Monday, July 18, 2011

My Life As A Book Report: Saints Behaving Badly

I've wanted to do this blog series for awhile. The main impetus is that when I read a book, I read books that make me think. For this reason, I don't read a lot. Not because I don't want to think, but I have to want to read and taught. My husband (and many others) enjoy reading - and read a lot. Dan reads every night. He reads a variety of books: sports, political, mysteries, biographies, westerns. He's voracious.

I'm not. I like reading. I'm a good reader. Heck, I got a 35 on the Reading portion of the ACT - which is based on comprehension. I'm a choosy reader - because of that need for thought to be stimulated when I read. I'm not always a ready & willing audience, but when I am - I need to read. As they say, when the student is ready, the teacher appears - and so it is with me and the books that I read.

This lengthy explanation, which has nothing to do with the book I'm about to report on, is simply to say: this won't be a weekly - or even monthly series. (On the other hand, I'm really interested in reading right now, so it might be monthly.) Also, the point is: when I read, I think about what I'm reading and apply it to my life - and I often find correlational themes and messages. It seems that I read for purpose, not pleasure.  (Even though books I choose for pleasure seem to teach me plenty!) My favorites are those which delight and teach me. Those will be the books reported on here.

Without further ado, Saints Behaving Badly by Thomas Craughwell:
Saints Behaving Badly: The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil-Worshippers Who Became Saints
cover courtesy of
I received this book from dear friend Andrea upon my confirmation into the Catholic Church this spring. As a newly minted Catholic, I obviously, needed to know something about the saints - and should have a fondness for them. As a newly minted Catholic, my affection toward them was really more intrigue than fondness - as it is a little hard to shake Protestant skepticism and Evangelical distrust of "anything but Jesus."

My dad, the lovable Gideon that he is saw the book and at once proclaimed, "Ah! It's just a book of testimonies!" Which it is; and which is exactly why the lives of saints should be learned about and venerated - because their stories are the same redemptions by the grace of Christ that our lives are today. (Which is also one of the reasons that I love my dad so; always looking for what binds us.)

Saints Behaving Badly chronicles the lives of twenty-eight holy men and women of the faith - most of them saints. There are some well-known saints in there: Saint Patrick, Saint Augustine, and Saint Francis of Assisi. The others were not known well to me. Each 'chapter' was dedicated to portraying the early life, the sinful life, the transformation, the repentent life and the death of each man and woman.

I was surprised at the time this book spanned - starting with Saint Matthew (one of the twelve apostles) in the first century through Venerable Matt Talbot of the late 1800s. For much of my Christian life, I've had this very small view of the 'communion of the saints'. Mainly, that we had Jesus, the twelve disciples, the new church and then fast-forward to today - and you have me. I know that it is very narrow-minded, but I never really gave much thought to the past twenty centuries of Christians until delving into the Catholic faith. For me, the connection to the past generations of Christians - many of them Catholic - has given me a sense of foundation in the church. This was one of the main reasons that I chose to embrace Catholicism (and Dan - but another story).

I read this book as part of my morning devotions. It was a great complement to my daily Bible readings to learn about a saint a day. It is really eye-opening to read about decisions to choose Christ and the Catholic church amid persecution: from the Romans to the English protestants. In nearly every testimony, their sinful past (ranging from promiscuity, adultery, gambling, lover of blood-sports, playboy, idoltry and devil worshipping) was overcome through strict devotion to prayer, serving others through selfless devotion, living simple, quiet lives - or establishing an order to teach/serve others. Their path to holiness always was marked with humility and great reverance for and submission to Christ and the Church.

My "take-away" lessons from these are many. However, the main one is the challenge to think of myself no more higher than I ought. To embrace my circumstance in life, rather than question it, by looking for ways to serve and love others is my life lesson from the lives of the saints.

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