With a goal of how sainthood was “historically constructed, contested, and embodied out of the divine calls to holiness visited upon individuals,” Simon Yarrow presents a pithy introduction to the history of sainthood up to the present era with his new book The Saints: A Short History (Oxford University Press, USA). The result is a basic and yet scholarly introduction to a topic that Christians as well as those interested in religious history will find helpful.
I found, at times, Yarrow’s writing to be deep and requiring more familiarity with the topic(s) being discussed. Honestly, I had expected this book to be a brief biography of several saints and was somewhat disappointed with it not being one. However, I found a very fine brief history of the sainthood and it helped me to understand the development of Christianity from a different perspective as the cult, using the more historical definition of “religious veneration,” which formed around a variety of well-known and lesser known figures, both brought tension and adhesion to the faith as it became more organized.
An important chapter for those who wonder about the place of Mary in Catholic theology and practice is chapter 6 The Blessed Virgin Mary. Readers will find both how Mary’s sainthood developed as well as the Protestant reactions to her role and place in the faith.
I liked this book for its content and treatment of the development of the sainthood. It serves as a readable history of a key part of Christianity that continues to be expressed in both Protestant and Catholic churches… on the variety of church names which begin with… Saint.
This book would be a great book for both a focus study across the spectrum of higher education settings as well as a book for both a focused parish discussion and community book groups.
I rated The Saints: A Short History as a three-star read.
Note: I received an electronic galley copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.