Saints of The Jubilee

by Tim Drake 1st Books, 2002 (888) 280-7715 or http://www.1stbooks.com

The Great Jubilee of 2000 was a dramatic year in the life of the Church. In manifold ways, this was due to the guidance of Pope John Paul II, who, by his own admission, spent most of his very long pontificate preparing for the Jubilee. The entire year, in its preparation and extensive celebration, bore the unmistakable stamp of the Holy Father.

Saints of the Jubilee, edited by Register staffer Tim Drake, is a monument to this particularly inspiring aspect of the Jubilee Year. It includes nine biographical essays from a variety of Catholic writers on many of the 151 new saints and 56 new blesseds recognized by the Church during 2000.

Drake's book is a reminder that this “year of saints” was noteworthy and dramatic for reasons other than the number of souls honored. Among them were Faustina Kowalska, famous for her Divine Mercy devotion, who has the distinction (surely not by accident) of being the first saint of the new millennium; large groups of martyrs from turbulent and controversial periods in the histories of Mexico and China; Katharine Drexel, a wealthy American woman; and Jacinta and Francisco Marto, the two deceased Fatima visionaries.

Anyone who reads this short book without being stirred and inspired many times over is not paying close attention. In a single year, we see a microcosm of the vast communion of saints that fills the centuries of the Church's history and now populates heaven. We get a dramatic illustration of the variety of lives—young and old, rich and poor—from nations the world over, into which the grace of God is poured.

The biographies are, for the most part, very readable and interesting. I'm looking forward to using at least a few of them in the religious education we do at home with our 11-year-old daughter. They are also suitable for spiritual reading, accompanied by quiet time of prayer and reflection.

The 12-page biography of St. Katharine Drexel, who died in Philadelphia in 1955, is alone worth the price of the book and should be required reading for every Catholic American. Reading the stories of the Mexican and Chinese martyrs is jarring simply, but not only, because of their numbers. One wonders at the extraordinary lives lived so well and offered so completely, summarized, in many cases, in a paragraph.

And this is perhaps the book's main shortcoming. At 100 pages, it suffers for its brevity. I would have loved to read more about many included here. And some very prominent “saints of the Jubilee” are not mentioned at all.

USA Today, in a recent article about John Paul as “history's champion saintmaker,” quoted one “expert” as saying that, while this Pope makes many saints, most of them are “not terribly interesting.” The comment says more about the person who said it than the saints themselves. Someone should mail him a copy of this book.

Barry Michaels writes from

Blairsville, Pennsylvania.