Saints in 16 Book Club Kickoff: Interview with Maria Morera Johnson


Welcome to the Saints in 16 Book Club! We’re reading My Badass Book of Saints: Courageous Women Who Showed Me How to Live , by Maria Morera Johnson.


Today, we embark on a remarkable literary and spiritual journey to welcome in the New Year. 2016 already feels special to me for a silly little reason—that extra day in February when we celebrate a “leap year.” Just as an extra day to accomplish something remarkable feels like an unexpected treat, so does the chance to read a new book club selection together feel like a “bonus.”

Johnson_Maria for CMI’ll admit up front that I’m partial to this book because I so love its author. For the sake of our more genteel readers, we are calling our first book club experience this year the “Saints in 16 Book Club.” I wish I had the guts of my good friend Maria Morera Johnson, the author of My Badass Book of Saints. You’ll learn in the early pages of this book why it has this formidable title. I think it fits perfectly! My dear buddy Maria is a force to be reckoned with. It fits that she would bring to us such a fantastically-cultivated selection of spiritual heroines to inspire us to our own particular brand of “badassness” as we start yet another calendar year. Maria has contributed here at for several years, freely sharing her gifts and wisdom in both English and Spanish. I count her among my closest confidants and look to her regularly as a mentor. She is also exceedingly fun. And that quality is not to be discounted, especially when taking off on a reading adventure like this one! I’m sure Maria will be joining us weekly in the comboxes to answer your questions and respond to your reactions.

As you’ll read below, Maria has put a lot of herself into this book. When I sit with it and read it, I hear my Maria’s voice in my ear as though she is sitting right next to me, encouraging me to spiritual boldness. I hope you will take the leap today to join us in reading this book over the next six weeks. You can order it for a GREAT price here at the Ave Maria Press website or here on Amazon, or treat yourself to a visit to your local Catholic bookstore and ask them to special order it for you. And I promise you that I too giggle when I hear the word “badass” come out of my mouth. But in this context, I think you’ll agree that its a word that perfectly encapsulates the spirit contained in what Maria has penned.

PLEASE join me today in getting to know the tremenda Maria Morera Johnson. Get ahold of this book, subscribe to our reminder list, and prepare to have your faith life rocked as you start the New Year. We have a bodacious list of contributors taking us through the six-week journey. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say and how you’ll respond in the combox!

Interview with Maria Morera Johnson:

Q: Maria, congratulations on the amazing launch of My Badass Book of Saints! We are so happy to be kicking off the New Year on a path to sainthood with you. Please tell our readers a bit about yourself and your family.

I’m so happy to be able to share a little about myself with your readers. My husband John and I recently celebrated 30 years of marriage. We have three grown children, two young women and a young man. The empty nest is an exciting time for us…we’re still figuring that out, believe me, but it has included a lot of travel, and a lot of rediscovering each other and ourselves. Part of that, for me, has been pursuing writing a little more intentionally, with the publication of My Badass Book of Saints. A trip of a lifetime when I returned, for the first time in 50 years, to the country of my birth, Cuba, during the Apostolic visit of Pope Francis garnered a little bit of attention because I took a selfie with the Pope.

badass-book-of-saints-maria-johnsonQ: What inspired this book? How would you describe it to our community? 

This book was inspired by news reports about the opening of the cause for canonization of Sister Blandina Segale, one of the extraordinary women featured in the book. Sister Blandina was a courageous woman who founded a number of schools and hospitals in the “Wild West” of the 19th century. I was struck by a story describing her repeated encounters with Billy the Kid, and just knew that I’d want to share other stories of remarkable women overcoming adversity. I thought she was a great role model for courage while speaking the Truth. I think it’s essential that as women we understand that we have that same strength to live our lives audaciously and with purpose, so I gathered a collection of Saints, fascinating women in contemporary history, and my own experiences with women close to me in my family, and share how this communion of saints has inspired me. I think many of the women in these pages will inspire your readers, but more than that, I hope the stories encourage women to seek their own models of strength and courage from among their friends and families and Holy Saints.

