All Saints’ Day is this week with All Souls’ Day right behind it. Soon we’ll be at the beginning of a new liturgical year. What better time to settle in with a bit of spiritual guidance from the saints?
Yep, that’s what I thought too. So it is my great pleasure to tell you about this new book.
Paul Thigpen is a favorite author of mine from way back in the days when his books in The Saints Speak Today series were my favorites (St. Thomas More and St. Augustine). In fact, I still grab copies of those to give to new converts since they were key to my own experience.
All of which is beside the point, I guess, except to help explain that I’ve been eagerly awaiting this book ever since I first saw it mentioned.
Like the other books in Tan Book’s “A Year With …” series, it has 365 one-page meditations. As is obvious from the name, it takes you through a year with the saints as your spiritual guides.
Each reading begins with a brief summary from Thigpen to orient the reader to the subject. Then an excerpt from a saint’s writings brings a topic to light. This is followed by a question or two which help readers relate fully to what was just read. A brief prayer ends the session. In case you want to know a bit more about a particular saint, there is a brief biography of each in the back of the book.
Tan Books has done this book proud, as with all those in the series. Even if you prefer e-books, this is one you want to hold in your hands, just trust me on this. The cover may not be actual leather but it certainly feels like it. Pages are gilt-edged and the ribbon marker is sturdy. Moreover, the book design is elegant and decorative in an understated but classic way. A Year with the Saints is not only useful but a book that could become an heirloom in your family. Readers will know that I do not give this praise lightly.
I’ve been reading an entry a day since I received the book, which means I’m up to the 7th or 8th one. So far I’ve been reminded of the marvel that Scripture achieves in having simple meanings and complex meanings in the same passages, perfect for whichever need you have. I’ve been reminded of the fact that the reason God can work miracles is because he made nature … and so he has power over it.
And, I’ve been reminded that faith and reason go hand in hand. I’ll be honest. I didn’t need reminding of this particular concept, but I like the way St. Thomas More puts it so much that this is the one I’m going to share. For one thing, look at his commonplace examples of the handmaid and of eating. They get the point across perfectly and also make me laugh just thinking of them.
Faith and reason
Faith and reason should not be opposed, St. Thomas More reminds us; they should go hand in hand. The use of reason is necessary in matters of faith, but it must always be in service to faith.
Whoever would grasp what he must believe must use reason. Yet reason must not resist faith, but rather walk with her, waiting on her as her handmaid. And even though at times reason seems contrary to faith, yet in truth faith never gets along without her.
The handmaid who loses all restraint, or gets drunk, or grows too proud, will then chatter too much and argue with her mistress, and act sometimes as if she were insane. In the same way, reason–if it’s allowed to run riot and lift up its heart in pride–won’t fail to rebel against her mistress, faith. On the other hand, if she’s brought up well, and guided well, and kept in good temper, she’ll never disobey faith because she’ll be in her right mind. So let your powers of reason be well trained, for surely faith never gets along without her.
The study of Scripture involves deciphering its meaning, considering what you read, pondering the purpose of various commentaries, and comparing various texts that seem contradictory, even when they aren’t. Now in doing all this, I don’t deny that the most important thing is to have grace and God’s special help. But at the same time, in our Scripture study he uses our human reason as an instrument as well. After all: God also helps us to eat–but not without our mouth!-St. Thomas More, A Dialogue Concerning Heresies,
I, 23; Letter to William Gonell
In God’s Presence Consider…
Do I consider my reason a gift from God to be used in support of my faith? Do I make the best of my reasoning skills when interpreting Scripture by using helpful commentaries and other study resources?
Lord, let the reasoning powers you’ve given me always be employed in the lively service of the faith that’s also your gift.