Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Catholic Company Review: 39 New Saints You Should Know

39 New Saints You Should Know by Brian O'Neel

Growing up, I didn't spend much time thinking about the saints (despite being Catholic). Homeschooling my children for kindergarten and preschool last year, I feel like I was introduced to many of them for the first time and was amazed. How much they have to teach us about living a life pleasing to God and learning to serve him as well as we possibly can! So I was thrilled to see this book on the list for The Catholic Company.

Mr. O'Neel provides very brief vignettes about each of his selected saints or blesseds (one who has been beatified, but not yet canonized). A few chapters present two saints together (like Blessed Luis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Liseux and four other woman, all of whom entered convents), but most of the chapters focus on a single saint or blessed.  Each chapter begins with a short paragraph introducing the saint and how they can be an example to us and ends with a short prayer asking God for the strength of the particular saint or blessed.

I had read a little of a few of these saints, like Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata, but many of them were new to me. I especially appreciated Mr. O'Neel's efforts to show the human side of the saints. Even those who aspire to (and achieve) heroic virtues on earth struggle with many of the same sins I face. Some struggle with sins I may consider more difficult, like Blessed Bartolo Longo, who was a Satanic priest before returning to his Catholic faith.

I do wish a bit more information was provided. It would be nice if the home country or city were presented for each saint. Most of the time it appeared early in the chapter, but sometimes it was difficult for me to place the person within history without a location. (The dates for the saint's life, beatification and canonization were always provided.) I would also be interested to learn more about why Mr. O'Neel selected these particular saints. He chose them from the over fifteen hundred people beatified or canonized by Pope John Paul II, but it's not clear to me why these 39 stood out to him.

Overall, this book is an excellent introduction to these 39 saints. They are short enough to serve as a saint story for narration for children, but should always be previewed as at least a few of the stories would be a bit harsh for young ears. They would well serve someone looking for a source of direction for a daily devotional. Reading one chapter a day and contemplating the saint's story and it's application could be quite fruitful.

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 39 New Saints You Should Know. Learn more about joining the reviewer program here.

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