Thursday, January 07, 2010

Book Review: Katie--The Young Life of Mother Katharine Drexel

Young Katie Drexel was a child of privilege. Growing up during the difficult years of the Civil War and its aftermath, Katie nonetheless experienced every comfort and pleasure that life in Philadelphia and its environs could offer. Yet although her family was extraordinarily wealthy, her parents were at the same time wonderfully devout and excellent examples of parental love, charity and personal piety.

But Katie also knew sadness. Her mother had died a mere five weeks after her birth, a fact which Katie discovered at age 12. Her dear step-mother, the only mother she had ever known, died when Katie was 25. Her beloved father followed two years later. This left Katie and her two sisters heirs to a tremendous fortune. What the young Katharine Drexel did next is the stuff of miracles--for this pretty young woman with a vast inheritance and no shortage of suitors, turned away from the world and embraced the religious life, all for the sake of Christ. And 45 years after her death in 1955, she was recognized as a saint.

Katie: The Young Life of Mother Katharine Drexel is a short but excellent book. It is particularly well suited to be read with your children. I read it aloud with my oldest daughter (age 6) who had gotten it as a Christmas gift, and I noticed that my oldest son and younger daughter were lurking around as well while we read. By the end, the whole family was listening in. The writing is done in the first person, which adds a sense of familiarity to the book, as do the dozen or so black and white photos of the Drexel family. The prose is easy and approachable so that a kid over the age of 8 should be able to handle it with no problem.

The book closes with an account of the miracle which led to St. Katharine's canonization.

The story was so compelling that we decided to take a family trip to the shrine of Saint Katharine Drexel in Bensalem, PA after we finished. As this book is only about St. Katharine's early life up to her entering the religious life, you'll need to get another one to tell the rest of the story. Fortunately, the shrine has a gift shop, so we were able to walk out with Saint Katharine Drexel: Friend of the Oppressed by Ignatius Press.

Very highly recommended!

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