Friday, June 22, 2007

Booknote: Saints Behaving Badly

Craughwell, Thomas J. Saints Behaving Badly: The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil Worshippers who Became Saints. New York: Doubleday, 2006. ISBN: 0-385-51720-3.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: History, Christian hagiography

This book is a small collection of stories of saints. The author brings together brief stories of various saints. He shows the saints as the flawed humans they were who went on to become saints. Though the author seems to favor the notion that these men and women strove for sainthood, personally, in some cases I have to wonder. For instance, St. Augustine, one of the greatest saints of the Catholic Church, was quite the playboy and philanderer, going so far as to ask God to grant him chastity and continence, just not yet (so he could experience his sinful life just a bit longer). Actually, I remember learning that little tidbit somewhere in Catholic school. I always wondered about that; it seemed awfully convenient to me. I guess I was on my way to becoming a bit of a skeptic.

At any rate, no need to do any deep theological ponderings here. This is a light and entertaining book. The chapters are short and brief, and overall, interesting to see what some of these guys and gals did before they achieved their sainthood. Maybe one way to look at it is how one of the book's reviewers, Raymond Arroyo (quoted in the book jacket) sees it: "If these folks can make the cut, maybe there is hope for the rest of us." If you want to learn a bit about the saints and to do so in a light way, this may be a good book for you then. While clearly geared for Catholics, I think other readers might find it interesting as well.

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