other formally undeclared holy men and women were known for their asceticism, others embraced food and laughter. What ties them all together (well, with one exception--Saint Mary) is that they were all sinners, some spectacularly so. But in striving to be Christian in the deepest sense of that term--to dedicate themselves to serving and loving their fellow human beings and thus giving expression to their love and service of God--they were also, as my spiritual director was indicating, saints. Thomas Merton's good friend once told him (quoted by Martin, p. 384), "All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don't you believe God will make you what He created you to be, if you consent to let him do it?"

Much more than autobiography and hagiography, MY LIFE WITH THE SAINTS inspires the reader to think in a new way about what it means to aspire to holiness. Martin does this by personalizing the saints, what they meant to him and why at various stages in his life. Though this comes from a man whose choice in life is a radical departure from the strongly materialistic society in which he lives, Martin's story is a humble one, able to draw and be meaningful to a wide readership. (If it helps vocations to the Society of Jesus, though, well good for him, too.) The saints Martin describes are made alive in these pages. You come to like them, and to want to ask for the grace to emulate them in their best qualities as saints. How could a Catholic writer hope to accomplish more?
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2007
I'm a Protestant with little knowledge or connection to any Catholic saints, yet I picked up this book because I find the subject interesting, the way I enjoy touring churches and cathedrals when on holiday in Europe. James Martin writes in a way that makes you feel you are sitting with him having a chat and his biographies and explanations of the lives of many saints with whom he has felt a personal connection are very easily read and bring to light the reason these individuals are held in such esteem. I found each chapter fascinating and though I am not Catholic and would be uncomfortable praying to a saint, I have a deeper understanding of the lives of these particular saints and the attraction many people have to them. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in saints, faith or just looking for an enjoyable, inspirational read.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2006
I can only say that this is one of the best books I have read in some time. I picked it up in NYC the week it was published and was very happy with it. I've already cited it while giving a homily. I'd recommend it to anyone.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2006
I came to this book from Martin's smaller Lourdes Diary, and found, as I had hoped, more of the same kind of writing. In fact, Lourdes Diary is equivalently chapter 7 of the larger book, which consequently provides more or less 18 times the material for only double the price, a real bargain. Both books are spiritual memoirs in which Martin writes about his own history and spiritual experiences, and gives us in each chapter a brief story of some appropriate favorite saint (in the broad sense of that term). For a Jesuit, a former corporate business man, and now an America magazine editor, he sketches this parallelism in a surprisingly ingenuous way. He will also occasionally develop at greater length some pertinent aspect of the spiritual life in general. The book is facilely written and easily read. Martin is conversational, charming and humorous. In Catholic theology the saints are more than just inspirations and models; they are a real and interactive presence. Martin presents them as both patrons and friends, in a way that might lead some to a discovery or rediscovery of the saints and their place in the Christian life. If that is the case, Martin also recommends further reading material about each of the saints he mentions. It is good, light and edifying reading. Enjoy.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
This is not a typical "lives of the saints" book. It shows that the saints are real people with human weaknesses and it made me feel very good about myself and my chances for salvation. It's beautifully written, engaging, accessible, and I highly recommend it for all readers.

Thank you, Fr. Martin.

Mary Catherine Stevenson
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2006
My Life With The Saints by Jesuit priest and associate editor of the national Catholic weekly magazine "America" James Martin is an engaging autobiographical documentation of his personal life experiences from an indifferent Catholic childhood, to the education he received at the Wharton School of Business, and a Jesuit priest's seemingly standard business career in Manhattan. Tactfully introducing the readers to what truly made his life remarkable, My Life With The Saints tells the stories of Martin's associates, friends, mentors, and partners -- otherwise known as the saints of the Catholic Church. With this candid telling of a fulfilled and contented man's life, My Life With The Saints is very highly recommended especially for readers interested lives of Christian spirituality and dedication.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2010
Today is "All Saints Day"; a day in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church where all saints canonized or not are remembered and revered. As such, it's an appropriate day to post a review of "My Life with the Saints". This book is a fitting way to introduce an individual to the saints, or if you are somewhat familiar with the lives of some of the saints as I am, a way to gain a fresh perspective.

I first saw the author Father James Martin, S.J., a Jesuit priest on the cable television show "The Colbert Report" earlier in the year. I admired the way Father Martin handled himself with the good-naturedly irreverent Stephen Colbert; he was intelligent and articulate, while maintaining a quiet poise and dignity, and even revealing little glints of humor. As a fellow Roman Catholic, who often lately has to struggle to come to terms with the current situation of the Church and reconcile it with my own beliefs, I also liked what he had to say. My curiosity was piqued to do some research, in the interview it was mentioned he was a writer, so I channeled into the Amazon website to get additional information on his published works. Having had an interest in the saints since I was a young boy, and after reading some of the positive editorial reviews, "My Life with the Saints" seemed a natural starting point.

Father Martin entwines both autobiography and hagiography in his narrative writing in a lucid, engaging style that made me feel as I read as if I was listening to a new, often enthralling friend. The tone is not proselytizing or sanctimonious, but warm, honest and leavened with humor that is more often than not self-deprecating. Each chapter is devoted to a particular saint or probable saint, but from Father Martin's perspective as to how each individual has helped him along as a stepping stone on the circuitous path of his life just as one good friend would help another. There is an emphasis on the spiritual side of his life, although the physical is not neglected. For example, Father Martin writes of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, and how watching a television documentary about Merton literally was a life altering force. At that point, Father Martin was twenty-six years old working the fast track at General Electric, climbing steadily up the corporate ladder but miserable and burned out as a result, as a former GE employee I could certainly empathize with that! Seeing this biography of this sinner turned saint started Father Martin on the first tentative steps towards his true vocation as a Jesuit priest.

Some of my favorite saints are well represented: Mary, Joseph, Francis of Assisi, Joan of Arc, Ignatius Loyola and one of my personal favorites Therese of Liseaux, always a pleasure to read about them, and to gain new insights. But there are others whose stories I didn't know as well, such as Aloysius Gonzaga and the Ugandan Martyrs, or more recent lesser-known potential twentieth century saints as Dorothy Day and Pedro Arrupe in addition to the renowned Pope John XXIII and Mother Teresa. I especially liked the way Father Martin disengaged the saints from the stained glass, marble and plaster sanctity, had them step down from their pedestals and out of their protective niches. By doing so, he restored them to flesh and blood human beings, flaws, frailties and all, making them less austere and remote, more accessible and approachable to the average reader. Back in 1969, the esteemed poet and humorist Phyllis McGinley had accomplished the same result in an adroit, light-hearted manner in her wonderful book "Saint Watching", which I also highly recommend as follow up reading for those who are so inclined.

At the conclusion hopefully having whetted our appetite for further in depth research of the saints, Father Martin includes a section on further reading for each saint plus overall compilations of lives of the saints. I can only speak for myself, but I found myself spiritually refreshed at the finish, as if my wavering faith had been at least temporarily, reinvigorated. I hope this book will do the same for you. I'd like to close with a quote from Father Martin that struck a chord with me. " This gave me enormous consolation, for I realized none of us are meant to be Therese of Liseaux or Pope John XXlll or Thomas More. We're meant to be ourselves and meant to allow God to work in and through our own individuality, our own humanity. As Saint Thomas Aquinas said grace builds on nature."
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