Friday Book Pick: The Saints in My Life by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.
Every year as the heat of summer cools into crisp autumn days, Holy Mother Church calls to memory the lives of the saints, known and unknown. All Saints Day is celebrated on November 1st in the Latin Rite and on the Sunday after Pentecost in the East.
Perhaps you too may have noticed that the Solemnity of All the Saints starts to become more significant as your own friendship with particular saints deepen. If you happen to have actually known a saint, this too makes the day all the more interesting and personal.
†Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, lived a long enough life to “befriend” a good number of saints. In The Saints in My Life, Father tells of his favorites—his best friends in Heaven. The book could have been twice as long as its 201 pages, but Father sticks to his most beloved friends.
You won’t be surprised that St. Francis of Assisi has his own chapter, as does St. Clare, and those of you who knew Fr. Benedict would expect a chapter on St. Augustine of Hippo, whom Father Benedict considered “his teacher,” and you won’t be disappointed! He also treats the “great” St. Catherine of Siena, and the lesser-known St. Catherine of Genoa, whom he loved for her insights into Purgatory. There is a chapter on St. Peter Canisius and on St. John of the Cross and, of course St. Benedict Joseph Labré, the little-known vagabond saint after whom Fr. Benedict took his name in religious life. And there are half a dozen other heavenly friends treated in this delightful book as well.
The Saints in My Life is interesting on many levels, not least of which is the insight it provides into Fr. Benedict’s spirituality. It is a kind of memoir of Fr. Benedict’s personal devotions. For example, in the chapter on St. Teresa of Avila, Father reveals the fascination he had with the saints from the time he was a little boy, cloistered saints in particular, and that St. Teresa of Avila was for him “the summit” of them all. He goes on to reveal how it wasn’t until he traveled to Avila that he encountered St. Teresa as a real person of flesh and blood—an actual human person with an earthly life; and he reveals how later still, in the beginnings of the Community, he experienced her friendship rekindled as he set out to do something not unlike what she did: begin a renewal.
In the chapter on his patron, St. Benedict Joseph Labré, we see Father as a young 17-year-old novice sitting at the refectory table in the Capuchin novitiate, listening attentively to the reading during dinner, and realizing the man he was hearing about was going to be an important part of his life. And so it came to pass.
In the chapter on St. Augustine, Fr. Benedict takes us back to his teenage years, when at 14 he read The Confessions for the first time and “stopped dead in his tracks,” so moved was he by the famous words, “O God, Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Father would go on to read and reread The Confessions throughout his life, untold times. I have vivid memories from my own novitiate, when Fr. Benedict would teach us novices on the rocky shore-line of the Long Island Sound. The waves would break on the rocks as Fr. Benedict recited long passages of The Confessions to us by heart—unfalteringly, as if he could see the pages with his mind’s eye. This 4th-century saint affected Father’s life deeply and remained, along with St. Francis of Assisi, the most important saint in his life.
Good friends are the bread and the wine of life—the sustenance and the cheer. If the “good friends” also happen to be saints, they are means of profound inspiration and ongoing intercession. Who would fill the pages of your saint memoir if you were to write it? I have an idea of some of the friends who would be in mine, and one chapter would have to be reserved for the author of The Saints in My Life.
Mother Clare, CFR
"Without devotion to the saints my life would have been impoverished. It would have been like a life without friends." - Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR