Learning from the Lives of the Saints
We can learn so much about our Faith through reading about the lives of the saints. In each saint, we see the Gospel lived out through the unique person whom God created. And in their daily struggles, we can take heart and know that we, too, can become saints.
Before he pursued a life of faith, St. Ignatius of Loyola was a soldier who sought glory and fame on the battlefield, His military career was cut short when a bullet shattered his leg and he had to be dragged away from the fighting. Not once, but two times, he had his leg set, and then he began the long weeks of recovery. Forced to lay in bed for weeks, he read the only books which were available to him-- a book on the life of Christ and a book on the lives of the Saints.
His conversation began with these two books. And St. Ignatius was known to have remarked that after reading the lives of the saints he became convinced that if they could become saints, he could too.
Here are three great books that can help you to get to know the real lives of the saints in order that you can be encouraged and to trust that you, too, can become a saint.
Voices of the Saints
Voices of the Saints is a wonderful book written by Bert Ghezzi in which he introduces you to 365 saints through their own words. Each saint is given two pages in the book. As the title of the book suggests, you get to know the saints through their own voices.
The entry for each saint includes an excerpt from something the saint wrote or said as well as biographical information to help you become familiar with the saint.
With 365 saints, you could add one saint per day to your spiritual reading and become more familiar with the saints. The book is arranged in alphabetic order by name, but you can also read about the saints in chronological order beginning with the Blessed Virgin Mary and continuing with the guides that you lead you to the next saint.
I read from this book every day and enjoy learning more the saints you encounter in its pages.
In the introduction, the author quotes St. Philip Neri as both a word of warning and one of encouragement, "The best preparation for prayer is to read the lives of the saints, not from mere curiousity, but quietly and with recollection a little at a time. And to pause whenever you feel your heart touched with devotion."
Bert Ghezzi's book certainly can be a welcome addition to your prayer life as you let the saints help guide you on your journey with the Lord.
Married Saints and Blesseds Through the Centuries
The vast majority of the Church will always be laypeople and many laypeople follow the vocation of the married state. Married Saints and Blesseds Through the Centuries fills a gap by shining the spotlight on married men and women who have been raised to the altar over the two thousand year history of the Church.
Although we can always relate to saints through different ways such as personality, character types, or flaws, it can also be important to relate to them through the lives they lived as married men and women. First, it reminds us that marriage and the family are of utmost importance in God's eyes and we should follow suit. Second, it is a bit of encouragement for married men and women because the saints in this book show that it is possible to reach a high level of sanctity while living in the married state.
The book is arranged chronologically and includes many saints who might be new to you. One unfamiliar saint you will find in the book is Bl. Angela of Foligno who was a wife, mother, and mystic. However, she was not always so interested in holiness, and her life demonstrates that conversion is always possible.
Married at a young age to a wealthy landowner, Angela for many years lived a life of frivilous pursuits. She may also have been less than diligent in raising her children and remaining faithful to her husband. When she was 37, she began to despise her life of luxury and she became conscious of her sins.
Even so, she was so ashamed of her sins that would not go to confession and instead received the Eucharist without a good confession. Finally, she made a full confession to a Franciscan priest and began pursuing a life of holiness. Even then, she had to suffer much through the deaths of many of her family in a short period of time including her husband, mother, and all her children.
With stories like these, this book provides saint stories to which we can relate. They are filled with the ups and downs of life and the struggles that these men and women faced by God's grace in their pursuit of a life of love for the Lord.
Through these 200 saints and blesseds, you will find at least a few who will help you with your walk of faith.
A Bedside Book of Saints
We want the saints to be human because that makes them accessible to us. And the reality is that because they did live lives of heroic virtue they were indeed the most truly human among us because they fulfilled the calling of God to love Him above all and their neighbor as themselves.
In A Bedside Book of Saints, Fr. Aloysius Roche shares the full humanity of the saints through precious ancedotes of their lives. Through the short quotes and recounting of stories, we see how God created each of His saints, and indeed each of us, as unique creatures with different dispositions, likes, and gifts.
Consider this nugget that is from the book and shows the humility and playfulness of St. John Vianney. For many years, there were a great number of people including fellow priests who wanted to see St. John removed as the parish priest of Ars because they considered him a hapless priest. A petition was started in order to request his removal. Accordingly, St. John signed the petition himself and remarked that with his signature added, the efforts for his removal must surely succeed. Nonetheless, despite his agreement with their sentiments that he was wholly inadequate as a priest, he remained the priest of Ars until he passed away.
Originally published in 1934, it has been reprinted by Sophia Press in order to share these gems from the saints which were collected and organized by Fr. Roche. The book is organized by topical chapters such as The Joy of the Saints, The Wit and Humor of the Saints, and The Saints and Sleep. Taken a few pages at a time, you can use the book to learn from the saints and apply what they share to your own life.
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