Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Book Review: Saints Behaving Badly

Hardcover: 208 pages

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication Date: September 19, 2006

Language: English

ISBN: 0385517203

List Price: $15.95

Author Thomas J. Craughwell, who writes a monthly column on patron saints for Catholic diocesan newspapers, has written a book titled Saints Behaving Badly: the Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil Worshippers Who Became Saints, which - as it's title suggests - covers in 32 hagiographical sketches the less than savory details of the lives of men and women venerated by the Catholic Church as saints.

In his introduction to the book, Craughwell points out that, unlike the 19th and 20th century penchant for whitewashing the sins of saints, earlier hagiographers had no qualms about delving into the fallen lifestyles of those about whom they were writing:
In the early centuries of the Church and all through the Middle Ages writers of saints' lives were perfectly candid about saints whose early lives were far from saintly. It is from these ancient sources that we learn of the bloodbath St. Olga unleashed on her husband's assassins; of St. Mary of Egypt trolling the streets of Alexandria for new sexual conquests; of the obscenely rich St. Thomas Becket looking down at a poor man almost freezing to death in the street and refusing to give him his cloak.
Fortunately for me, the book also includes a profile of my own personal patron, whose name I took at Confirmation, St. Columba - that infringer of copyrights and inciter of bloody wars (one battle alone, in which the saint took part, cost over 3000 lives).

Of course, as Craughwell further notes in his introduction, "[t]he point of reading these stories is not to experience some tabloid thrill, but to understand how grace works in the world."
Every day, all day long, God pours out his grace upon us, urging us, coaxing us, to turn away from everything that is base and cheap and unsatisfying, and turn toward the only thing that is eternal, perfect, and true -- that is, himself.
With these 32 saintly vignettes, Craughwell -- or rather the saints about whom he writes -- offers hope for attaining that which is "eternal, perfect, and true" to those of us who wish for sainthood but struggle with our own vices and sinful predilictions.


At 8/30/2006 1:30 PM, Blogger PB said...

So there is hope for all of us.


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