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St. Eugene de Mazenod: A Saint for Today - A Reveiw

One of the things I love to do when I have some time to myself is to read. I study English at school, and even though my concentration is Writing and Rhetoric, reading is what makes a good writer. I used to be the girl who read at the dinner table and who brought far too many books with her on weekend trips because she was afraid of running out. My reading has since slowed down tremendously, but I do still try to keep it up, and it helps to keep me sane.

So when I posted a picture of my latest read on my Instagram story and asked if my followers wanted to read a review, I was really happy to see that 100% of people who responded would!

Today we’re going to be chatting about St. Eugene de Mazenod: A Saint for Today, by Alex R. Hey (link to Amazon listing here (not sponsored or an affiliate link)) . First though, I want to chat about how I found St. Eugene, or rather, how he found me.

Near the end of 2019, I was starting to reflect on what I wanted 2020 to look like. For the last few years, I had used Jennifer Fulwiler’s Saints Name Generator and Word of the Year Generator to pick a saint and word to guide my year, if you will. I have really loved getting to know the saints over the last several years, and so picking one as a patron of the year was a no-brainer.

When I went to pick my saint for the year, I wasn’t expecting anything groundbreaking. Though the Holy Spirit can work through any means He chooses, I thought a computer program was kind of an unlikely choice. I was wrong. I clicked the buttons and anxiously read the name of my saint for 2020. St. Eugene de Mazenod. Who is he? I read that he was the patron saint of dysfunctional families and was instantly intrigued. I didn’t know such a saint even existed. In an age where everyone loves Sts. Zelie and Louis Martin, the parents of St. Therese, it didn’t seem likely to me that a patron of dysfunctional families existed. So I took a screenshot of the page and did moved on.

Later, I googled St. Eugene. I wasn’t instantly enthralled, or bombarded with links to blog posts about why everyone loved him. This didn’t surprise me though, I had never heard of him. I read little bits and pieces about him on the internet, but wanted to dive a little deeper.

I forgot about him until March, before Lent began. I was ordering books online and was looking for another to round out my gift card purchase. I suddenly remembered St. Eugene and typed his name in the Amazon search bar, and came across several results, but ultimately decided on Eugene de Mazenod: A Saint for Today.

The book is a typical biography of a saint, and includes several prayers in the back, which I thought was a lovely addition, especially because St. Eugene is less well-known.

St. Eugene’s life was… intense. He was born before the French Revolution, and as a noble, had to flee with his family for his life. He lived in Italy for a good portion of his life, eventually returning to France to live with his mother, who had divorced his father years earlier. He had an early sense of his priestly vocation as a child and entered the seminary. After he was ordained, he lived a life of radical virtue. He founded an organization of young boys as a youth group, and preached to them such that others came to listen. He founded the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and eventually became a bishop, living to serve the poor.

I was really excited to read about St. Eugene’s life, and was fascinated by his story. Hey did a good job of incorporating St. Eugene’s writings into his own, but I found that his telling of the story lacked the intrigue I felt when I had first learned about it. The writing was flat. As I continued to read, I was bored by Hey’s telling of the saint’s life. I wanted to hear more about the dysfunction of Eugene’s family, and practically everything else. I wanted more detail than was provided. This isn’t entirely Hey’s fault as a writer; there aren’t a lot of books or other resources on St. Eugene.

The most interesting part of the whole book to me was the beginning, where Hey talks about St. Eugene’s early life, and his time spent in Italy. This was so fascinating to me that I would read it again just for that.

One thing that was additionally frustrating to me was how Hey talked about St. Eugene’s fiery spirit. As a very passionate person myself, the implication that such a personality was an inherent flaw caused me to feel slightly scrupulous about my own spunky traits. This wouldn’t be a huge issue if the writing were a little clearer, but I didn’t find that Hey explained Eugene’s spunk enough for me to put it in the category of something to overcome, a vice. After all, there are plenty of saints who have fiery and passionate spirits. This was one aspect of the book that was confusing to me and caused me to have more questions about St. Eugene than were answered.

Overall, Eugene de Mazenod: A Saint for Today, was simply a mediocre read, though it did give me more information about the saint in question than I had prior. Would I read this book again? Maybe. Did it answer all the questions I had about this saint? No. Will I be looking for other books about St. Eugene in the future? Yes. Is it worth your time? Perhaps. I won’t go out of my way to not recommend it, because it does have its good points, and if you want to get to know St. Eugene, this might be good for you. But it didn’t satisfy me the way I hoped it might.

Overall rating: 3 stars out of 5.

St. Eugene de Mazenod, pray for us.

Links in this post are not affiliate links. I was not paid or compensated in any way for my review of this product.

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