Thursday 3 March 2022

A Year with the English Saints - Father Marcus Holden Editor - CTS Biographies

A Year with the English Saints
CTS Living Liturgy
Father Marcus Holden (Editor)
Father Nicholas Schofield
Father Gerard Skinner
Father Richard Whinder
ISBN 9781860828867
eISBN 9781784694098
CTS Booklet B756

A Year with the English Saints - Father Marcus Holden Editor - CTS Biographies

Over the last few years, I have read over 275 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. I recently read Father Marcus Holden’s latest, The Stations of the Cross: A Via Dolorosa, and I wanted to read more of his works, so bumped this volume towards the top of my reading list. I have been blessed, encouraged, and challenged by these wonderful resources for the Catholic Faith. This is the second I have read by Father Holden. I have picked up a few of his other offerings, I have one in eBook format that was towards the op of my reading list and 2 in physical form waiting for me to get around to them. This volume was co-written by Father Gerard Skinner, Father Nicholas Schofield,  and Father Richard Whinder The description of this booklet is:

“This booklet offers brief biographies of the saints of the English calendar as well as suggestions of places to visit in connection with each saint and quotations from the saint’s own writings. It combines familiar saints such as Thomas Beckett and Edward the Confessor with less familiar ones from the nation’s history – among them Wulstan, Alban, Etheldreda, and Hilda. Also included are brief biographies of the saints of Wales. These holy men and women remind us both of our rich native Christian heritage, and of the Church in England’s links with the wider Catholic Church.”

The chapters in this volume are:

Proper Calendar For England
Index Of Saints
Appendix: Saints Of Wales

This volumes was first published 2004 by Family Publications as Saints of the English Calendar. This revised edition published 2014 by The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society, and the eBook edition released in 2017. While reading this book I thought of two other volumes from the CTS often, they were:

Forty Martyrs of England and Wales - James Walsh - CTS Saints of the Isles Series

I also thought of some of the volumes dedicated to the Saints of the Isles. As you can tell by the chapters there is an alphabetical index of the saints outlines in this volume at the end and An Appendix of the Saints of Wales. The Saints profiled in this volume are:

St Aelred of Rievaulx
St Wulstan
St David
St Patrick
St Anselm
St George
The English Martyrs 
    (Lists all 40)
St Dunstan
St Bede the Venerable
St Augustine of Cantebury
St Boniface
St Columba
St Richard of Chichester
St Alban
St John Fisher and St Thomas More
St Etheldreda
St Oliver Plunkett
Bl. Dominic of the Mother of God
The Three Woman Martyrs: 
     Sts Margaret Clitherow
     Anne Line
     Margaret Ward
St Aidan and the Saints of Lindisfarne
St Gregory the Great
St Cuthbert
St Theodore of Canterbury
Our Lady of Walsingham
Bl. John Henry Newman (now Saint)
St Paulinus
St Wilfrid
St Edward the Confessor
Sts Chad and Cedd
St Winefride
St Willibrord
St Edmund of Abingdon
St Margaret of Scotland
St Hilda
St Hugh of Lincoln
St Andrew
St Thomas Becket

The CTS has individual biographies of many of these saints. Some of the saints in the volume were new to me. It was fascinating reading about them and their lives. It was also wonderful how the book is formatted each chapter has the same sections:

Name of Saint
If it is a Memorial or Feast
Places to visit

A sample chapter is:

9 June
St Columba
Optional Memorial

Columba (sometimes rendered as Col Cil or Colum Cille) was born in Garten in Donegal around the year 520, a son of the royal Ui Neill clan. Legend says that his birth was predicted by many earlier Irish saints. The Life of Columba, by the monk Adomnan, says that ‘From his boyhood, Colum Cille devoted himself to the Christian combat and to the search for wisdom’.

As a monk he studied under the celebrated Finnian of Clonard in County Meath. Shortly after this he founded a monastery around which the city of Derry was later to rise. The saint went on to found further monasteries all over Ireland including those at Durrow (County Offaly), Kells (County Meath) and Glencolmcille (County Donegal).

In 565, Columba left Ireland with twelve companions, travelling to Iona, an island off south-west Scotland. The exact reasons for his departure have never been clear, but his decision may have been rooted in the desire for a form of mission which was often referred to as ‘pilgrimage’, a voluntary exile for Christ. On Iona, Adomnan tells us, Columba ‘could not let even one hour pass that was not given to prayer or reading or writing or some other good work. Night and day he so unwearyingly gave himself to fasts and vigils that the burden of each single work seemed beyond the strength of man. Yet through all he was loving to everyone, his holy face was always cheerful, and in his inmost heart he was happy with the joy of the Holy Spirit.’

Adomnan, whose biography is one of the most important texts of this type from the Middle Ages, describes Columba as a tall man of powerful build and of scholarly skill and zealous commitment to God’s work. Columba converted Brude, King of the Picts; and the Irish king, Aidan of Dalriade, was consecrated by him. He founded two churches in Inverness, and his followers founded many more in the west of Scotland and the Western Isles.

His skill as a scribe may still be seen in the Cathach of Columba, a late sixth-century psalter in the Irish Academy. This skill helped sustain him as his energy waned over the last four years of his life. When he knew that death was near, he called his brothers to him, saying, ‘I commend to you, my children, these last words of mine, that you keep among you unfeigned love with peace’. Just before Matins, early next morning, while blessing his monastic community, he breathed his last.

Not by chance, in the same year that Columba died (597), a new band of missionaries, this time from the south, was arriving in Kent to begin its work of evangelisation. In a symmetry, worthy only of divine providence, St Augustine takes over where St Columba left off, proclaiming, albeit in different ways, the one Faith of Christ. As the Ionian missionary influence would continue from the north, the influence of the Roman missionaries would advance from the south. Eventually both would combine, to fulfil that great work of the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon peoples.

Although the relics of Columba were removed from Iona to Dunkeld after the repeated Viking raids in the ninth century, the island and its monastic ruin still preserve something of his memory, a place of great holiness and pilgrimage.

Places to Visit

The island of Iona, Scotland.


I commend to you, my children, these last words of mine, that you keep among you unfeigned love with peace.

From the last words of St Columba”

This was a wonderful read. I could not put it down once I started. It is a book that will inspire, encourage and challenge readers. My youngest and I are reading some chapters to help her pick a confirmation saint. And I plan on rereading it next year and following the calendar of the feasts and memorials. The book is considered part of the CTS Biographies series. And I highly recommend it!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For all other reviews of Stations of the Cross click here.

Books by Father Marcus Holden:
Apologia - Catholic answers to today's Questions
Credo: The Catholic Faith Explained
Evangelium Participant's Book: Sharing the Riches of the Catholic Faith
Faith in the Family: A Handbook for Parents
Lumen: The Catholic Gift to Civilisation
Saints of the English Calendar
The Priesthood – Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

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