November kicks off with one of my favorite feasts of the liturgical year — the feast of All Saints Day. On November 1, we celebrate all of the saints in heaven, known and unknown. It’s a great opportunity for Catholics around the world to lean back with their favorite devotions, renew relationships with their favorite intercessors and discover new saints. As an avid reader, my favorite way to do this is to reach for biographies and autobiographies that will make the saints come alive.
The Best Compilations
If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are a few of my favorite books that contain short biographies about many different saints to help you.
The Saints in My Life by Father Benedict Groeschel
One of my favorite books on the topics of saints, Father Benedict Groeschel’s book The Saints in my Life is perfect for those looking to find their own patron saint or broaden their saint posse. If you’ve always struggled to understand the concept of the communion of saints on a personal level, let Father Benedict walk you through his process. In each chapter, he’ll introduce you to a new saint, share his first encounter with them and explain how their friendship shaped his life.
My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell
Part memoir, part saint biography, this gem of a book is a must for saintly reads. In beautiful prose, Campbell recounts her personal spiritual journey, struggles included, alongside the stories and lives of the six women who guided her — St. Teresa of Avila, St. Faustina Kowalska, St. Edith Stein, St. Therese, Mother Teresa, and Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Campbell’s writing will make these women come alive for you and help you deepen your own relationship with them as a result.
Married Saints and Blesseds Through the Centuries by Father Ferdinand Holbock
I first encountered this book in college on the shelf of two friends of mine and was shocked by it — I had never known that so many saints and blesseds were married! As a young woman who felt called to married life, this was encouraging information to have stumbled upon. Today, this book sits on my own shelf, a ready resource when I need intercession.
Father Holbock compiles short biographies of over 200 married saints so you’ll be sure to find someone who has had a similar experience. And while each biography is short, you’ll find them a great jumping-off point for more research and reading when you find someone who speaks to your heart.
Set the World on Fire by Vinita Hampton Wright
Written by one of my favorite authors, Set the World on Fire is part biography, part devotional. You’ll learn about the lives of the four female doctors of the Church and pray with pieces of their works. Hampton Wright does a masterful job relaying the distinct personalities of these powerhouse saints while also making them accessible to those of us still struggling to find our path. I love the effortless way she weaves prayer, meditation and information together in this devotional.
The format is simple, so don’t let the four-week length deter you. I found the length of each daily meditation just perfect for me as a busy mom. There was enough for me to chew on throughout the day, but not so much that I felt like I was overwhelmed.
The Best Book Biographies of a Single Saint
If you’re looking for a new saint to get to know in greater depth, here are my favorite books about a single saint.
St. Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset
This incredible work of narrative non-fiction will bring St. Catherine to life off the page. Sigrid Undset’s depth of research into this lioness of the faith shows in her ability to capture St. Catherine’s essence in both the small and large moments of her life. This is probably the best biography I have ever read, and though it’s long, the pages just fly by. I was finished far sooner than I was ready to be.
The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run by Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda
Blessed Stanley Rother was a new saint to me this past year. I discovered him while doing book research and was blown away by his story. The first American-born priest martyr, Bl. Stanley grew up in Oklahoma, a simple midwestern kid from an ordinary family. He grew up to become a missionary in Guatemala, changing thousands of lives along the way. This biography by Scaperlanda is a must for learning about Bl. Stanley. It’s informative without being dense, and makes Bl. Stanley an incredibly relatable intercessor.
Padre Pio: The True Story, by C. Bernard Ruffin
St. Padre Pio is a perennial favorite amongst Catholics, myself included. I’ve read more Padre Pio biographies than I can count, and this one is my favorite because I think it captures the essence of this complicated saint. Interestingly C. Bernard Ruffin wasn’t a Catholic, and I think that is what makes this biography stand out amongst the rest. Sometimes when a saint is as revered as Padre Pio, a biographer will smooth out their rough edges and gloss over faults, quirks or incidents that make them appear less than heroic. Ruffin doesn’t do this, and so in this book, the reader learns about times when Padre Pio was grouchy, frustrated and impatient, as well as when his behavior was saintly.
Ruffin’s depth of research is stunning — he conducted dozens of interviews with those who knew Padre Pio and he had access to Vatican documents as well, making this one of the most thorough biographies I’ve ever read.
Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux
While I love reading about the saints, I love even more reading their own words. St. Therese has become a dear friend of mine over the years, since I first read her autobiography, Story of a Soul, as a young missionary. I was shocked to find that my preconceptions about her were dead wrong. Far from being a blushing violet, sweet and simpering as she can sometimes be portrayed, I found a young woman of fierce love, steadfast devotion and determination that outmatched anyone else I had read about. In short, I found a saint that challenged me in ways I wasn’t expecting.
Written under obedience to her superior, who also happened to be her dearly beloved sister, Story of a Soul is intimate and conversational. Therese speaks of her life experiences with refreshing openness and honesty. If reading the work of a saint themself is new to you, I highly recommend starting with Therese.
Happy reading this November! I hope that you find a new saintly friend in the process!