Most Catholics think of their saints as otherworldly spiritual giants, people unspotted by the sins that plague the rest of us. But as Craughwell recounts in this lurid but frequently reverent little book, many saints have trudged hip-deep through the filthy muck of the devil's playground.

He writes of Saint Callixtus, a convict who was converted and ascended to the papacy; Saint Pelagia of Antioch, a fourth-century sex symbol who later became a hermit; Saint Moses the Ethiopian, a gangster turned monastic; Saint Alipius, Augustine's friend, obsessed with blood sports but later appointed an African bishop; and even the Irish Matt Talbot, a drunk who quit cold turkey, lived a penitential life, and became a 20th-century saint revered by Catholic alcoholics.

This book will appeal to Roman Catholics more than it will to Protestants. It contains very little on the power of the gospel and the Scriptures in the transformation of sinners into saints. Its stories attest, rather, to the power of the Blessed Virgin Mary, apparitions, and mysterious life experiences.

Still, Protestants will like it. It confirms our settled conviction that saints are also guilty sinners, only sanctified by grace. It is also fun to read. Despite its paucity of facts and overabundance of Catholic legend, it offers quite an education in the earthy, incarnational, redemptive love of God.

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