This is the third and final installment of my review of Saints Preserved: An Encyclopedia of Relics by Thomas J. Craughwell from Image Catholic Books (an imprint of Random House). In this post, I’ll include some of my personal thoughts.
First, I can see how this book may prove very beneficial for me in the parish setting in which I work. One of my responsibilities in my parish is to help with the RCIA program. RCIA is the process through which either an unbaptized person or person baptized in another Christian tradition becomes Catholic. Both of these groups of people must receive the sacrament of confirmation. As a part of that sacrament they choose saint names as confirmation names. Saints Preserved is a book that I know I can provide as a resource for those choosing their saint names in this process because it contains large quantities of valuable information about the saints.
Second, I think Saints Preserved may prove a valuable resource for Catholic travelers. The book points out important shrines and relics in different areas of the globe. These might be places that Catholic travelers would like to visit if they are on vacation or even can squeeze in on a business trip. One addition that might have been helpful in this regard would have been an index by regions in the back of the book. However, I think it would be easy enough to Google “Catholic Saints Region-X” and look in this encyclopedia to see if there might be shrines in a particular place.
Third, from a brief Amazon search and a perusal of some of the reviews at the beginning of the book, this text does appear to be one of a kind. If you have an interest in relics, this is the book for you, not least of all because there are no other comprehensive encyclopedic or dictionary type resources you can consult. That’s not to say that the author didn’t do an excellent job, only to say, even if he didn’t you’d still need to buy this book.
Finally, I’ll close with my one qualm with the book. The text lacks some details in terms of controversies surrounding relics. I realize that relics are a mostly part of the personal piety of a lot of Catholics. But, from my own standpoint, I’m very interested in some of the information regarding those controversies. The easiest example would be the entry on the Shroud of Turin. Craughwell does make mention of the controversies surrounding the shroud, but states “The tests, results, and debate are too lengthy and complex to summarize here.” I would have appreciated even a footnote/endnote leading to said tests, results, and debates. As it stands, there is a bibliography at the end but not much notation throughout.
All in all, my main criticism doesn’t detract from the fact that I would recommend the book. I realize that the things I’m interested in may not have been within the scope of the book and may not interest most people who would potentially buy this book. Overall, it’s a great resource for Catholics and non-Catholics alike who want to learn about relics.