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Blessed Among All Women: Women Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time Hardcover – October 1, 2005
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"Robert Ellsberg does it all again--and with magnificence!" -- Richard Rohr,OFM Center for Action and Contemplation, Author of Everything Belongs
This book makes a serious contribution to the newly emerging consciousness of the full equality of women. -- Joan Chittister, OSB
About the Author
Robert Ellsberg, editor-in-chief of Orbis Books, is author of All Saints and numerous books, three of which have been honored with the Christopher Award medal. He lives in Ossining, New York.
Top customer reviews
I read Ellsberg’s “All Saints” many years ago, a book that started me on a new stage of my life’s journey, Seven years ago I discovered this volume of his devoted exclusively to women ‘saints.’ I only read a few of them at the time. However having resumed reading them recently I believe I’m prepared even more now to appreciate their value, as I reflect on what models and heroes our young granddaughters have now for their unique journeys and will adopt as they mature in the coming years.
Ellsberg has a knack of capturing singular qualities of the lives of these women that make them worthy examples of how in a variety of circumstances, by linking one’s strengths to society’s needs, an individual can make a difference, with courage, patience and perseverance. And variety is certainly characteristic of the selection of women that Ellsberg profiles. Initially I went to the biography of Dorothy Day, one of my favorite Americans, and one whom Pope Francis named in his recent American visit as an admirable American Catholic. Ellsberg knew Day, an American, journalist, social activist and co-founder of the Catholic Worker, when he served as a very young editor for the paper she started, “The Catholic Worker.”
These biographies are organized according to the Beatitudes of Jesus. Ellsberg points out how these women’s lives exemplified these unique qualities which Jesus holds up as the measuring rod for being one of his disciples. Mary, Mother of Jesus, is the first profiled. Among others are women who are vowed religious, well known by many Catholic Christians, such as Therese of Lisieux and Teresa of Avila,
Clare of Assisi, and Hildegard of Bingen, as well as married women such as Catherine de Hueck Doherty and Evelyn Underhill, and single women such as Emily Dickenson, Edel Quinn, Caryll Houselander and Joan of Arc.
The panoply of heroines portrayed is not limited to Catholics, as some of the above-mentioned illustrate. He also includes some who are not Christian, careful not to presume to name them with any particularly Christian vocabulary. Thus we read about the lives of Etty Hillesum, Anne Frank and Simone Weil.
By reading about these outstanding women, you could really do yourself a favor and perhaps also may be inspired to explore how your unique gifts can be used to their fullest in your own life.
I recommend this book highly.
Re: the former--my review:
All Saints by Robert Ellsberg by Mike Foster for "Off The Shelf," Gilbert magazine, 2006.
Just as the body requires its breakfast bacon, the soul too needs sustenance for what awaits it in this sweet and sin-filled world each day.
Robert Ellsberg's 1997 book, subtitled "Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time," provides 365 brief biographies, beginning with Jesus' mother Mary on Jan. 1 and ending with St. Melania the Younger, a Roman wife, mother, monk, and friend of Sts. Augustine, Jerome, and Paula (also featured in All Saints) whose pilgrimage ended with her death in Bethlehem Dec. 31, 439.
St. Melania is not the only little-known holy one cited in Ellsberg's canon. The usual suspects--Peter, Paul, Matthew, assorted Thomases and Francises and Johns and Ignatii--are there. But so are two Mechtilds, Hackeborn and Magdeburg, not to mention St. Victricius, the Roman soldier convert who threw down his arms and became bishop of Rouen.
Ellsberg's communion of saints is catholic in the small "C" sense. It includes holy folk from other faiths, like Rabbi Abraham Heschel, Etty Hillesum, and Mahatma Gandhi. In this book's heaven, there'll be not only mystics, missionaries, and martyrs, but also Mozart.
Peacemakers, as children of God, are numerous: Peter Maurin, Henry David Thoreau, A.J. Muste, Ammon Hennacy, Franz Jagerstatter, John Leary, Sojourner Truth, and Fr. James "Guadalupe" Carney. Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Cesar Chavez, Dorothy L. Day, Oskar Schindler, and the four little girls killed in the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham rub shoulders with popes and cardinals, nuns and abbots, hermits and theologians.
Beginning with St. Caedmon, literature is well-represented: Flannery O'Connor, George Herbert, Thomas Merton, Leo Tolstoy, John Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Dante Alighieri.
And yes, G.K. Chesterton, "Apologist, 1874-1936," makes the roster, flanked by Walker Percy and St. Joan of Arc, on May 29, his birthday. Ellsberg begins each of these one- to two-page entries with an epigraphical quote from the day's beatifee: "A characteristic of the great saints is their power of levity. Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly." A succinct, spirited biography follows, generously larded with quotes: "All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death."
Chesterton's populist views and epigrammatic style are extolled, as is his patriotic opposition to the Boer war. Distributism as aptly defined as "a sort of economic democracy based on principles of decentralization of property and power." Entries conclude with a further reading reference; in this case, Margaret Canovan's G.K. Chesterton: Radical Populist and Nigel Forte's collection A Motley Wisdom.
Readers will meet heroes they never heard of, like Hans and Sophie Scholl, whose secret White Rose Society published leaflets and graffiti opposing Hitler in late 1942, convicted of treason and beheaded Feb. 22, 1943.
Commemorated Dec. 8 is Fr. Walter Ciszek, the Jesuit priest imprisoned in Siberia in 1941, where he risked his life saying Mass and administering sacraments in brutal conditions. Presumed dead, he was released in 1963, and preached God's providence in New York until he died 21 years later.
Critics may quibble inclusions--St. Catherine of Alexandria, who never existed--and exclusions--C.S. Lewis. Some would be reluctant electees: "When they call you a saint, it means basically you're not to be taken seriously," Dorothy Day often said.
My third reading of All Saints will conclude Nov. 13, the tenth anniversary of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin's death. More pages will be dog-eared and annotated before it returns to the shelf. Add it to your library if you lack it; a year from the day you do, you will thank us.