In his marvelous 1997 resource All Saints, Robert Ellsberg (editor-in-chief of Orbis Books) gathered together commentary on the lives and legacies of 365 different saints. Now he has found 60 new women saints to join those in his original work.
Ellsberg writes: "The story of each holy person is also a story about God. In each of these stories there is an invitation not simply to imitate the good deeds of these women, but to enter into the larger universe that they inhabited."
Many women have been canonized over the centuries, including Brigid of Ireland, Clare of Assisi, Joan of Arc, and Mother Teresa of Avila. But there are other women who have demonstrated heroic faith, love, or prophesy that have been excluded because they fall outside of the traditional categories for women saints: martyrs, foundresses of religious orders, virgins, widows, or matrons. He concludes that "such labels elide the range of functions such women may have performed, whether as theologians, prophets, healers, visionaries, or trailblazers in the spiritual life."
The author has included in this edifying volume mystics, martyrs, missionaries, reformers, artists, scholars, peacemakers, and champions of justice (including the rights of women). Ellsberg developed these additional groupings based on Jesus' words in the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the pure in spirit. . . Blessed are those who mourn. . . Blessed are the meek. . . Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. . . Blessed are the merciful. . . Blessed are the pure in heart. . . Blessed are the peacemakers. . . Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake."
Ellsberg also has a special place in his heart for laywomen who have tried to practice their faith in the realms of work, family, community, and the ordinary business of life.