Book Review: 'My Badass Book of Saints: Courageous Women Who Showed Me How to Live' by Maria Morera Johnson

Yes, this book caught my attention just like yours. I’d never associated those two words together before; ‘badass’ and ‘saints’.

This excerpt from the intro sets the stage well:

Maria Morera Johnson, a college professor with degrees in literature and education, is a self-declared fan of the sci-fi and superhero genres. She knows how to tell a good story, yet My Badass Book of Saints: Courageous Women Who Showed Me How to Live  proves she knows truth from fiction. Her stories describe real-life women (and saints!) who faced down outlaws in the Old West, genocide in Rwanda, convicts in a Tijuana prison, and oppressive regimes in Europe an Cuba.

In diving into the book, it proves to be an inspiring biography riveted to the real-life experiences of women saints. We’re familiar with a number of them already, and Maria’s cornucopia of character sketches serves as an interesting backdrop to her own trials and questions.

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We’re fortunate to have Maria answer a couple of questions for Saintnook:

Saintnook: What inspired you to write this book?

Maria Morera JohnsonMaria: This book was born in a Facebook comment. I posted the breaking news about Sister Blandina Segale’s cause for canonization being opened, along with a comment that the world needs more gun-toting nuns. I don’t think Sr. Blandina actually carried a gun although maybe she did.

I was responding to the idea that women need role models of courage like what spunky Sr. Blandina demonstrated. And then I realized that all the saints had that kind of courage, I was just stuck looking at a one-dimensional holy card that didn’t capture their humanity. That’s where I was stuck — in my humanity, and my inability to see beyond the holy card to their humanity.

But once I was able to find these human connections, it opened up new relationships for me with the saints. I wanted to share that with my readers — my journey to discovering I have a lot in common with saints – and how that opened up my potential to embrace my own quest for holiness.

I want my readers to see my experiences, and embrace their own quest for holiness.

Saintnook: Why do you associate ‘badass’ with the saints? :)

Maria: First, thank you for the opportunity to discuss badass in the context of the book. The title either gets a laugh or puts off some people, so I thought I’d share my explanation from the introduction: badass is a loose translation of a word in Spanish, tremenda, which denotes boldness, brashness, a formidable personality.

Because I was raised bilingually, I have a sensitivity for broad definitions of words that sometimes translate well, and other times, perhaps get lost in translation. Badass, or rather, tremenda, falls into the latter case. I think the saints I share in this book have that element of formidable, to-be-reckoned-with personalities that gave them the strength and courage to do what they did.

St. Teresa of Avila almost single-handedly founded convents after age 50; St. Joan of Arc influenced the outcome of battles as a maiden; St. Catherine of Siena told a pope that he needed to get back to Rome to do his work. St. Rita of Cascia brought a violent family feud to a peaceful conclusion. These are some amazing feats.

When you add the incredible bravery of the women I include, such as Nancy Ward, a WW II resistance fighter, and Mother Antonia Brenner, who left life as a Beverly Hills socialite for a prison ministry in Tijuana, Mexico — well, badass fits as a description.

Saintnook: Who are your top 3 favorite saints?

Maria: My top three saints in this book are:

St. Teresa of Avila, who is my patron saint. I find so many things connecting me to her. First, there is a family tie through my mother’s education by Carmelite nuns, and then later, an appreciation for her desire to reform the Carmelites.

St. Rose of Lima, whose work with the sick and marginalized speak deeply to me.

and St. Christina the Astonishing, for whom very little is known. Unlike other Saints who may have led model lives, St. Christina’s life was wrought with misunderstanding and quite possibly, mental illness. I am moved by her desire to pray for and offer up her suffering for the souls in purgatory.

Saintnook: Who do you think will enjoy your ‘My Badass Book of Saints’ most?

Maria: This book is my story — sometimes stumbling, sometimes headstrong, sometimes completely open and trusting. I turned to the Saints to help me find role models, and I hope, through this book, women recognize their unique stories and are encouraged to seek their own role models from the rich communion of saints.

It’s definitely not for a scholarly approach to the saints, but rather, a morsel, a friendly introduction to a collection of Saints and could-be saints that inspire my faith journey.

I think this book speaks strongest to those women who are seeking a deeper connection with their faith but are taking small or tentative steps because of a number of reasons, perhaps many of the reasons I share.

Order your copy of ‘My Badass Book of Saints’!

Maria Johnson Invokes the Bravery and Courage of Holy Women

NOTRE DAME, Ind.—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 Segal, 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.

About Maria Morera Johnson

Maria Morera Johnson is a blogger and cohost of SPQN’s Catholic Weekend. She is a composition and literature professor and director of English learning support at Georgia Piedmont Technical College, working with nontraditional students in innovative success initiatives. She has received a number of awards for teaching.

She speaks on behalf of and consults with several organizations, including St. Vincent de Paul (Vincentians). Johnson helped organize the Catholic New Media Conference. Johnson often presents at national education conferences to encourage women in non-traditional fields to pursue their educational goals.

Johnson is a native of Cuba. Her first book, Confessions of a Middle-Aged Cubanita, was self-published. She and her, husband, John, have three grown children and live in Conyers, Georgia.

Order your copy of ‘My Badass Book of Saints’![no_toc]

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