The Pocket Guide to the Saints
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The Pocket Guide to the Saints

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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.”

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HarperCollins Publishers
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4.00(w) x 6.00(h) x 0.80(d)

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The Pocket Guide to the Saints

By Richard McBrien

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Richard McBrien
All right reserved.

ISBN: 006113774X

Chapter One


1. Solemnity of Mary,
Mother of God

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the greatest of the Church's saints, and "Mother of God" (Gk. Theotokos; Lat. Deipara) is the highest of her titles. It is the basis for every other title and dignity accorded to her. Although she was the Mother of God from the moment she conceived Jesus in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26-38), her motherhood of God was not formally recognized by the Church until the first half of the fifth century, in response to a theological controversy.

Nestorius (d. ca. 451), the patriarch of Constantinople, argued that there are two whole and distinct natures in Christ, one human and one divine, each having its own "personal" manifestation. Nestorius and his supporters wanted to emphasize that the Son of God really took on our humanity. He became one of us in the flesh. It was Jesus, not the Second Person of the Trinity, who nursed at his mother's breast and who later suffered on the cross. According to Nestorius, Mary was the mother of the human person Jesus, and not of the Son of God.

A crisis erupted when, in his preaching, Nestorius publicly denied to Mary the title "Mother of God" (Theotokos), calling her instead the mother of Christ (Christotokos). A general council convened at Ephesus to address the issue.The council condemned Nestorius's views and affirmed that Mary was not only the mother of Christ in his human nature, but also of Christ as a divine Person. Therefore, Mary could indeed be proclaimed as the Mother of God.

After Ephesus, Marian feasts began to multiply and churches were dedicated to her in all major cities. By the middle of the seventh century, four separate Marian feasts were observed in Rome: the Annunciation [March 25], the Purification [February 2], the Assumption [August 15], and the Nativity of Mary [September 8]. The growth of Marian piety was accelerated in the nineteenth century with the promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1854. During the same century, a spate of Marian apparitions were reported: at La Salette and Lourdes (in France) and in many other places. Various devotional customs developed, including the living Rosary, May processions with the crowning of a Marian statue, and the wearing of the Miraculous Medal and the scapular. The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) brought about a major change in Marian devotion by grounding it more firmly in the Bible and the liturgy of the Church and in situating Mary herself in the context of the mystery of the Church, as the first among the redeemed, as the disciple par excellence.

Formerly the feast of the Circumcision of Jesus (still celebrated as such by the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches), January 1 has been devoted liturgically to Mary, the Mother of God, since 1970, following the revision of the General Roman Calendar in 1969.

2 Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen,
Bishops and Doctors of the Church

Basil, bishop of Caesarea, and Gregory, bishop of Constantinople, were two of the three famous Cappadocian Fathers. Their writings and sermons effectively put an end to Arianism, a fourth-century heresy that denied the divinity of Christ, referring to him instead as the greatest of creatures.

Basil, also known as "the Great" (ca. 330-79), was born in Caesarea, the capital of the Roman province of Cappadocia. One of nine children, he came from a distinguished and pious family. His father and mother, his sister, his two brothers, and his grandmother are all venerated as saints. Basil was educated first at home by his father and grandmother and then in Constantinople and Athens, where he befriended Gregory of Nazianzus. In 359 he and Gregory joined an ascetic community in Pontus, where Basil developed his monastic Rules, which were later to influence all of Western monasticism; the longer Rule emphasizes community life, liturgical prayer, and manual work.

With great reluctance on his part, Basil was ordained a priest (presbyter) ca. 362 for the diocese of Caesarea. His bishop later summoned him to the see city to lend support against the persecution waged against the Church by the Arian emperor Valens (364-80) and specifically to rebut the teachings of the Arians. Basil led relief efforts during a famine in 368, distributing his own inheritance to the poor. He was elected bishop in 370. Basil's episcopal ministry continued to emphasize aid to the poor, but it also drew him inevitably into direct controversy with the Arians and also with the Pneumatomachians, who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. His writings provided solid defenses of the teachings of the Council of Nicaea (325) and anticipated the teaching of the Council of Constantinople (381) on the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Basil died on January 1, 379, at the relatively young age of forty-nine.

Gregory Nazianzen, also known as Gregory of Nazianzus (ca. 329-90) and as Gregory the Theologian, was the son of the bishop of Nazianzus in Cappadocia. Like Basil, Gregory came from a family of saints: his father, mother, sister, and brother. He was broadly educated in Christian writings and in Greek philosophy in Caesarea, Alexandria, and Athens, where he began a deep but sometimes troubled friendship with Basil.

Soon after the death of the Arian emperor in 380, bishops of various neighboring dioceses appealed to Gregory to help restore the beleaguered Christian community at Constantinople. It had been under Arian rule for over thirty years, and orthodox Christians lacked even a church for worship. Gregory, now bent over with age, accepted under protest. Here, he preached famous sermons on the Trinity and, in the process, earned the surname "the Theologian." Named bishop of Constantinople, he played a prominent part in the Council of Constantinople (381), which confirmed his teaching on the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

Gregory Nazianzen died in 390. The feast of Basil and Gregory Nazianzen is on the General Roman Calendar and is also celebrated on this day by the Church of England.


Excerpted from The Pocket Guide to the Saints by Richard McBrien Copyright © 2006 by Richard McBrien. Excerpted by permission.
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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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Pocket Guide to the Saints 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had exactly what we need to assist in a school project!
mkbrsm More than 1 year ago
I use this every day