Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Book Review: African Saints, African Stories: 40 Holy Men and Women by C. L. Brown

African Saints, African Stories: 40 Holy Men and Women by Camille Lewis Brown, Ph. D.

The history of Catholicism in Africa dates all the way back to New Testament times, when Deacon Philip baptized an Ethiopian official of the Nubian queen (cf. Acts 8). This book gives brief biographies of thirty saints, blesseds, and venerables, along with ten more "saints in waiting," for whom the cause of canonization (the official process whereby the Catholic Church declares someone a saint) has not been opened yet.

The book covers a wide swath of history, starting with saints from the 200s AD all the way to the 1900s. Some are naturally more famous, such as Saint Augustine, his mother Saint Monica, and Saint Josephine Bakhita. Some are more obscure, such as Saint Julia of Carthage (a Christian slave martyred in the fifth century) and Saint Moses the Black (so named for the infamous life of crime he lived before his conversion experience). My favorite was Father Augustine Derricks (1887-1929), a San Dominican Protestant who came to America to fight Catholicism. He met a Catholic family in Washington, D.C., and was impressed by the children's faith. He eventually became Catholic and went to Rome for seminary. He came back to America, where he served in an Italian parish and was accepted quite easily since he learned fluent Italian during his studies! The book lists these men and women in alphabetical order, so the different historical periods are jumbled together.

The book is designed for devotional reading, so the jumble is not jarring. Each person has a brief biography (one to four pages), a relevant Scripture verse, a prayer to that person, and a reflection question for further meditation. The book ends with a list of the feast days for the saints (in calendar order), a litany to all the African saints (six pages long!), and the usual bibliography, notes, and index.

This was a quick read and a good companion piece to books like Fearless: Stories of American Saints and English Catholic Heroines.

Highly recommended.

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