Monday, November 9, 2009

Review: The Young People's Book of Saints

The Young People's Book of Saints by Hugh Ross Williamson.

828 By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God's grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors. "The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church's history." Indeed, "holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal." -- Catechism of the Catholic Church

This book is a wonderful collection presenting a few pages on 63 saints. It's not at all clear how Mr. Williamson chose his saints. Kansas Dad, for example, thinks it's unconscionable that St. Augustine was excluded. It is a collection of Western saints and it was originally published in 1960, so that explains some of the choices. There did seem to be a focus on the saints of England, and it's certainly addressed (in a wonderful conversational, not at all condescending way) to young people.

The stories are in chronological order. Mr. Williamson draws connections between them as he tells their stories - saints that met, saints that influenced each other, saints that served God in completely different ways. He begins with St. James the Greater and continues through history all the way to the First World War.

I love reading about the saints. I love reading to the children about the saints. We can learn much about loving God, loving others, and fulfilling our faith on earth. The Catechism points us to the saints as examples of faith.

2005 Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved. However, according to the Lord's words "Thus you will know them by their fruits"- reflection on God's blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.

A pleasing illustration of this attitude is found in the reply of St. Joan of Arc to a question posed as a trap by her ecclesiastical judges: "Asked if she knew that she was in God's grace, she replied: 'If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there.'" -- from the Catechism

And here:

2030 It is in the Church, in communion with all the baptized, that the Christian fulfills his vocation. From the Church he receives the Word of God containing the teachings of "the law of Christ." From the Church he receives the grace of the sacraments that sustains him on the "way." From the Church he learns the example of holiness and recognizes its model and source in the all-holy Virgin Mary; he discerns it in the authentic witness of those who live it; he discovers it in the spiritual tradition and long history of the saints who have gone before him and whom the liturgy celebrates in the rhythms of the sanctoral cycle. -- from the Catechism

We learn to stand firm for what Christ has taught as Truth. We learn to persevere and strive always to develop to the furthest the talents God has bestowed. We learn to seek God first and all else in service to Him. We learn humility.

I could easily have pulled a quote from each of the vignettes. Each story, only two or three pages (including illustrations), guides us closer to God, if we will only attend. The children and I read Scripture every day in our homeschool, but I believe the Saints bring the Word of God to life for them in a special way.

The online curriculum around which I have loosely based our homeschool schedule suggests this very book for first year students in England. I am considering it for our own homeschool, though I would be so very pleased to find something similar concentrating on saints in the Americas.

This particular edition is an ARKive Edition from Sophia Institute Press. They print each page just as it appears in the original, so there are some phrases and attitudes the modern mind might find surprising. (The references to the "Mohammedans" stood out the most to me.) I think an aside or two from a parent reading aloud would be enough to direct a child to respect all people and their faiths while always praying they will turn to the one true God. (An easy thing to say; a difficult thing to teach.)

This book is a delight. Please, find a copy and read it with your children.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. I have not received any payment for this review, but I did receive a free copy of the book The Young People's Book of Saints. Learn more about joining the reviewer program here.

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