177 of 180 people found the following review helpful
A New Way To Look At The Saints,
This review is from: My Life with the Saints (Hardcover)
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.