Meg Hunter-Kilmer shared stories from her book, “Saints Around the World,” on July 21 at Old St. Mary’s. (Photo courtesy of Anh Clausen)
Catholic author Meg Hunter-Kilmer visited Old St. Mary’s on July 21. “Miss Meg,” as Hunter-Kilmer introduced herself while wearing a shirt with a litany of saints printed on the front, warmly welcomed all in attendance and invited children to participate in story time with her new book, “Saints Around the World.”
It was evident in the stories told and in Q&A afterward that representation is extremely important to Hunter-Kilmer. In the letter to readers at the beginning of the book, she writes, “In this book, you’ll meet all kinds of saints. And when you get to know them, I think you’ll see that God is calling every kind of person to be a saint.” She hopes in these pages, we will find saints who inspire us. By looking to the examples of these holy men and women and perhaps seeing someone we see a little of ourselves in, we can find the saints God created us to be.
Children were invited to ask for a type of saint, though not saints by name, as many of the saints and blessed contained in the book are lesser-known. In fact, Hunter-Kilmer said that of the more than 100 stories contained within the book, a nun she knows had only heard of 25 before the book. Looking through the table of contents, I was only vaguely familiar with 18.
We began with a saint I had heard of, Joan of Arc, and continued with children’s requests for “Someone brave” (Bl. Emilian Kovch), “Another brave one with a horse,” (St. Rafael Guízar y Valencia), and “An Asian Saint.” Hunter-Kilmer asked for more specifics, ultimately sharing the story of a female Blessed from Southeast Asia, Cecilia Butsi Wongwai of Thailand, the martyr who skipped joyfully to her death singing “I’m on my way to Heaven!” Hunter-Kilmer explained that though Bl. Cecilia’s joy in the face of death is truly astounding, some martyrs are terrified, and it is not a sin to be scared.
When one child mentioned that their birthday was on the feast day commemorating Bl. Cecilia and the other martyrs, Hunter-Kilmer remarked, “there is a squad of women praying for you.”
As we continued with various stories, one thing that “Miss Meg” repeatedly drove home is that “Every body is a good body.” The saints in the book come in all shapes and sizes — big bodies, little bodies, bodies of all different skin colors, bodies with physical disabilities, and bodies with mental illnesses, to name a few. God uses who we are — with our own unique features and abilities — for his glory.
We heard about saints from long ago and recent saints, even ones that lived within my lifetime. Saints and blesseds of all vocations — including a soccer-loving dad who did laundry and changed diapers — Bl. Benedict Daswa.
During the Q&A, Hunter-Kilmer explained how she “fought with (her) publisher” to include several indices that allow parents — especially homeschooling parents — to easily integrate saint stories into their children’s learning. A map of the world on the first page has location dots with the page number for the corresponding saint or blessed. In the back of the book, you can look up saints by Feast Day, geographical location, various topics (my daughter was thrilled to ask for a “Princess Saint”) or the period in which they lived. The teacher in me was practically giddy.
Asked if a particular saint was the patron of this book, Hunter-Kilmer responded no, that usually, a saint would help her with a specific project, but this time, it felt like each of the saints and blesseds contained in the book helped her with their own story, so this book has about 120 patrons.
After the reading, I picked up a signed copy for my kids. Hunter-Kilmer’s inscription said simply, “God loves you like crazy! Now go be saints.” When I brought the book home, my children eagerly sat down for a saint story. We’ve now negotiated it as a part of our bedtime ritual. My children each get to pick one kind of story because I have a feeling they would have stayed up far past their respective bedtimes if I had allowed it.
Hunter-Kilmer’s book is a work of art, with detailed illustrations by Lindsey Sanders. Captions below each picture explain why a saint is depicted a certain way or why they may be shown holding a particular object. If you are starting to run out of ideas for your kids’ next All Saints Day costumes, you’ll get plenty of help from this book.
I have a feeling that my son will want to dress up as Bl. Carlo Acutis, who is depicted in the book with jeans, a backpack, a Monstrance, a video game console and a Poké-ball. Apparently, even saints like Pokémon and play video games. I hope he learns Bl. Carlo’s temperance — we learned from the story that he only allowed himself one hour of video games per week — and love of the Holy Eucharist.
Hunter-Kilmer’s book is available through Emmaus Road Publishing. More details are available at saintsaroundtheworld.com.