Flunking Sainthood

Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray and Still Loving My Neighbor

by Jana Riess
ISBN 978-1557256607, 179 pages,
Paraclete Press, 2011

On page 115 and 116, Riess writes:

“. . . I have a knee-jerk reaction against the word rule. I think I have adult-onset Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Actually scratch the ‘adult-onset’ part. I’ve always been this way. I don’t like other people telling me what to do, how to behave, how to live my life.”

It would have been helpful to her readers if she had declared this personality trait earlier in the book, for it would have made it easier for us to understand her frustrations and her sense of failure. This book is all about Riess putting herself in situations where she must follow rules, and where people tell her what to do, how to behave, and how to live her life. Riess puts herself in contrived situations with artificially imposed deadlines and then declares herself to have flunked when she doesn’t manage to find in one month what spiritual leaders of the past spent a lifetime seeking out of a vocational deep calling.

Flunking Sainthood is the reality TV of spirituality books.

Riess takes the simplest tasks and makes them as complicated, and therefore as unachievable, as possible. She even turns the gracious act of saying “Thank you” into a dark, convoluted journey of the soul. She is the only person I’ve ever encountered who manages to be “disappointed” in St. Francis of Assisi.

Through this book, Riess propagates the unfortunate idea that spirituality is something at which you can pass or fail, and that, unless you do everything perfectly, you don’t make the grade.

This book was published because it was a “pitchable” idea, and not out of an authentic search for meaningful spiritual practice. Yet, in a back-door kind of way, it does achieve a purpose. Because it lacks authenticity, and because it operates on a set of artificial deadlines, we do learn that spiritual practices can’t be manufactured on schedule, on a whim. They must be organic, individual, nurtured, and if you make a mistake now and then, it’s okay.

Arlene Somerton Smith
nspiration • Balance • Outreach


About Arlene Somerton Smith

Writer, laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, sports fan, and community volunteer

Posted on May 30, 2012, in Books I borrowed, Non-fiction and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Thank you for the review. We do all make mistakes, it is what we learn that counts.

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