Thursday, May 17, 2007

Saints - official and otherwise

I have been reading My Life with the Saints by Father James Martin.

It was recommended by a friend, but I know it’s gotten a lot of buzz as well.

In the book, Fr. Martin talks about his relationship with saints and other holy people who touched his life in some way.

Some of the folks he cites are also on my personal list. Pope John XXIII (His Journal of a Soul was one of my great discoveries in the seminary). Dorothy Day (I admired her so much I even lived and worked at a Catholic Worker house for a short time after college). Francis of Assisi (My first saint “friend” – but then, Francis is my middle name!). Joseph (I took him on as my confirmation name, in part because of admiration for him, and in part to honor my brother, John Joseph Strong).

And Thomas Merton.

One of Fr. Martin’s comments about Merton hit home: “It’s not a stretch to say that The Seven Storey Mountain changed my life”

That book changed my life as well.

I was living in New York, struggling with morality and my faith. It was touch and go for a while, and then I stumbled across Merton.

I read Mountain, and it caused me to stop and look at where I was going. I then read St. Augustine’s Confessions, and the two combined to turn me around.

They prepared me for a third writer who helped to shape my thinking about Christianity, and another holy person I’d put high on my list: C. S. Lewis.

I read the Chronicles of Narnia in one week. I raced through the science fiction trilogy. I then went on to The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, and more.

Although I would put Chesterton on my list now, I have to admit that he’s been a late addition. I first encountered him through his biography of St. Francis – but that was out of my love for Francis. I also read his biography of St. Thomas Aquinas, then The Everlasting Man. But I was still in the thrall of Lewis, and it was only about 15 years later that I began to read more of Chesterton.

Better late than never.

To the list I'd add people like Peter Maurin - Catholic Worker co-founder - Catherine Doherty of Madonna House, St.Thomas More, and Pope John Paul II.

Imagine the dinner party with that crew!

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