by Andie Andrews Eisenberg
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
The author and her husband moved from New Jersey to a small farm where she could retire her Quarter Horse, plant a garden, keep a small flock of chickens, and raise a dairy goat or two. The property that they farmed was considered a hobby farm. But it was her families little plot of paradise, or at “least we prayed it would become so once we reclaimed the land and the barn from decades of neglect.”
Andie felt that the last three years had uniquely prepared her to write this book “with loving respect for modern farmers” as well as for their patron saints. Andie was completely unprepared for the hundreds of hours she would spend searching through ancient texts that were achieved online, running documents through translation, web resources and mining the internet. She strove to connect a saint to a cause. It was difficult work and she wanted to quit. As she states: “true to form the Word of God is living and effective and it cut her to the marrow. She mused: “What if the Gospel writers had quit?” She realized that the saints were counting on her to get this book written.
Andie is not an historian by profession. She became a lover of hagiography, for her the stories of saints associated with farming and homesteading that had been recorded throughout time, some as legends, some as historical fact, and some lie in between. All of them exist for the edification of the faithful, for the glory of the Catholic Church and most of all for the glory of God. The book is organized into five parts Part 1 covers the creatures, critters, birds, animals, and livestock that live on or near the farm. Part 2 features saints whose specialty is the humans who care for the animals and work the land. Part 3 profiles the patron saints of places. Part 4 covers those patron saints who are known to intervene in matters concerning weather. Part 5 contains blessings and prayers for farmers and homesteaders.
What lies ahead in the book are the “footprints and furrows of saints who have labored before us, in fields, barns, gardens , pastures and paddocks as well as in the Lord’s vineyard.” It is a pilgrimage journey. Pray the blessings. And take a moment to contemplate the land and animals you love in the context of these holy men and women who understand our needs and want to intercede for us.
Each section has thought provoking ruminations of the author. She tells of what she observed on the farm each particular day in regard to the topic. She tells about the loss of her horses and the joy they had provided. The connection she makes to the saints are those she has need for in regard to need, loss, trouble and grief. They are like portraits of favorite relatives.
In the first section for protection against wild animal attacks we read about St. Blaise whose memorial is February 3rd. St. Blaise was a fourth-century Armenian bishop of Sebastea, Turkey, as well as a physician. Inspired by God during the persecution of Christians by the Roman emperor Licinius. St. Blaise fled to a cave outside the city where he lived as a hermit. wild animals, particularly those who were sick or had been wounded, sought him out and were healed by him.
The research of each saint is done with concern and clarity about how the saint was touched by God in his/her ministry. Section 5 has blessings and prayers that could be used by any reader to begin or end a prayer session. It is a comforting book to read in the mist of trying to get tasks accomplished on a particular day. The saints and their patronage is listed in the ending of the book. There are perhaps many saints that you will read about for the first time.