Thursday, October 17, 2002

Saints of the Jubilee by Timothy Drake, ed.

1stBooks Library, 1403310092, $9.50

Technically, this review may be construed as a conflict of interest since I am a contributor to this work. I penned the chapters regarding the lives of Blessed Pedro Calungsod, the first Visayan martyr to be raised to the altars, and the eleven martyred nuns of Novogrodek, now Belarus. However, in the interest of bringing this fascinating book to the attention of readers, this review will focus upon the contributions of the book's editor and other contributors.

Pope John Paul II, having canonized thousands of people during his pontificate, has been referred to as a "saint-maker," meant by some to be a compliment, by others as a criticism. While some argue that the Holy Father risks trivializing sainthood with these numerous canonizations and beatifications, it cannot be ignored that the lives of these saints and blesseds should be remembered and be made known to future generations of the Church. In this day of scandal and lethargy, role models are needed to remind us of how Christ's glory inspired the faith of many - from the beginnings of Christ's ministry to the darkest days of World War II. It was the pontiff's such dedication during the Jubilee Year, coupled with the names on the roster, that inspired Timothy Drake to collect stories for Saints of the Jubilee.

Saints is a remarkably deceptive book; one look at the slim volume may imply that only a select few saints are featured. In actuality, this book reveals stories of 164 saints and blesseds recognized in the year 2000. Some are readily familiar to Catholics.

There is Saint Faustina, the polish nun whose writing spawned the Divine Mercy devotion; Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco Marto, who, along with still-living cousin Lucia, witnessed the Fatima apparitions; and St. Katharine Drexel, an American nun devoted to helping the poor and advancing the education of blacks and Native Americans.

Then there are the more obscure, known best by those who supported their respective causes. Saint Augustine Tchao and his companions were converts to the Faith who suffered imprisonment and death due to poor conditions; Saint Marie Josefa of the Heart of Jesus founded the order of the Servants of Jesus, dedicated to aiding the orphaned and the homebound; Blessed Andrew of Vietnam, condemned to death in 1644 for witnessing to Christ, was the first to be beatified in the Jubilee Year. Their stories, written by members of the Catholic Writers Association are relayed with an enthusiasm that will easily dissolve any stuffy textbook perceptions of this hagiography.

The only disappointment to Saints, as mentioned above, is its brevity. Given other saints and blesseds raised to the altars in this time (including two modern-day popes), there is an air of missed opportunity. However, such omissions should not deter readers from purchasing this title, particularly those who homeschool. Saints of the Jubilee is a wonderful reference to a most extraordinary year for sainthood.

Tuesday, October 8, 2002

The Passionate Steward: Recovering Christian Stewardship from Secular Fundraising by Michael O'Hurley-Pitts

St. Brigid Press, 0973137800, $19.99

Books have been published explaining why Catholics can't sing, why Catholics pray the Rosary, and why Catholics don't (and/or shouldn't) have women in the priesthood. From St. Brigid Press and author Michael O'Hurley-Pitts comes a book on why some Catholics (and, to be sure, Christians of other denominations) don't give. The Passionate Steward: Recovering Christian Stewardship from Secular Fundraising is a book targeted at Christian parishes, in particular clergy and laypersons responsible for parish stewardship, but is not necessarily a "how-to" on the fundamentals of fundraising. Rather, Steward reads more along the lines of a "why-not" or "how-about" book in that problems of parish stewardship are not addressed with definite solutions in mind, but are exposed to allow the reader to come to the proper conclusions about what is best for his/her church.

O'Hurley-Pitts defines the various kinds of stewardship, pointing out foremost that giving is "not transactional," but "vocational." The problem with implementing secular fundraising techniques to parishes, he argues, is that the act of giving is thus in danger of being cheapened. Giving to one's church, be it time or money, should not have to require tempting parishioners with gifts and incentives, the author argues. People should want to give without having to be bombarded by a "what's in it for me" mentality, particularly when the incentives are hardly spiritual.

O'Hurley-Pitts outlines in Steward a history and the basic fundamentals of stewardship from a Christian perspective and suggested methods for campaigns (direct mail, guest speakers), and weighs the pros and cons of each. For the struggling small-town parish or the established metropolis church, The Passionate Steward lays out the nuts and bolts of stewardship in a concise and timely manner.