Skip to main content

Setting the World on Fire: The Brief, Astonishing Life of St. Catherine of Siena by Shelley Emling: A Book Review

Setting the World on Fire: The Brief, Astonishing Life of St. Catherine of Siena
Author: Shelley Emling
Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography, Religion
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Pages: 256
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: One of only two patron saints of Italy, the other being St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine was ahead of her time. As a political powerhouse in late 14th century Europe, a time of war, social unrest and one of the worst natural disasters of all time--the plague, she worked for peace between Christians while campaigning for a holy crusade against Muslims. She was illiterate but grew into a great writer by dictating to assistants. She was frail and punished herself mercilessly, often starving herself, while offering moral guidance and inspiration to kings, queens and popes.

     It's easy to see why feminists through the years have sought to claim the patronage of St. Catherine. From her refusal to marry to her assertion that her physical appearance was of no importance, the famous Saint is ripe for modern interpretation. She was a peacemaker during Siena's revolution of 1368, sometimes addressing thousands of people in squares and streets; she convinced Pope Gregory XI to return the papacy to Rome at a time when the Catholic Church was unraveling.

     How did this girl, the second-youngest of 25 children of a middle-class dyer, grow to become one of the most beloved spiritual figures of all time, a theological giant to rank alongside the likes of Thomas Aquinas? In Setting the World on Fire, Emling gives an intimate portrayal of this fascinating and revolutionary woman.

     My Review: St. Catherine of Siena was not only one of the Catholic Church’s greatest mystic, she was also one of its greatest writers. She wrote a book called Dialogues, a conversation between God and the human soul about spiritual life. She is also one of the few women that was given the title of Doctors of the Church. In this biography of the saint, this novel focuses on her accomplishments as well as her struggles.

     St. Catherine of Siena was the daughter of a wool dyer. She was known as a happy child. When she was six years old, she received a vision of Jesus that profoundly changed her life. After this, she became melancholic. She also defied her family by not marrying and instead devoted her life to God, which eventually her family supported her. Soon, Catherine attracted a large group of followers and eventually she became involved in the political and social matters of the church. One of her accomplishments was that she brought Pope Gregory XI back to Rome. For seventy years, the popes left Rome and established their pontiff in Avignon, France. However, her accomplishment was short lived, for Pope Gregory died, and this divided the Church which led to the Great Schism, an event that spanned for four decades where the Catholic Church had two popes. Yet, while this event distressed her, she nevertheless continued to be a prolific secant of the church.

     Overall, this biography focused on St. Catherine of Siena’s legacies as well as disappointments. This novel only focuses on the basics of St. Catherine’s life, and I would have liked for the biographer to give more details to certain events of her life. However, this book was a quick and easy read. I recommend this book for the general reader and for those who do not know much about St. Catherine of Siena. Setting the World on Fire is a great tribute for a woman who worked until her dying breath to reform the Catholic Church and to try to bring about peace and prosperity.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki: A Book Review

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post Author: Allison Pataki Genre: Historical Fiction Publisher: Ballantine Release Date: February 15, 2022 Pages: 381 Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review. Synopsis: Mrs. Post, the President and First Lady are here to see you. . . . So begins another average evening for Marjorie Merriweather Post. Presidents have come and gone, but she has hosted them all. Growing up in the modest farmlands of Battle Creek, Michigan, Marjorie was inspired by a few simple rules: always think for yourself, never take success for granted, and work hard—even when deemed American royalty, even while covered in imperial diamonds. Marjorie had an insatiable drive to live and love and to give more than she got. From crawling through Moscow warehouses to rescue the Tsar’s treasures to outrunning the Nazis in London, from serving the homeless of the Great Depression to entertaining Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Hollywood’s biggest stars, Marjorie Merriweath

Tituba: The Intentional Witch of Salem by Dave Tamanini: A Book Review

Tituba: The Intentional Witch of Salem Author: Dave Tamanini Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy Publisher: David F Tamanini Release Date: 2020 Pages: 317 Source: Publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Synopsis: If you love historical fiction... come revisit Salem's terror in this provocative new telling of enslaved Tituba, no longer a caricature, but a fully human woman with magical powers.      Come! Let Tituba cast its spell with a unique and tantalizing tale that explores the wild emotions driving accusations of witchcraft in 1692.      A Promise and a Hope      Enslaved Tituba has been faithful to a promise to her dying mama in Africa. She has appeased the masters from Barbados to Boston to Salem and waited for her magic.      A Mother’s Agony      When Tituba’s only son dies trying to escape slavery, her life changes forever. After enduring the crush only a mother can feel, she rages and turns to vengeance.      Witches Tear into Salem      The villagers see wi

Interview with Tessa Afshar

     It was my honor to do an interview with Tessa Afshar! Ms. Afshar is one of the top-selling Christian fiction authors in the genre. Her books have won numerous awards in the field and her books show the love she has for the roots of Christianity. I asked Ms. Afshar about her latest work, Daughter of Rome . The novel focuses on Priscilla and Aquila, who had once brought Paul into their home  for 18 months. I appreciate Ms. Afshar taking the time for my interview, and I hope you enjoy looking into the latest work by Tessa Afshar, Daughter of Rome ! What attracted you to the story of Aquila and Priscilla? Although we know little about this extraordinary couple, what we do know is spellbinding: they saved Paul’s life, set up house churches in different cities in the Roman Empire, shared the gospel with many Gentiles, and became influential spiritual leaders through some of the most harrowing years of the church’s history. Their marriage must have been remarkable! Ther