‘Humans of Heaven’ Offers Compelling Saint Stories, One Photograph and Biography at a Time
New book by Catholic shop owner tells the stories of 50 holy men and women.
Humans of Heaven
By Jana Zuniga Pingel
January Jane Shop, 2023
167 pages, $39.95
To order: JanuaryJaneShop.com
More valuable than the sweetly simple exterior of Humans of Heaven is the beauty of the holy men and women who fill the pages within.
Humans of Heaven has a sort of “ever ancient, ever new” motif, telling the stories of 50 holy men and women acknowledged by the Church, who lived throughout history, yet whose stories speak to the heart of our own lives in the present day. So that the reader has a clear understanding, author Jana Zuniga Pingel begins the book with a short explanation of who the saints are and offers a brief list of key terms. As such, it is suitable for cradle Catholics, converts and anyone else on the journey heavenward.
“When you hold this book in your hands, I hope you feel the tangible presence of the army of God,” Pingel writes.
That hope has certainly been actualized, at least for this reader.
The 50 profiles span a wide range of decades and devotions. Readers will enjoy the entries on well-known saints such as St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Josemaría Escrivá and St. John Paul II. Within the same sitting, one may learn about newer and lesser-known saints (or saints-to-be) like Blessed Karl of Austria or Servant of God Michelle Duppong.
Each holy profile features a vintage photograph, a short summary of the holy life, a beautifully hand-calligraphic quote by the author, and quick facts such as hometown, birth and death date, feast day and patronage.
Pingel reveals their humanness amid their heroic virtue. “These stories help materialize what it means to live according to the Gospel in modern society,” Pingel told the Register. “These 50 testimonies are approachable, yet challenging.”
While the photos from saints to Servants of God are printed in black and white, their stories are told in full of color.
Each page is replete with edifying, harrowing recounts of these men and women who courageously stood for truth, beauty and goodness in the face of disaster, disease and devastation. Some pages feature saints who crossed oceans and traveled to wild lands to share the Gospel, while others offer a glimpse into the daily life of men and women who lived in their quiet towns and silent cloisters.
“Humans of Heaven was born from both my personal relationship with these 50 modern saints and a cry for hope in a post-Christian world,” Pingel said. With every line, the reader is sure to be filled with greater gratitude for the communion of saints and, hopefully, become ever-more inclined to call upon these heavenly friends.
It is clear that authentic devotion was the motivation for this work. “Having grown up with a deep love and friendship with the saints myself, it was a natural response to keep sharing about them,” she told the Register.
As Pingel shares about her own connection to the Church triumphant, she invites the reader to do the same. “I call them my dear friends,” Pingel writes. “...They have made the narrow road towards heaven feel crowded during times of doubt and fear.”
From rags to royalty, the path to heaven is lined with footsteps of men and women journeying in profoundly distinct and individual ways, and Humans of Heaven captures this masterfully. It is an ode to the beauty and diversity of personal vocation, while at the same time being a triumphant testimony to the universal call to holiness, to which we have each been invited to partake.
Pingel shared her own surprise at selling more than 1,000 copies in less than three days of the book’s debut on her website. This book certainly has the quality of a domestic-church staple. “It seems obvious now that God has put his finger on this book and had bigger plans for it than I did,” she told the Register.
While Humans of Heaven will add an aesthetic element to a coffee table, it goes much deeper than decor. While excerpts may be read in minutes, readers will be drawn into reflection for days to follow.
There are many ways one might enjoy Humans of Heaven: Read one story each evening with tea after dinner. Use as an accompaniment to morning prayer. Let it be a liturgical companion while celebrating feasts days with family or home-schooling children.
Pingel told the Register her ultimate hope for this book is that readers will be “given hope, encouragement and a deeper conviction in the power of their personal vocation to sainthood.”