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Making a case for more books on American saints

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Trent Beattie - published on 07/04/23

We are beset, not by a lack of holy men and women who have gone before us in our own lands, but by a lack of good books associated with them.

Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, foundress of the Sisters of Mary, Queen of Apostles, died in 2019, but her legacy joyfully lives on. Her community recorded several bestselling albums (such as Adoration at Ephesus) before her death and, upon recent exhumation, her sisters reported that her remains seem incorrupt.

Incorruption is a striking symbol of how, in Heaven, blessed souls are very much alive, and how, after the Resurrection of the Dead, they will be united with their bodies. While striking, however, it is not uncommon — at least not in the Catholic Church.

Post-mortem miracles aside, books by and/or about holy men and women in North America should be more common. There aren’t enough.

This is surprising in light not only of geographic proximity, but also of chronological proximity — that is, they lived near us in space and time. Blessed Solanus Casey (whose feast is around the corner on July 30), St. Maria Natividad Venegas de la Torre (whose feast is also July 30), and St. Katharine Drexel all died in the 1950s, yet can the average Catholic name a single book by or about any of them?

We are beset, not by a lack of holy men and women who have gone before us in our own lands, but by a lack of good books associated with them. Indeed, this very literary lack makes it appear as if we were lacking in holy people.

“Halves” and “halve-nots”

Probably well under half of the books that could be published by or about American saints are in fact published. One might think that the honor of being the first canonized American male would draw literary interest; however, that is not the reality regarding St. John Neumann. There seems to be only one adult biography of him in print: Saint John Neumann: His Writings and Spirituality by Father Richard Boever, CSSR, available from Liguori Publications.

If being the first canonized American male is only enough for one book, how about being one of 16 children, working as a prison guard around the associates of Jesse James, being ordained a priest despite seminary troubles and remaining a priest despite not being allowed to hear confessions, routinely working physical healings, maintaining gratitude and a sense of humor during a painful illness that led to his death and having a non-decaying body afterward?

Just your average bio, right?

Well, there are more books available about Blessed Solanus Casey (who fits the description above) than St. John Neumann. Two examples from which edifying themes can be derived are Father Solanus Casey by Catherine Odell, revised and updated from Our Sunday Visitor, and Meet Solanus Casey by Brother Leo Wollenweber, OFM, Cap., now with a new foreword and name — Gratitude and Grit — from Franciscan Media.

Although it’s not about Blessed Solanus, he would undoubtedly say that Mystical City of God (from Mother of Our Savior and Refuge of Sinners Publishing, as well as TAN Books) is far more important than another biography. This life of the Blessed Virgin Mary as revealed to Venerable Mary of Agreda, a 17th-century Spanish Franciscan (whose remains are also incorrupt) is among the most important books in the history of the Church.

Possibly that is the lesson here: Strangely disinterested publishers aside, maybe American saints themselves are humbly diverting the attention of their compatriots toward universal classics such as Mystical City of God, Imitation of Christ, Introduction to the Devout Life, Story of a Soul, True Devotion to Mary, and The Incredible Catholic Mass.

These books can be read with great spiritual benefits as we celebrate the red (Blood of Christ) white (Baptism) and blue (Blessed Virgin Mary) holiday on July 4.

Trent Beattie compiled the meditations found in Saint Alphonsus Liguori for Every Day (available from Mediatrix Press) and Finding True Happiness (available from Dynamic Catholic).

Tags:
BooksCatholicismSaintsUnited States
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