What a thrill it was to open another box of review copies from Orbis Books to find inside a wonderful, enlightening, and inspiring work by Robert Ellsberg on some half-dozen yet to-be-saints! This one, titled A Living Gospel, joins his six other extraordinary works of hagiography. He is drawn to exemplary Christians who walk the paths of holiness but do so not by withdrawing from the world but by immersing themselves in the human adventure.
Ellsberg is publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and former managing editor of The Catholic Worker. He has edited the selected writings, diaries and letters of Dorothy Day whose profile and ministry is included here along with chapters on Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Flannery O' Connor, and Charles de Foucauld.
In another chapter, he looks at holy women, such as Mary Ward, founder of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who died in 1645, and Mother Theodore Guerin, founder of the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods, who died in 1856. He concludes with this observation:
"There are of course as many types of saints as there are people. Each one offers a unique glimpse of the face of God, each enlarges our moral imagination; each offers new insights into the meaning and possibilities of human life. To the extent that women's names have been forgotten, their stories left untold, their dreams, visions, and wisdom marginalized, these possibilities remain unknown and unfulfilled."
In a chapter on "A Journey Faith," he shares his own story of being inspired by the witness of Franz Jagerstatter, the sole Catholic layman executed in Austria for refusing to serve in Hitler's army. (See excerpt.) Jagerstatter is the focus of the 2019 film A Hidden Life.
A Living Gospel is a fine addition to our collection of books about saints. We especially appreciate how it connects those lives with our own.