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Lives of the Saints: From Mary and St. Francis of Assisi to John XXIII and Mother Teresa

Lives of the Saints: From Mary and St. Francis of Assisi to John XXIII and Mother Teresa

3.5 2
by Richard P. McBrien

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This pocket edition of Richard McBrien's Lives of the Saints is the perfect concise, handy reference for scholars, students, and general readers.


This pocket edition of Richard McBrien's Lives of the Saints is the perfect concise, handy reference for scholars, students, and general readers.

Editorial Reviews

Thomas H. Groome
“An invaluable guide to models of holiness for every time and place. Everyone can find a soul friend here.”
Robert Ellsberg
“With characteristic authority, McBrien offers not just a rich calendar of saints butprofiles in courage, love, and spiritual wisdom.”
“Provides the quality otherwise found only in the 12-volume, 1995 Burns edition of Butler’s Lives of the Saints.”
St. Anthony Messenger
“Worth its weight in gold...a gift from the author.”
Theology professor Richard P. McBrien has put together the first one-volume compendium of the saints' lives since the classic 17th-century Alban Butler work, creating a guide that is "truly international, ecumenical, and interreligious in scope." McBrien also explores what it means to be "sacred," how the process of canonization works, and how saints affect us in our modern lives. In addition, he puts in a plug of sorts for those Christians he feels should be canonized but probably will not be.
Lawrence S. Cunningham
Richard McBrien not only gives us crisp, lively profiles of those who the scriptures call 'the cloud of witnesses' but profound spiritual and theological reasons why and how they are honored in the Church. An indispensible companion to his esteemed Lives of the Popes.
Elizabeth A. Johnson
McBrien uses his broad knowledge of Catholicism and his readable style to present in one volume a veritable wealth of information about the 'lives of the saints,' canonized and uncanonized, which should appeal to many contemporary readers.
Publishers Weekly
Eminent historian of Catholicism McBrien (Catholicism) provides in his new book the same lively, detailed historical and theological sketches of the saints that he did for the papacy in his earlier The Lives of the Popes. In magisterial fashion, he discusses the definition of sainthood, the process of canonization and its politics and the significant contributions that various saints have made to Christian history. McBrien defines saints as "ordinary people who happen to live the gospel in extraordinary ways." Arranged according to the yearly calendar, the central section of the book offers fresh and engaging biographical sketches of the saints. In addition to officially recognized saints, McBrien embraces a wide range of individuals who fit his broad definition of sainthood, such as Dorothy Day, George Herbert, John Donne, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Abraham Joshua Heschel and Mohandas Gandhi. The book includes a helpful time line of saints in history and exhaustive tables of the feast days of the saints, places and their patron saints, patron saints and the groups and causes that adopt them, emblems in art and iconography, saintly "firsts," and papal canonizations. For instance, we learn that Thomas Aquinas is one of the patron saints of booksellers, and Clare of Assisi is the patron saint of television. McBrien's magnificent and comprehensive compendium offers rich insights not only into the lives of the saints but also into the reasons that these fascinating holy people continue to play such an integral role in the history of Christianity. (Aug.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
A worthy companion to McBrien's Lives of the Popes (LJ 10/15/97), this work goes beyond the Roman Catholic Church's list of saints to include those of the Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches. Concise and well-researched biographical sketches are arranged by feast days, with access provided by indexes for saints, personal names, and subjects. Complementing the biographies are thoughtful essays on the history of saints, their place in religious history, and canonization; a series of seven tables on feast days, patron saints, iconography, and papal canonization; a glossary; and a brief, annotated bibliography. This useful compendium is recommended for academic and public libraries. Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll. Lib., NC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This hefty volume is crammed full of a terrific amount of information. Not only are there mini-biographies (from one paragraph to three pages) of more than 600 saints and other people (Dag Hammarskj ld, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dorothy Day, to name a few), but McBrien also includes much more. He starts with two broad time lines of church and secular history, then discusses who has been considered saintly through the centuries and describes the canonization process and its politics. The biographical section is followed by an explanation of 18 categories of Catholic saints, with a list of 20 great saints of history (some surprises here). Tables include: saints' feast days celebrated on the General Roman Calendar; the American Catholic Calendar; and in Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran traditions; a list of saints and the causes or groups with which they are associated; places and their patron saints; etc. The biographies themselves, occasionally enlivened by an artist's rendering, are not devotional; rather, McBrien has tried to separate out the known facts from the centuries of accrued stories. A wonderful update to Butler's Lives of the Saints (Liturgical, 2000).-Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.07(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Who Is a Saint?

The veneration of saints has been an integral part of the Church's life practically ever since the death of its first martyr, Stephen [December 26]. Most Christians (and many non-Christians as well) are named after saints, as are some major and mid-sized cities in the United States, for example, St. Louis, St. Augustine, St. Paul, San Francisco, San Jose, San Juan, Santa Anna, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, and San Antonio. The most famous golf course in the world is named after St. Andrew [November 30], and one of the world's most beloved mythical characters, Santa Claus, after St. Nicholas [December 6].

