Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Review: My Badass Book of Saints

My Badass Book of Saints Maria Morera Johnson

About the Book:

In this edgy, honest, and often audacious book of Catholic spirituality, blogger and popular podcaster Maria Morera Johnson explores the qualities of twenty-four holy women who lived lives of virtue in unexpected and often difficult circumstances.

In My Badass Book of Saints, Johnson shares her experience as a first-generation Cuban-American, educator of at-risk college students, and caregiver for a husband with Lou Gehrig's disease. Through humorous, empowering, and touching portraits of twenty-four spiritual mentors who inspired her, Johnson shows how their bravery, integrity, selflessness, perseverance, and hope helped her and can help others have courage to reach for a closer connection to God.

She presents remarkable holy women and saints--including the gun-toting Servant of God Sr. Blandina Segale who tried to turn the heart of Billy the Kid, and Nazi resister Irena Sendler who helped smuggle children out of the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II--in a way that brings their vivid personalities to life and helps readers live out the challenges of their lives with virtue and conviction. The book includes a group discussion guide.

My Comments:

In My Badass Book of Saints, Maria Johnson talks about how she grew up seeing the saints as flat figures shown on holy cards, not as real women who were like her--and who she could be like. My Badass Book of Saints covers not only canonized (officially recognized) saints but also some women who have not, and probably will not be canonized--actress Audrey Hepburn, author Flannery O'Connor and photographer Dorothea Lange.  

Each chapter has a theme.  First, Johnson tells a story from her own life that deals with that theme.  Next she discusses two saints, one of whom lived relatively recently and one who lived long ago and is canonized.  For example, one chapter is on seeking peace and reconciliation.  First, Johnson talks about a cousin of hers who was a religious sister and who went to Rwanda to work after the genocide there in the 1990's.  The two "saints" in this chapter are Immaculee Ilibagiza  who spent weeks during the genocide hiding with other women in a small bathroom and who forgave her attackers and St. Rita of Cascia who forgave her abusive husband and those who killed him.  Each chapter concludes with reflection questions, making this a good book to use for a women's group.  Questions for this chapter include defining "peacemaker" and naming a women in your life who meets that definition.  Readers are also asked to think of times when they were peacemakers, and how that made them feel.

All the saints mentioned are women, and this book is clearly directed at women.  Johnson's style is conversational; I can imagine her telling those stories to her girlfriends over lattes or margaritas.  Non-Catholics often wonder about Catholic's devotion to the saints.  Even putting aside for a moment the power of their intercessory prayer, the saints are great role models.  It sounds like Johnson is about my age and I know as a girl growing up in the 1960's and 1970's I scoured the library bookshelves for stories about girls and women who actually did something; who were interested in more than just romance.  When we see those pious-looking figures on holy cards, it is easy to forget that while prayer may have been the fuel, action is what got these ladies noticed, and that we are all called to act in many ways throughout our lives.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  You can read more about Maria Johnson and some badass saints on her blog.  Grade:  B+


  1. What an interesting sounding book. It sounds very inspiring and a reminder that we can all make a difference.

  2. I enjoyed this book as well. One of the books I read while on our cruise last week


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