The book weaves stories about extraordinary women and holy saints with personal experience in my life. I consider these women my friends — role models for living a holy life, but by no means a dull life. I found inspiration in these women, and hope readers find similar inspiration through its pages.

Q: What surprised you about the experience of writing it? How did the process of writing this project impact you spiritually?

I think what most surprised me about writing this book is how much storytelling is a part of my family. We tell stories about our history, so when it was time for me to write about the themes, I readily had the stories. I didn’t have to ask relatives to tell me things — I had grown up with those stories. I realized, too, how my children enjoy hearing about these family adventures. I am now more aware of how important it is to share with the next generations.

The book also impacted me spiritually, particularly in my prayer life. I had a few moments where I doubted my writing skills and ability to communicate effectively, but I also had great doubts about whether or not what I was sharing was relevant, and more than that, contributed in a positive way to the glory of God. Was it about me, or about creating something with the gifts He gave me that would in some way glorify Him? I was on my knees every day, in petition and in thanksgiving, but my desperate need opened up to what I think, was a more personal and definitely deeper interaction with the Lord, and because the book is about women, a continuous conversation with the Blessed Virgin Mary. It also led, afterward, to blessing upon blessing in extraordinary ways. The trip to Cuba gave me the opportunity to visit The Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, where I had the opportunity to present the book in thanksgiving.

Q: Who are a few of your favorite saints that are profiled in the book?

I loved being able to honor my family’s traditional ties to St. Teresa of Avila. She’s now my patron saint. However, I also discovered a deep connection to St. Rose of Lima, which not only surprised me in the writing of the book, but continues to be present in many ways, so I actually owe a debt to the book in helping me to discover more about St. Rose.

Q: How does learning about the lives of these holy women inspire you along your own path to sanctity?

I think the big takeaway from this book is the idea that we are all like these women who are profiled. We’re made of the same stuff, so to speak — we are daughters of God, and through our unique gifts are capable of all the things He has planned for us. I don’t think of the holiness of the Saints as unattainable one-dimensional attributes in isolation. Instead, I think about the richness and complexity of life, and how we can use our gifts to grow closer to the Lord

Q: In the various venues where you’ve shared the book, what reaction are you getting from readers?

The most common reaction is a chuckle at the title, and then a knowing nod of the head, like, “yeah, yeah, I get this.” A few folks have not liked the title, which has given me the opportunity to explain how it came about as a translation of a Spanish word, tremenda, which means bold and audacious. And to my surprise, a number of men have asked if the next book is about badass male saints. Certainly the most humbling response has been when readers have finished the book and written me, inspired to share their own stories. I hope that in that way, it has been successful as a vehicle to have people think about the saints in their own lives.

Q: What are your hopes for the community who will be coming along this book club journey with us?

I think I answered it above — I hope the women (and men!) who read this are inspired to share their stories in the comments. The Communion of Saints is HUGE. My little group of friends is a tiny little portion of these Holy Saints who want to befriend us, intercede for us, and provide us with guidance and holy examples that show us that we, too, can embrace lives of holiness.

Q: For those of us who have our own quirky paths towards sainthood, what encouragement can you offer?

Pray. Go to confession. Receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Laugh. Be yourselves; it’s who He created, right? Repeat.

Q: What’s next for you personally and professionally?

I’m confident that this next season of my life will be exciting in ways I can’t even anticipate. My calendar is filled with local speaking engagements, and that circle is getting wider, blessing me with the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people. I have some new ideas for books. I’m looking forward to enjoying more time with my immediate family as well as extended family. I have plans for travel. But in the end, it comes down to one simple prayer that is my go-to many times throughout the day: Jesus, I trust in you.

Q: Are there any thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

I’m so grateful to Lisa Hendey and the community for inviting me here and embracing a discussion about My Badass Book of Saints, and I am soooo looking forward to the conversation here. God bless you!

A question for you: Why are you interested in being a part of our Saints in 16 Book Club?

Next week, we’ll cover Chapters 1 and 2. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Saints in 16 Book Club page.


