Book review: The Courage of Their Convictions - Stories of Inspirational Men and Women of Faith, by Gemma Grant

Courage Of Their Convictions by Gemma Grant is published by Veritas.
Courage Of Their Convictions by Gemma Grant is published by Veritas.

The Courage of Their Convictions - Stories of Inspirational Men and Women of Faith

By Gemma Grant

Published by Veritas, €14.99

THIS collection of stories details the enormous contribution made by male and female religious and laity to the world. Through evangelisation, good example and tremendous personal courage, their efforts have marked many of them out for sainthood.

From humble beginnings in a troubled Italian American home, Mother Angelica, went on to establish EWTN - a global network that began life in the garage of her convent. Her continued battles with bishops and cardinals for control of the network led her to inform one bishop in true Sicilian fashion: "I'll blow the darn thing up before you get your hands on it."

Pope Pius XII - erroneously referred to as 'Hitler's Pope' - is depicted here in a very different light. While criticised for not speaking out more against Nazi atrocities during the Second World War, behind the scenes he was working with the allies and helping to save the lives of countless Jews.

Hollywood actress Dolores Hart gave Elvis his first onscreen kiss. While still in her twenties, and with a promising acting career ahead of her, Dolores turned her back on Hollywood to become a Benedictine nun.

Closer to home, Fr Hugh O'Flaherty, known as 'The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican', founded the Rome Escape Line. His organisation saved countless Jews and Allies from Nazi oppression. He even managed to convert his one-time nemesis, Herbert Kappler - head of Rome's notorious Gestapo.

Sister Blandina earned the title, 'The Fastest Nun in the West'. While attempting to set up schools and hospitals in the American Wild West of the 1800s, she struck up an unlikely friendship with a notorious outlaw.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was television's first Catholic evangelist. His political astuteness and prophetic vision warned of the dangers of the Red Peril - Russia - at a time when America looked on Russia as an ally against German fascism. His keen insight brought him to the attention of the FBI who opened a file on him and closely followed his political comments.

Dorothy Day was considered one of the most remarkable American women and social reformers of the 20th century. Dorothy went from Marxist revolutionary to Catholic social reformer.

Many of the people discussed in this book have inspired films, TV series, books and plays. Jesuit priests who performed an exorcism on a young boy in America in 1949 could scarcely imagine their work would inspire one of the most revered horror movies of all time: The Exorcist.

As soldiers of Christ, these brave men and women took up their cross to overcome insurmountable obstacles, inspiring many followers and making their lives worth remembering.