In 1955, however, Karl Rahner (d. 1984), the leading Catholic theologian of the twentieth century, noted the absence of any serious treatment of the saints in contemporary theology. "It is a strange thing," he wrote, "but if one takes a glance at an average modern dogmatic theology, one will find it necessary to look in a great many different places for the doctrine of the Saints of the holy Church and of their veneration." Twenty-five years later, the situation remained essentially unchanged. Lawrence Cunningham, a well-established expert on the saints and spirituality, found no evidence in 1980 "that theologians are doing much serious reflection on the relevance or even the meaning of the saint in the Christian tradition."

The saints were nevertheless an important part of the devotional life of Catholics during this period. Parents were carefully instructed to choose a saint's name for their newborn infants;otherwise, the priest would not baptize them. Boys and girls were expected to select a saint's name for Confirmation. Catholics of all ages routinely prayed to St. Anthony of Padua [June 13] to find lost articles or to St. Jude [October 28] in the face of seemingly hopeless situations. There were popular novenas to St. Anne [July 26], the Little Flower (St. Theresa of the Child Jesus) [October 1], the Miraculous Medal (a devotion promoted by St. Catherine Labouré [November 28]), and St. Jude. Children and adults alike wore medals imprinted with the images of St. Joseph [March 19], St. Benedict of Nursia [July 11], and St. Christopher [July 25]. The last was such a popular item in automobiles that it was a matter of widespread concern, even anxiety, for many Catholics (and some non-Catholics too) when Christopher was dropped from the liturgical calendar in 1969. Saints were also the subjects of colorful stained-glass windows in churches and of statues, medieval and modern. National or ethnic parishes were readily identified by their patron saints, for example, Anne (French), Anthony of Padua (Italian), Boniface [June 5 ] (German), Casimir [March 4] (Lithuanian or Polish), Cyril and Methodius [February 14] (Polish), Martin de Porres [November 3] (African American), Our Lady of Guadalupe [December 12] (Hispanic), Our Lady of Mount Carmel [July 16] (Italian), and Stanislaus [April 11] (Polish).

Since 1980 the saints and spirituality have moved closer to the center of theological as well as devotional attention. The reasons vary and are perhaps too complex to pinpoint. However, the increased interest in narrative and storytelling and the heightened value of experience as a locus (Lat., "source") of theological understanding would have to be counted among the leading factors. It may also be a matter of the delayed impact of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), which clearly shifted the emphasis from the saints as miracle workers to the saints as models. "No devotion to the saints is more acceptable to God," the great Christian humanist Erasmus [see July 12] once wrote, "than the imitation of their virtues.... Do you want to honor St. Francis? Then give away your wealth to the poor, restrain your evil impulses, and see in everyone you meet the image of Christ."

The Saints as "Holy Ones"

Saints are holy people. Because God alone is holy, to be a saint is to participate in, and to be an image of, the holiness of God. "Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy" (Lev. 19:2). Persons, however, cannot make themselves holy. Only God can do that. The biblical notion of holiness, rooted in the Old Testament, involves a "being set apart" by God from what is profane in order to belong in a new and special way to God. This setting apart, or consecration, can apply not only to persons, such as priests and religious, but also to places, like a temple or land, or to things, like commandments or a chalice, or to communities, like Israel ("a holy nation" [Exod. 19:6]) or the Church ("one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church").

For Jesus, nothing is more precious than the Kingdom, or Reign, of God, which is the healing and renewing power and presence of God on our behalf. "Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides" (Luke 12:31). Like a person who finds a hidden treasure in a field or a merchant who discovers a precious pearl, one must be prepared to give up everything else in order to possess the Kingdom (Matt. 13:44-46). But it is promised only to those with a certain outlook and way of life, as expressed in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12), and to those who see and respond to Christ in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the homeless, and the prisoner (Matt. 25:31-46). To the scribe who grasped the meaning of the two great commandments — love of God and of neighbor — Jesus said: "You are not far from the kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34). For Jesus, the Reign of God — and, therefore, a life of holiness — is open in principle to everyone.

To share in the holiness of God is to share in the very life of God. Holiness, therefore, is a state of being that is the practical equivalent of grace, God's self-gift. To be in the "state of grace" is to be permeated...

What People are Saying About This

Robert Ellsberg
“With characteristic authority, McBrien offers not just a rich calendar of saints butprofiles in courage, love, and spiritual wisdom.”
Thomas H. Groome
“An invaluable guide to models of holiness for every time and place. Everyone can find a soul friend here.”

Meet the Author

Richard P. McBrien is Crowley-O'Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. Educated at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, he has also served as president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. A leading authority on Catholicism, he is the bestselling author of Catholicism, Lives of the Popes, and Lives of the Saints, as well as the general editor of The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism. Most recently a consultant for ABC News, McBrien offers regular commentary on all the major television networks. He is also a prizewinning syndicated columnist in the Catholic press.

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