My Badass Book of Saints" in the mail, I tossed it aside after looking at the cover. I mean, really, how horrible a title! How could I possibly endorse this book?
And there the book sat, waiting in the review pile until I read an interview with the author on CatholicMom.com. In that interview Maria Morera Johnson, who is Cuban American, explained that the title was an English translation of the Spanish word tremenda, a word with many meanings that doesn't translate easily.
In the introduction to the book, she explains further. "It translates as bold. Daring. Fearless. Smart. Courageous. In a lot of cases, it can be used as a modifier to express both judge-y disdain and profound admiration." In short, it describes my own spirited strong-willed little Latina girl perfectly. Apparently, we needed a Spanish word to describe her! And so, she is now, and most likely always be tremenda. While I am the person least likely to be referred to as a badass ever, I read this book in my daughter's honor, because she needs holy role models.
As Johnson shares, "I longed to find role models who matched my own approach to life - saints with boisterous laughs and quick tongues that sometimes got them in trouble, women unafraid to be themselves and say what was on their mind, even if they ruffled a few feathers." She found twenty-four women who fit the description.
In each chapter, she pairs a modern-day holy but not canonized woman with a recognized saint. They are grouped by their defining characteristic. For example, Sr. Blandina Segale and St. Teresa of Avila are "Audacious Sisters Who Acted Fearlessly" while Phyllis Bowman and St. Gianna Beretta Molla are "Valiant Women Who Lived and Died to Uphold Human Dignity."
Johnson, an educator of at-risk college students, mother of adult children, and caretaker for a husband with Lou Gehrig's disease has learned lessons from each of these women. She shares her own stories and how these women have helped shape her life. She invites each of us to learn from them as well.
Despite the title, this book is well-worth reading. I learned a great deal in its pages about inspiring women I had not previously heard of. Johnson's personal story also tugged at my heart, bringing me to tears in several pages. If you have young children who are able to read and you don't want them to see the title of this book, I would suggest an old paper bag book cover or perhaps reading the e-version.
CatholicMom.com is currently running a book club featuring this book called "Saints in 16." It's not too late to take part. You can find out more here: http://catholicmom.com/saints-in-16-book-club/