I have always been fascinated by St. Benedict (and his twin sister, St. Scholastica). As a mother of twins, I can’t help but be drawn to a pair of saints who were twins themselves. When the opportunity to review a new picture book about St. Benedict arose, I jumped at the chance.
I was not disappointed. The Life of St. Benedict, by Br. John McKenzie, O.S.B., is a unique look at the life of a great saint and fascinating person. The book takes a chronological approach, working its way through Benedict’s life from his birth to his death. Rather than telling one longer story, Br. McKenzie presents the events of St. Benedict’s life as individual stories, each with an accompanying illustration by Mark Brown, a Benedictine lay oblate.
I learned many new things about St. Benedict and his sister, St. Scholastica, who figures prominently in the stories. McKenzie includes tales of miracles that St. Benedict performed, including a story of one of his monks meeting a dragon when he tried to leave the monastery against God’s will. St. Benedict saves a drowning man, raises a young boy from the dead, and shows extraordinary insight in his dealings with people from all walks of life. Some of my favorite stories focused on the ongoing relationship between Benedict and Scholastica as they grew and pursued their individual paths to holiness.
The book is a bit lengthy for a typical children’s picture book. At 41 pages, it lends itself well to being read over several sessions with time to discuss the stories and what they tell us about St. Benedict’s life. My six-year-old enjoyed the detailed pictures very much, poring over the people and scenes in them as I read. In closing, Br. McKenzie includes a prayer for St. Benedict’s intercession and a glossary of terms used in the book.
McKenzie’s writing is straightforward and clear. He lets the events of St. Benedict’s life speak for themselves. I would recommend this book for older elementary-grade children reading independently or as a family read-aloud. My preschool-aged children were a little too wiggly to sit through the whole book at once, but they enjoyed hearing the stories about St. Benedict’s adventures.
In short, Br. McKenzie has done a wonderful job of presenting St. Benedict’s life, his remarkable wisdom and insight, and his holiness in a way that will capture the hearts and imaginations of modern children. The Life of Saint Benedict is a wonderful addition to our family’s library.
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I was provided with a copy of the book to review by the publisher. All opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.
Copyright 2015 by Abbey Dupuy.
Image from The Life of St. Benedict by Br. John McKenzie (Ignatius Press, 2014).