Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Catholic Company Review: Saint Who?

Saint Who?: 39 Holy Unknowns by Brian O'Neel

Back in 2010, I reviewed Mr. O'Neel's 39 New Saints You Should Know (another review for The Catholic Company). This book is written in the same general pattern, but is even better, starting right with the front cover. Doesn't it make you want to read the book?
The reason Holy Mother Church presents us with saints is that each one is a beautiful mosaic tile. Now, ordinarily, individual mosaic tiles are nothing to behold. They may be jasper, cornelian, teal, gold, or whatever, but they are just teensy little boring tiles. Saints, on the other hand, are mosaic tiles that are beautiful, breathtaking to behold on their own, even apart from the larger magnificent picture they help to create.
And what is this picture that these tens of thousands of tiles the Church has given us come together in harmony to form? It is nothing less than an icon of Christ. Through the eyes of this icon, we see Our Lord's deep love for us, his burning, plaintive longing, and desire to be yoked with us.
Isn't that a wonderful image? Every year, I come to love reading of the saints more and more. They give us a world of examples on how to live a holy live, how to use the talents and treasures God has granted us for His will and His kingdom.

Because there are 39 chapters, some of which tell the stories of multiple saints, there are slightly more than 39 blesseds and saints in the book. The children and I read saint stories nearly every day, so I have growing knowledge of the saints. I still only knew a handful of the names (and not even all of their stories).

Mr. O'Neel has selected 39 blesseds and saints he thinks are relevant to our times. For each one he includes basic information like dates of birth, death, and canonization, as well as the feast days. Then he tells a story.
Hemma also used her wealth to construct at least ten additional churches in an area that had just twenty. In this way she greatly increased the local populations access to the sacraments, which likely kept the faith alive in certain families (maybe those of your ancestors?).
The selected stories take place all over the world. I particularly enjoyed reading about Bl. Sebastian de Aparicio, who lived and wandered in Mexico, including Puebla where I lived for three months when I was in college. (Too bad I didn't know about him then, I could have visited these sites in person!)

The best addition to this book (compared to 39 New Saints You Should Know), is the little section at the end of the story and before the prayer that tells why this saint or blessed "deserves or our attention and devotion." Mr. O'Neel clearly links the story of the person with life in today's world an with our own daily lives. Usually this is generally clear from the story itself, but I liked seeing Mr. O'Neel's thought process a little, why he picked this saint for the book.

This book is not a collection of deeply researched history; there are only a few primary sources in the notes. Some of the chapters are based only on local websites on the saints and blesseds. It is instead a delightful introduction to a great many little-known saints whose lives still shine with the light of Christ.

My particular copy has a number of holes and what almost look like burn marks on a few of the pages (maybe ten). I received my copy for free and didn't really care as it didn't interfere with my ability to read the text at all, but if you intend to give this book as a gift (which you should seriously consider!), you may want to flip through it first. I'm sure your bookseller would replace it.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an objective review. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Saint Who?. The Catholic Company is a great resource for tools to help you participate in the Year of Faith, including Year of Faith bible studies and exclusive Year of Faith personalized gifts. The Catholic Company also has all your Advent needs in stock, such as Advent calendars and Advent wreaths.

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