YOUNG FACES OF HOLINESS:
Modern Saints in Photos and Words
by Ann Ball
(Our Sunday Visitor, 2004, 223pp, $19. Available from AD Books)
There will always be the classic biographies of pious saints from the early Church and the Middle Ages providing inspiration for many young readers, but one must not forget that today's young Catholics are growing up in a world alienated from many Christian values and one in which the concepts of sacrifice and unconditional love are largely foreign.
Young people need contemporary role models of young Catholics who were proud to say they stood for Christ and His Church even to the point of giving their lives for their faith.
With her new book Young Faces of Holiness: Modern Saints In Photos And Words, Ann Ball has provided a treasury of examples for this generation to emulate.
These stories of courageous and devoted Catholics will win over any reader, but especially younger people, as they depict not only lives lived with great spirit and for God, but they also highlight how many of these holy people struggled with temptations similar to our own. Rather than presenting mere mortals as being above impulsiveness, impatience and laziness, Ball tells of Blessed Jacinta Marto, who despite receiving visions from Our Lady at Fatima, was still a sore loser when it came to playing games and would sulk and pout if she lost to one of her friends.
In contrast, the serene acceptance and resignation to the will of God shown by the little Brazilian Lucas do Rocha Silva, who died a nine-year-old victim to cancer, when he wrote, "I am a fighter, and God will give me strength ... I hope I am going to win this battle. I thank God for my existence," shows a young person that the way to sanctity can merely be one of offering up pain, no matter how great or small, for the glory of God. The accompanying photo of a smiling little boy with an amputated leg, wearing the uniform of his favourite Brazilian Formula One race driver, shows not only his inner peace, but also gives the reader a hint of one who loved life and was determined to live it to the full.
Ball does not make the common mistake of viewing these people with "rose coloured glasses", but rather uses their weaknesses to show how with prayer, sacrifice and the grace of God one can overcome temptation, and if one falls, that God's infinite mercy and unconditional love mean He will forgive us. As St Paul wrote, "If God is with us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:29).
This is recommended reading for any Catholic seeking a positive influence in today's largely secular society. It will particularly appeal to secondary school students with its simple, yet realistic stories and accompanying photos of young people who stood firm for God in the face of illness, family opposition and even civil war. It offers the hope of Christ, inspiring us to forge along the path to sanctity, for as a wise priest once said, "One must become a saint to enter Heaven, for everyone in Heaven is a saint."
Jacinta Cummins is a Melbourne journalist working with the National Civic Council.