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The Communion of Saints

Every one loved St Bridget.  Even the sunbeams liked to be near her.  One day an April shower came on, and, as she entered her cell, she flung her wet cloak over a sunbeam shining through the window, thinking it was a wooden beam.  The bright ray willingly held up her mantle hour after hour, but at last the sun set, and the sunbeam was anxious to be gone too.  So it begged that Bridget would come and take her cloak.  She came quickly . . . and lifting down her cloak, said, “I thank thee, gentle friend; but haste away now, for the sun is set, and unless thou go fast thou wilt never come up with him!”  In an instant the sunbeam had vanished into the night.

I wish I could say I remember laughing when I first read that story in The Children’s Book of Saints, published in 1940 and reprinted six times before the 1952 edition that I still have on my shelves.  The truth is, I cannot.  But I can remember how much I hated such pious twaddle when I was a child.  Reading those tales was a turn-off.  If that was what saints were like, I didn’t want them anywhere near me—and I certainly didn’t ever want to be one, which seemed to require a skill that I had no wish to cultivate: the ability to roll the eyes heavenward, with the face fixed in a simpering grin.

So, when last year I was asked to write a book about...

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