Lives of the Saints – My top 12 favorite books

St. Teresa of Avila by Girgio Papasogli, Alba House, 1973
St. Teresa of Avila by Giorgio Papasogli, Alba House, 1973

I have been spending some time on Facebook recently (Rose Pacatte) and everyone is doing these lists on Notes on their profile pages. So I decided to start some lists of my own.

Here is a list of my 12 favorite lives of the saints. I have read much hagiography over the course of my life, but these stand out as really good reads. Of course, when I was in the postulancy and novitiate more than 40 years ago our leisure time was limited (even for reading lives of the saints!). But I found these, and if you can find them, they might make it on your favorite saints biography list, too.

1. St Teresa of Avila by George Papsogli (trans. from the Italian) Alba House 1973
2. St. Francis de Sales and His Friends  Maurice Henry Couannier (translated from the French), Alba House 1973
3. The Woman God Loved (Bl. Anne Marie Javouhey; foundress of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny)
4. St Therese by those Who Knew Her – testimony from the “trials” for her beatification and canonization; compelling
5. The Golden Thread (St Ignatius of Loyola, novel by Louis de Wohl)
6. Africa’s Twelve Apostles (All men, and not a perfect book – but a great read; some have been beatified or canonized) by Rev. H. Russell
7. Mystic in Motley: The Life of St Philip Nero by Theodore Maynard, 1946  – THE BEST! Maynard is an amazing biographer)
8. St. John Neumann by Robert H. Wilson
9. A Light to the Gentiles: the Life of Venerable Francis Libermann by Adrian van Kaam (one of my favorites)
10. The Song of Bernadette (novel by Franz Werfel)
11. St. Thomas More by John Farrow (Mia Farrow’s father); Man for All Season play by Robert Bolt
12. Bury Me Deep: The Life of Bl. Zepherin Namancura by Peter Lappin (most excellent biographer; if Namancura is ever beatified it may be because he was smothered – to death – by the desire of early Salesian missionaries to Argentina to evangelize/minister to indigenous peoples, however, the story is totally compelling.)

You will note that I have not listed biographies of the saints of the Pauline Family: Bl. James Alberione, Bl. Timothy Giaccardo, Ven. M. Tecla Merlo…. This is because the books available so far yet are informative, but I am still waiting for the best books to be written.

Also, St. Anthony’s Guild of Paterson, NJ (now defunct) used to publish these great paperbacks. One of them was the story of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers at 50 years. I can’t find the title online or recall the author’s name… Glenn something… but an outstanding story of holy men and how Maryknoll interfaced with the history of the first half of the 20th century.

I received a comment about the above book and I want to post it within the text of the blog so you can find it – or look forward to the new one!

Hi Sr. Rose,
I think the book about Maryknoll that you mention at the end of your post is “The Maryknoll Fathers: The Heroic Story of Fifty Year in Mission Field Afar” by Glenn D. Kittler. The book appeared in hardcover in 1961 and was published by The World Publishing Company of Cleveland, OH. I am not familiar with the paperback version you mention.

We’re now coming up on our 100th Anniversary in 2011 and a book is once again in preparation. It will be authored by Dr. Angelyn Dries, OSF, a church historian out of St. Louis University. I’m looking forward to it.

Years ago, the later Penny Lernoux put out a popular history of the Maryknoll Sisters called, “Hearts on Fire” which is also very powerful. They too are coming up on their centennial and I’m not sure what they have in the works as far as a history goes.

Thanks for a very enlightening blog! Prayerful best wishes in your many efforts.

Gregory Darr

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