Copyright 2016 Lisa Hendey
Photo of author Maria Morera Johnson courtesy of Ave Maria Press. All rights reserved. Used by permission.


About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.


  1. The best thing about this book is how approachable Maria makes the saints. They are described as friends or family, not picture-perfect, super-sweet people who never struggled, doubted, or did the wrong thing.

  2. Oh, the title! There must be more creativity out there than this. Makes me sad. I don’t want that book title on my shelf or my coffee table or any where my children may see it.

    • Judy, Maria gives a lovely explanation in the book for why the title of the book is what it is… I think you would really love the book. Maybe you can look beyond that word and buy a Kindle version. Thank you for making time to comment.

    • Judy, if you want a good explanation of the title (which is NOT a gratuitous use of a questionable word), download the free preview of the book on Kindle. This contains the entire foreword and a section of the introduction, including the part where Maria explains her use of the term.

      I had the book on the coffee table recently when a bunch of friends are over, and it created a lot of buzz–in a good way. “What’s that about? … Hmm, saints who were bold? Sounds like something I’d want to read!”

      • Great idea Barb!! And I agree with you that the book is likely reaching lots of folks who normally wouldn’t pick up a book on the saints (and who can greatly benefit from knowing them).

    • Judy, I SO agree with you. There must have been dozens of (MUCH) better titles that she might have chosen. Yes, and sadder still that so many seem to accept crassness as acceptable now. 🙁

  3. Ah, I love this “badass” Maria already so I know I’ll love her book! She’s already encouraged me through her words “…we are all like these women who are profiled. We’re made of the same stuff, so to speak”. It’s so easy to get discouraged and think of sainthood as some distant, unattainable goal but phrases like, “We’re made of the same stuff” is such a powerful reminder. Can’t wait to dive into this one!

  4. I find the title intriguing and am anxious to get further into this book, especially after hearing about the term “tremenda”. The older I get, the more I think about how Jesus himself was a real radical. I see that the people he criticized the most were actually those seen as upstanding (and who thought that of themselves!)—the temple leaders. And the people with whom he hung out were those on the fringes. That means there’s hope for us all—and I suspect this book will provide us with that hope, too!

  5. Hi everybody! It’s Maria 🙂

    Thanks for starting the conversation. I’ll be hanging around here and happy to answer any questions — just ask!

    I hope we’ll all have a lovely time here.

  6. Annalee Nystrom on

    The title intrigued me. Then there’s the fact that my family and I have endured a long year. I’ve had 2 major illnesses and have received chemo, and a stem cell transplant. If not for the prayerful support of a lot of people, from family, parish family and friends, I don’t think I’d be where I am in my recovery. The power of prayer has really come to light for me, and I want to how other view the saints and their power of intercession.

    • I so empathize with you. I recount my mom and dad’s journey through chemo, radiation, and finally, dad’s passing in one of the chapters. And my own growing acceptance of my husband living with ALS. We’ve received much grace in our suffering. ~Maria

  7. Margaret Brown on

    I’m very excited to kick start my New Year with this book. The title alone drew me to it. I want a faith that is alive, imperfect and messy sometimes, but always passionate and moving forward. If you’re a “badass” you don’t sit comfortably on your laurels, you keep pushing forward and discovering new frontiers. You don’t give up. I am looking forward to being inspired by the women in this book, as well as the others reading it.

  8. I read this book at the end of last year but it was amazing! It’s so real and fresh and fun! If you’re looking for something about saints that isn’t dry… this is the book for you!

  9. I second Margaret Brown’s comment. Maria’s love of words comes through in the book. It is like hearing one of your most well-spoken, authentic friends as you read her work, so please look beyond the title if you have trouble with the language used. I grew up in an Evangelical home and became a Catholic 10 years ago. This book has helped me to more fully understand with both heart and mind the Catholic devotion to saints and Our Lady.

  10. Renee Bouchard Gardiner on

    I was involved in a Catholic book club but they then changed the night and I was no longer able to attend. This is once again providing me with an opportunity for a Catholic book club

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