Mrs. Woodfield has brought to life yet another collection of wonderful, but somewhat lesser-known, saints through beautiful stories, study questions and other projects that help older children grow to love and better understand these beautiful saints. This collection covers the lives of three canonized Saints and one very holy man who has been declared Venerable: Saint Katherine Drexel, Venerable Matt Talbot, St. Josephine Bakhita and Pope St. Pius X.
Saint Katherine Drexel, just canonized in the year 2000, is the first American born, Catholic-born saint. A wealthy Philadelphia heiress of the late 19th century, she used her fortune to found an order of sisters to run schools, convents and universities for the needy Indians of the West and the Blacks in the South. Saint Katherine is a remarkable American saint who should be known and loved widely in the United States. Surely her example will inspire young children of today to be the heroes of tomorrow.
Venerable Matt Talbot was a simple Irishman who struggled back from the darkness of serious alcoholism to lead a very holy life - in the world, but not of the world. Dublin in the latter 19th century was a difficult place for simple Irish workingmen. The oppression of the English caused great poverty and the British customs further plagued the Irish by having their salaries paid to them at the local tavern, where they were likely to spend a great deal of it for drink. By the grace of God, Matt managed to pull himself out of this oppressive lifestyle, pledging to never drink again and spending many, many hours at Church in order to avoid the deadly temptations.
St. Josephine Bakhita was born in the Sudan, Africa, in 1869. She had a very happy childhood in a loving "noble pagan" family until she was kidnapped by slave traders when she was nine. She suffered horribly but patiently from her cruel masters in Africa until she came into the possession of the Italian Consul to the Sudan. There she lived a relatively happy life caring for the daughter of the Consul until she traveled with the child and mother to Italy. In Italy she attended a Catholic school with the little girl and fell in love with Jesus. Eventually she was permitted to join an order of sisters where she led an extraordinarily holy life and inspired countless numbers of people to a deeper love for God. She spoke gratefully of her enslavement because it eventually led her to Jesus.
Pope St. Pius X was a humble Italian farm boy who went on to do great things for the church as priest, bishop, cardinal, and finally Pope. He is well-known for reforming Church music (especially by encouraging a return to the use of Gregorian Chant), exhorting people to the frequent reception of Holy Communion despite imperfections (at the time, it was common for people to receive Holy Communion only once a year because of a sort of false piety) and especially lowering the common age at which children could receive First Holy Communion. Although an understanding of the faith is certainly important for children, he saw a child's need for the grace received in Holy Communion as even more important in getting them off to a good start in their faith.
The stories are approximately twenty full-size pages each, and are illustrated with nice black and white photos and sketches. After each story is an extensive (4-5 pages each) "Lesson Activities" section designed to further analyze the story, provide vocabulary and comprehension exercises and learn more about the saint and the time in which he/she lived through geography, history and biography projects. Segments include a vocabulary list, terms to know, Comprehension Questions, "Analyze This" (Questions drawn out of the story that require additional thought and reflection on the part of the student), Essay Questions, Quotes (learning a few quotes from the saint), a Geography and History segment (project ideas relating to the saint), "Research and Report" (Possible report topics relating to the saint) and "You, the Biographer" (Contemporary or otherwise related historical figures that could be studied in conjunction with the saint's life). An Answer Key covering the Comprehension Questions is found in the back of the book.
This book would be most appropriate for upper grade school or early high school. These are by no means too mature for this age level, but certain parts of two of the stories in particular - the alcoholism struggled with by Ven. Matt Talbot and the brutality of the slave-owners of St. Josephine Bakhita - would probably not be appropriate for younger children. The text provides a great deal of engaging material relating to History, Religion and Geography as well as Reading Comprehension. Highly Recommended. Great reading for adults too!