Learning about the lives of the saints has been a challenge for parents, teachers and catechists alike for generations. This community of the canonized brings stories set against backdrops of defiance, personal vice, and conversion transformed by stunning charity, touching heroism, and passionate piety.
The Church holds their examples of triumph over self and sin as examples for us all. And in 2015, Saintnook has transformed the way we learn about them.
How? By turning the cathedral of Catholicism inside out.
CC Fr Paul Lew | Reredos, St Aloysius’, Oxford | Flickr
An Inside-Out Cathedral
Before Cathedrals became the haunts of tourists with iphones, Catholic culture ran with the most effective means of seeding inspiration and blooming the sense of reception. Within great, gaunt frames of stone, they stacked blades of colored glass like rows of heavenly swords, etched with parables and moments from Scripture. They adorned altars and edifices with paint and gold, and conducted great ceremonies beneath the silent stares of statues and paintings.
Cathedrals rivaled the 3D IMAX experience. They used compelling visuals to teach the thousands of visitors about history, Heaven and holiness.
Today, modern culture has euphorically decapitated itself, and thrown out the haloes, soul, and saints to try and scry meaning in quarks.
If beauty will save the world, then we need to get ourselves back into our cathedrals and remind ourselves that we are not alone, and the truth is in there.
Saintnook is your ecstatic tour guide to this reredos ( an altarpiece/screen behind a church altar depicting religious iconography), and our small team is working hard to transform the way we not only learn about the lives of the saints, but how we come to experience them.
CC Sanish Suresh | Santa Maria del Fiore | Flickr
A Visual Experience
The saints who touched me the most deeply have actually been the ones that I saw in movies, and the stories with illustrations. Now granted, I am an extremely visual person, and it’s only been in my later years that bare text has transfigured into wine for the soul.
But I think I can safely speak for many children also coming from the same place; beautiful visuals are the key to instilling inspiration.
Saintnook is the first website that pulls together:
- A social-network presentation for basic life details.
- In-depth Pinterest galleries packed with graphics and pictures on each saint.
- Curated Youtube playlists of biographies, homilies, music and projects for each saint.
- Saints’ biographies formatted to be easy to read aloud and alone.
- Per-saint directories of reference materials, crafts, books, multimedia and more.
- Beautiful graphics to celebrate feast days on social media
Saintnook has transformed the experience of learning about the lives of saints from text on a page to a museum that fills the imagination.
A Social Network
Social networks have added to our modes of communication, allowing strangers and best friends to share content and stories through rich, visual environments in real time.
But sometimes we fail to consider that the saints are also alive on a social network: the Communion of Saints. It’s part of our Creed every Sunday at Mass, a deeply webbed tapestry of connections between every single human being alive in the grace of God. That includes the Saints in Heaven and Purgatory, and we Earthlings joined in the Mystical Body of Christ. Even people not joined are able to be affected, depending on their state of union with Christ. (More information on the NewAdvent Encyclopedia entry.)
Saintnook brings these worlds together. Each month, new saints are featured in a Facebook-like network. They are searchable, have friends, join groups, and post updates to their activity feeds.
But because they’re not actually here, we’re doing it for them. ;)
In Saintnook, we’ve chosen to connect the saints with all saints they knew during their lifetime, and whom they might have known because they lived in the same time period. This makes for a fascinating immersion in their lives and in history.
Saintnook also organizes them into groups according to topic and theme. When we have more, this aspect will develop and be another exciting way to explore the saints and discover new connections between them.
Each saint has their own profile with cover art, avatar and biographical information. You can navigate their profiles through tabs; Activity, Profile, Directory, Friends, Groups, Gallery.
Right on their ‘Profile’ page, we have included for you handy buttons to their Biography, Pinterest board, Playlist, and social media graphics that you can share.
Our vision is to put everything you want to know – and didn’t know was available – in one nook, a saint’s nook.
Children’s books are rife with illustrations, and the saints are rich resources of paintings and stained glass windows. Each saint is given their own board on Pinterest, and we spend hours each month scouring the internet for some of the best images to share with your children and your students.
Each one is carefully tagged with the saint’s name and a link to their profile on Saintnook. If you want to know more about the artwork, just click the image and Pinterest will redirect you to the original website, where you can read more, or download the image in its original quality.
A selection of these images is available through the ‘Gallery’ tab on each profile.
Video is one of the most powerful medium of our century, and our team works hard each month to search Youtube for trailers, biographies, cultural insights and reviews of the saints lives. Then we group them into playlists so that you don’t have to go anywhere.
We’ve even embedded them on Saintnook, so that you can watch these inspirational videos without having to search Youtube for them.
One of the biggest complaints is bad typography in books and online, and today, a paragraph that lasts three pages is a skipped paragraph.
With that in mind, each month we re-format a biography and break it up by adding a menu, subtitles, and simpler paragraphs so that its easier to read either on your devices or when printed. Where possible, we try to share with you a version of their lives filled with anecdotes and stories.
To quote a saint biographer;
It is the little details of a man’s life that give it character, and impress themselves on the memory. People forget the age and parentage of S. Gertrude, but they remember the mouse running up her staff.
Each saint has a custom-written bio that tries to capture their lives and the spirit of their ministry. Short and sweet, they are great for use on social media and in bulletins.
Quite possibly one of the biggest and most exciting parts about Saintnook is our directories. Each month, our team
- Researches online for further reading, in case you want to know more details or insights from popular websites like WordonFire, Catholic.org, NewAdvent, EWTN and others.
- Looks for available books of the saints, or books written by them.
- Checks for crafts and creative projects to bring fun and education to the home or classroom.
- Looks for available products for sale across the internet, such as medals, paintings, candles, and much, much more.
- Whips up a selection of recipes to add some spice to your saint’s day festivities.
- Adds any available multimedia such as films, audio recordings or podcasts.
Available through each saint’s profile is a ‘Directory’ tab that will show you everything we’ve been able to find. The internet is a very big place, and the Saintnook team is very small, so our Directories are starting small by bringing you an overview to start your search.
If you are following us on Pinterest or Facebook, then you can celebrate our featured saints on their feast days with our Saintnook graphics. They are meant to be mini-versions of their more expansive profiles on Saintnook.
To enrich your sharing experience on social media, we include their feast date, bios, an inspirational quote, and a link to their profile on Saintnook.
How You Can Help
We are always happy to have more people involved in the team! As you can see, Saintnook is a labor of love which our team members do in their spare time. You can help by
- Adopting a Saint – for free!
- Sending us links for our directories!
- Suggesting ideas, comments and critiques (praise is always welcome!)
- Helping us write our biographies for saints.
Transforming the Way We Learn About Saints
Saintnook has pioneered a new experience for learning about the lives of the saints. By focusing on a visual presentation, we invite our visitors and students to get to know the saints on their own terms, and through the lenses of countless artists and media.
We’re grateful that you’re here, and hope that you’ll follow Saintnook as we continue to bring the saints to life in this digital continent.
Because the coolest thing about the saints is that they’re always online.
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by Dominic de Souza
Dominic is the founder and chief designer of SaintNook. Married and blessed with a little girl, he hopes that SaintNook will still be cool when she grows up and wants to start learning about the lives of the saints. By day, he’s a mild-mannered graphic designer, and by
night 5:00am he’s inventing crazy ideas to share his love of faith, family and novel-writing. His author site is CatholicAuthor.us.