In Radical Saints: 21 Women for the 21st Century, Melanie Rigney profiles 21 women who lived during the 20th century and were canonized in the 21st century. Saints can often seem far removed from us, depicted in statues and stained-glass windows. In contrast, these women from around the globe lived in our own modern times.
Why are these women “radical”? Rigney explains, “Is there anything more radical than loving God with your entire being and loving your neighbor as yourself? . . .These women . . . got that. They lived it, and they didn’t care whether it cost them earthly love or respect.”
Each of the 21 chapters includes a brief description of that woman’s radical gift, a short biography, true stories of modern women attempting to live their own version of that particular gift (in a few cases, Rigney shares her own efforts to live out these gifts), reflection questions for private or group use, and a list of additional resources to learn more about each saint. It would have been helpful if the resources had included website addresses. As is, finding the recommended resources will require some additional internet searching. Still, it is helpful to know where to start looking for more information.
Some of these women will no doubt be familiar to readers such as Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), Jacinta Marto (one of the seers of Our Lady of Fatima), and Maria Faustina Kowalska (St. Faustina of the Divine Mercy Message).
Many of the others are relative unknowns. For example. St. Dulce Pontes served the poor in Brazil and was known as the “good angel of Bahia”. She was nominated two times for the Nobel Peace Prize. St. Laura Montoya Upegui spent thirty years in the jungle as a missionary. She was a fried to those others considered less than human. St. Anna Schäffer wanted to be a missionary, but a tragic accident left her bedridden. She adjusted her vocation to her new circumstances and reached out to others through her sewing, writing, and listening ear.
Several of the profiled women began religious orders. These include St. Giuseppina Vannini who began the Daughters of St. Camillus and St. Genoveva Torres Morales who began the community of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Holy Angels.
Each of these women has a lesson to teach us. Reading of their faith and trust in God is inspiring. It may even encourage us to also live our lives in a “radical” way, putting God first in all that we do.
Radical Saints by Melanie Rigney is an excellent book for private reading or for use with a Catholic women’s book group.