Saint Stories for Daily Reading
BOOK PICK: Saints: Becoming an Image of Christ Every Day of the Year
Becoming an Image of Christ Every Day of the Year
By Dawn Marie Beutner
Ignatius Press, 2020
548 pages, $27.95
To order: ignatius.com or (800) 651-1531
The canon of saints and blesseds in the Catholic Church contains more than 10,000 individuals. Every day of the year, our faith holds up for us dozens of these men and women, usually on the day of their dies natalis, the day each entered into eternal life.
The reason for this is practical: Holy Mother Church wants us to benefit from their examples. Their stories are icons — that is, images — of a life lived in and for our Savior. These people have run the race and have obtained the crown of victory. We want the same thing at the end of our lives.
However, as G.K. Chesterton famously wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” Being holy — a saint — is not easy. If it was, we wouldn’t find saints and sanctity so remarkable and enduringly fascinating.
This is a large book, both in size and the number of pages. However, if lengthy tomes are typically not to your liking, don’t let this dissuade you, for each “chapter” is a day of the year, and each day features two to five very short saint stories.
Consider June 26. Of the roughly 50 saints on that day’s calendar, Beutner gives us the lives of four, the early martyrs Sts. John and Paul (whose names feature in Eucharistic Prayer I, the Roman Canon), the little known-but-impressive St. Anthelm of Belley and the world-famous St. Josemaría Escrivá.
The author has prayers at the end of each chapter asking for the featured saints’ intercession based on something from their stories or attributes.
For instance, in the above illustration, we read:
“Saints John and Paul, help me to serve the Lord of Hosts faithfully.
“Saint Anthelm, teach me how to bring the simplicity of Carthusian life into my life.
“Saint Josemaría, show me how to be holy while living in this busy world.”
Beutner no doubt had to make some tough choices in compiling this book. Take June 6. She admirably chose St. Norbert of Magdeburg as the principal entry. Another option would have been the Mexican hero Bishop St. Rafael Guízar y Valencia. Because St. Norbert founded an influential religious order, he had a greater impact on the universal Church, but Bishop Guízar’s story arguably is more compelling. However, this only demonstrates the problem with picking saint stories for a book like this: There are so many great ones and only so much space.
One thing to especially appreciate about the book is how meticulously researched it is. For instance, this writer had always thought that Emperor Constantine gifted Rome’s Lateran complex to Pope St. Sylvester. The author, however, rightly notes it was Sylvester’s predecessor, Pope St. Miltiades, who received this property, which the Church possesses to this day and serves as the Supreme Pontiff’s cathedral.
The appendices — which are beyond impressive — are reason alone to buy this book. There are five: a calendar of the principle Marian feasts; one that matches up the pre-conciliar calendar of saints with the one established by the Roman Martyrology of 2004; an awe-inspiring “FAQ” section; a Catholic glossary; a catalogue of “heresies or theological complexities”; and a listing of “times of anti-Catholic persecution.”
The qualms with Beutner’s work are miniscule and admittedly personal. This writer wished there were even more non-European saints, although there are a goodly number. She also gives her entrants Anglicized names. Thus the great Giuseppe Maria Tommasi becomes Joseph Mary. For many readers, though, this will be fine. After all, foreign names can often prove difficult. For one who is accustomed to reading and rendering the prénoms in their original form, though, it is somewhat discombobulating. Again, this is a personal preference that likely won’t bother most readers.
In sum, Saints is a wonderful devotional and a worthy addition to any bookshelf or Eucharistic adoration chapel.
Brian O’Neel writes from Charleston, West Virginia.