Lambent prose and a general lack of self-indulgence characterize these essays on the Catholic canon of saints. Each of the 20 contemporary authors whom FSG assistant editor Elie has assembled here centers his or her contribution on a particular holy man or woman—usually a saint for whom they were named or whom they have adopted as a patron. The Catholic experience predominates, but Elie intersperses other perspectives. After a serviceable introduction by Robert Coles, Bruce Bawer sets the pace with a fine essay on St. Francis of Assisi, artfully stitching a biographical account with a personal meditation on the lessons he teaches. Kathryn Harrison follows with a forceful tale of how her namesake, St. Catherine, inspired in her an anorectic self-abnegation. Literary types may be impressed by Richard Bausch's epiphany of Thomas Aquinas as paragon both of faith and of the modern spirit—achieved, Bausch lets us know, through the mediation of his friend Walker Percy. Francine Prose writes about Saint Teresa of vila by focusing on the seemingly unlikely notion of irony; Tobias Wolff, in contrast, presents a most straightforward saint, the adventurous Jean de BrÇbeuf, martyred among the North American Indians. Also in the Americas, Enrique Fern†ndez discusses Cuba's santer°a religion, an Afro-Caribbean form of saint worship that provides an interesting counterpoint to the more traditional Christianity under discussion elsewhere. Editor Elie builds a summa of sainthood around his recent encounter with the figure of Doubting Thomas, in the form of a Renaissance bronze of Thomas with Christ. A critique of the official Church sanction of canonization comes in Martin E. Marty's look at the still unsanctified Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Valuable for inspiration, but also for information—the details of the lives and deaths of many saints are here, refracted through 20 idiosyncratic, often powerful points of view.
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