Saints are cool again. At least book publishers must figure they are.
Here’s a quick look at recent releases that target niche markets — teens and moms — people who might be searching for role models among the heavenly blessed — and one that could be for just about everyone.
Liguori Publications is aiming both at teenage readers and on-the-go mothers who might be looking for a spiritual boost — or at the least empathy.
In “Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints,” Colleen Swaim (http://www.liguori.org/productdetails.cfm?sku=820298) tells the real-life biographies of eight young people who lived relatively recently, all in an effort to help today’s young people understand that holiness is real and attainable.
Catholics will recognize names like Maria Goretti and Dominic Savio — well-known teens saints, but names new to me like St. Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, an Indian nun, and St. Kizito, a Ugandan martyred for his faith.
What makes the this 130-page paperback work is that Swaim knows her audience has short attention spans so she keeps the stories brief and interesting, but she also challenges teens to put themselves in the situations the saints found themselves, asking them to reflect upon questions like:
“Think back to the last time you were in physical pain. How did you react to it?”
And, “Do you remember making your first Holy Communion? How did you feel? How do you approach the Eucharist differently today?”
Even the brief text is broken up with definitions and info boxes scattered throughout along with prayers, quotes, and “Saintly Challenges” like, “With the zeal of a new convert, fearlessly tell one person about your faith.”
In a similar vein but purse-size and just 79 pages is “Saints on Call: Everyday Devotions for Moms” (http://www.liguori.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=11903. Author Christine Gibson takes common, real-life situations — for example, “When you feel ‘sacrificed-out’ for your family…” — and offers a simple explanation how a saint dealt with a similar issue. Each brief story is followed by a quote from scripture to ponder and a prayer.
For the sacrificed-out mom, Gibson holds up St. Gianna Molla who chose to deliver her baby knowing it would cost her her own life. Gibson’s prayer hits home:
“St. Gianna, you made the ultimate sacrifice for your little one. I ask you to please pray for me that I may rejoice in the sacrifices I can make for my dear children.”
Among the more than four dozen other situations — each tied to a saint — are issues such as “When you feel like life is not going as you planned it…” (St. Rose Philippine Duchesne); “When you can’t stand another house guest…” (St. Lydia Pupuraria); “When you are worried about your wayward child…” (St. Monica).
Every single one is a winner.
For scholars, art lovers and, well, everyone
Finally, there’s this book that will appeal to a number of niche groups — and perhaps a general audience, too — with stories about saints from Agatha to Zachariah.
“The Lives of the Saints through 100 Masterpieces” (http://www.dupress.duq.edu/pubDetails.asp?theISBN=9780820704364) is a Duquesne University Press paperback is going to be loved by those who cherish Christian art, but those interested in saints’ stories, myths, legends and history will find it compelling reading and viewing.
Written by Jacques Duquesne and Francois Lebrette and translated from the French by M. Cristina Borges, this 221-pager is a collection of saints’ biographies — and tales, to be honest — each accompanied by classic paintings that hang is places both well-known — The Louvre, The Prado — and obscure (to me at least), and almost all in Europe.
Even if you think you know the stories of saints you’ll find new information here. I especially appreciated the transparency of the authors who frankly acknowledge when something about one of the saintly heroes may have been passed down as mere legend.
Readers will appreciated learning why a saint is pictured in a certain way — St. Denis carrying his own head! – or typically painted with a certain object — a sword, a palm leaf, a stag, which would be St. Hubert, patron saint of hunters.
There are saints, too, that you may never have heard of — St. Fiacre, for example — that show the European bent of the authors. But those tales are interesting, too, and the paintings that help tell the story are indeed masterpieces. Warning: The retail cost is a bit steep at $29.95, but it isn’t cheap to print all those color paintings, and the print job is superb, even in the smaller format.– bz