Like several in St. Blogs I received a review copy of Saints Behaving Badly:
The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil-Worshippers Who Became Saints"
First off I found this both a fun and a fast read. There are multiple chapters each devoted to the conversion story of a single saint. They are well written and the author takes care to separate the historical parts of the conversion stories from the more legendary where possible. Of the older saints in history he will flesh out what was probably true and then also give the stories less grounded in history. The book is just under 200 pages which makes it an easy read. Despite its rather whimsical cover and title the conversion stories are serious and straight-forward.
The book includes the more famous conversion stories starting from St. Matthew and continues with the more well known saints such as St. Augustine, St. Francis, St. Ignatius surrounded by many chapters of lesser known saints. I found even the conversion stories I was more familiar with worth reading again. The chapters are all totally standalone so sometimes there is some repeated overlap of stories of saints who knew each other.
The only annoying thing about the stories is not the fault of the author. In some cases we just don’t know historically what changed the heart of a person to come to accept and follow Christ. There are drastic changes in their life, but we don’t know what the impetus was. Unfortunately few like St. Augustine and St. Patrick gave us the inner workings of their heart in this matter. Lucking though this only affects some of the stories and it does give a sense of mystery to the ones where we don’t have the exact details of their conversion.
I only have a couple quibbles with the book. In the opening chapter I thought it could have more fully explained sainthood and perhaps a summary of the canonical process. While the quick summary of what a saint is quite good, I thought the statement "most of us will never know a saint" misleading. While it is true that many of us might never meet a person who will be a canonized a saint, surely there are people we know who are the ordinary saints that one day will enjoy the Beatific Vision with God. I also thought that after the conversion stories were fleshed out that a summary of the importance of the saint in the life of the Church was needed. The chapter on St. Augustine to my taste ended much too swiftly without really mentioning the importance of his writings and his effect as a Doctor of the Church.
Despite my minor criticisms I would still strongly recommend this book for just about anybody from young adults up. It is good reading whether one is familiar with the Church and the Saints or for those with only passing knowledge on the subject. It is always good to be reminded that no one is born a saint. That even those of us who lived lives far away from God can not only repent but to live lives of heroic sanctity.
Here are some reviews by other bloggers.
I have to take issue with the “most of us never knowing a saint” idea, too. I’m convinced I’ve known at least two, even thought neither will likely ever be raised to the altars. They both lived the virtues to a truly heroic degree.
I purchased a copy of this book, although I haven’t had the opportunity to read it yet. I’m very excited, though!!!
Please also, if you and the entire gang at St. Blogs could pray for me as well, i’m heading out student teaching starting this next week!
I like the theme of this saints book, the premise being that “if Darth Vader can be redeemed, so can I.”
Thanks Jeff for the review. I have a backlog of books that is piling up on me since I took on a new job, but I will not hesitate to browse this book due to your recommendation. I love conversion stories and the stories of saints, and two have these two themes intertwine has peaked (is that correct?) my interest.
Would you say that these stories are appropriate for children around the age of 7 or 8 to hear? What about reading them on their own if they have an advanced reading level?
Some of the conversion stories are of people who repented of sexual sins, so probably the story of Mary of Egypt might not be suitable for children of that age.
Thanks for the heads up!
I picked it up from the library– haven’t been this excited about a new book like this for a long time!