Do the saints in heaven see and know all that we are doing? If so,…
Media nuns publish new book on the saints after Kickstarter success
Alfred Bessette was a poor and sickly orphan who worked as a farmhand, baker, cobbler and blacksmith. When he was 25, his deep faith, devotion to St. Joseph and an encouraging priest led him to the Brothers of the Holy Cross. As Brother Andre, he became the doorkeeper of Notre-Dame College in Montreal.
There was something about the quiet uneducated man that drew people to seek his prayers for spiritual and physical healings. In one year alone, 435 documented cures were recorded. So it was little wonder that when he died in 1937 at the age of 91, more than one million people attended his funeral.
St. Andre Bessette is one of the many thousands of Catholic saints and blesseds. He is also one of 365 men and women featured in the recently released book from Pauline Books & Media, “In Caelo Et In Terra: 365 Days With the Saints.”
“They were all good and amazing people who show a wide representation of holiness in the world,” said Sister Marianne Lorraine Trouve, who wrote half of the biographies. “What struck me about all of them was that no matter what their circumstances, they loved God and wanted to be holy.”
Many of them, like St. Paul the Apostle and St. Joan of Arc, have been familiar favorites for centuries. Some are less known, like Blessed Anna Maria Taigi (1769-1837), an ordinary wife and mother who experienced mystical visions. And from contemporary times, there’s St. Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962), a pediatrician who chose life for her unborn child when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer that took her own life after giving birth.
The saints and blesseds in the book are from the early Church through the 21st century and from countries around the world. They are ordained and religious men and women, single and married. Some lived quiet lives of holiness, and some were brutally martyred.
Each page has a story of their life, a reflection and a prayer.
The book was written by more than 30 Daughters of St. Paul, an order founded in 1915 in Italy to spread the Gospel through all forms of media. They came to the United States in 1932 to establish Pauline Books & Media, a publisher and network of bookstores around the country.
This book began 10 years ago with Sister Sarah Marie Myers as the first editor. The project was put on hold for several years before resuming with Sister Maria Grace Dateno as editor.
Their Kickstarter fundraiser last fall met its initial goal within days. Subsequent goals enabled the “media nuns” to aim high. While so many books are paperback, this one is a keepsake quality hardback with a gold stamped cover and ribbon marker. Indices include the patron saints, feast days, original writings and prayers from some of the saints and blesseds, and a list of the participating sisters and what they wrote.
Sister Daniel Victoria Lussier illustrated every page.
“I started on Oct. 1, 2019, the feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and we knew that we wanted to launch it [last] fall,” she said. “I had to break it down to so many saints a day and be diligent. It was an exercise for me in doing the best I could in the time I had.”
Sister Daniel Victoria studied art, graphic design and photography in college, graduated in 2006 and did freelance work before she joined the Daughters of St. Paul in 2013.
“I needed to know that person, Jesus Christ, that the truth has a face, and that our being consecrated to create media is really about being in a relationship with Christ and sharing that relationship,” she said. “Different sisters articulate in different ways. We are writers, illustrators, photographers and filmmakers, and the main core of it is that we are to live profoundly that transformation in Christ. We are called to reach the masses in the most effective way possible. We really wanted to invest the time and energy into making this book as beautiful as the content that it holds,”
Sister Daniel Victoria created original drawings and worked from available photographs and existing art. The book center is located in Manhattan, and she used commuting time on the Staten Island ferry to draw in the morning and evening.
“What I love about this book is that it gave me the opportunity to connect with the humanity of the saints,” she said. “There were so many that I hadn’t heard of, and now some of them are kind of like my buddies. There’s just something about them that I feel connected with them.”
One of them is Blessed Benedict Daswa of South Africa (1946-1990), who grew up as a Jew and became a Catholic when he was 17. He was a pillar of the community and helped to build the village church. He was outspoken against witchcraft and would not go along with a search to blame someone for causing a damaging storm. He knew that the accused would be killed. The villagers then turned against him and killed him.
“He was just pursuing the good and the true,” Sister Daniel Victoria said. “He didn’t set out to do anything extraordinary. He had a wife and eight children. He was just living faithfully, and that called him to martyrdom.”
Sister Maria Grace was moved by the story of another 20th century martyr, Blessed Giuseppe Puglisi, a priest in Sicily who was outspoken against the mafia. He refused to allow them to have roles of honor in the parish and refused their donations. He encouraged the youth to not drop out of school or get involved with crime. He was murdered by a mafia hitman on Sept. 15, 1993, his 56th birthday.
“He was just living his faith like Blessed Benedict was,” she said. “It’s not like they went looking for any problems. These are the things that they encountered in everyday life. When it came to doing the right thing even in the face of death, they did it.”
Reading about the saints encouraged Sister Maria Grace’s desire for holiness and heaven because, she said, “Everyone in heaven is a saint, not just a canonized one. It gives me a feeling like they are all up there cheering for us and encouraging us. I feel like I have friends up there.”
Sister Marianne Lorraine was especially moved by the story of Blessed Sara Salkahazi, a Sister of Social Service in Hungary who wrote against the Nazis and hid Jewish refugees. On Dec. 27, 1944, she was executed with them on the banks of the Danube River.
That and all the stories in the book, Sister Marianne Lorraine said, are gifts from the saints and focus on Christ as the way, the truth and the life (cf. Jn 14:6).
“The basic facts about the saints are the truth,” she said. “The way is the reflection for each saint that shows how we can model our own lives. Then each story has a prayer that would be something that was represented in their life. Their stories inspired me and spoke to my heart.”
For more information visit paulinestore.com.
Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.