Welcome to the Saints in 16 Book Club! We're reading My Badass Book of Saints: Courageous Women Who Showed Me How to Live , by Maria Morera Johnson.


When I read My Badass Book of Saints to myself, the voice of the narrator in my head is my friend Maria's distinctive sweet sassiness. And yes, the "Maria" who reads to me is the book's author. I'm not namedropping here—although that's what Mrs. Johnson would chide me that "Divas" like me do... I'm sharing my wonderful friendship with the author of this book we're concluding to let you know exactly why this final chapter on friendship and community means so very much to me. I've been blessed by my friendship with Maria for several years. Hers is a friendship that's not only entertained me. Even though we live so far geographically, my true friend—the "Tremenda"—is never far from my heart.

Chapter 11: Mother Antonia Brenner and St. Bibiana

With this chapter, I'll admit that Maria had me with the words "the patron saint of hangovers is St. Bibiana". I love that Maria opens this chapter by sharing personal examples of friendships which have blessed her life. Having been on the receiving end of her compassionate caring, I know that she speaks with authority and intentionality here.

St. Bibiana's story is one of those saint stories which fascinate me. Maria ties this fourth century martyr into this chapter in an unexpected way. One would think that a woman who died alone and in such a horrific fashion after having had so much taken away from her wouldn't exactly be the first member of the Communion of Saints to jump into our mind when we talk about friendship. And yet the point Maria makes in this section of the chapter is so true... that Bibiana gave her life for her greatest friend, Jesus Christ.

Most of us would do well to remember that if we lack beautiful friendships in our lives, we ought to first and foremost seek intimate companionship with our Savior. I often call Maria and our mutual friend Pat Gohn my "soul sisters". Another name for them would aptly be "sisters in Christ". While we always have a blast together, I truly believe that it is ultimately our common love for our faith which has solidified and blest our relationships with one another so greatly over the years.

As a counterpoint to the life of St. Bibiana, we read of a modern-day "saint in the making" who gave up what the world values most to live with and love those who the world values least. When Mother Antonia Brenner left a life of comfort and ease in Beverly Hills to found a unique religious order in Tijuana and live amidst the prisoners, I'm willing to bet that a lot of her "friends" thought she was nuts. But by her passionate living out of not only the gospel but also the corporal works of mercy, she provides a perfect role model for what "friendship in Christ" is truly all about.


I love that "Begs", as I call Maria (my shorthand for her nickname “Begona”), concludes this fantastic book with a consideration of our Blessed Mother Mary. At the same time as we have been reading this book together in our Book Club, I’ve been at work on a manuscript that had me deeply immersed in the scriptural infancy narratives. Long a lover of Mary’s powerful “Yes”, I dove into the Word in a way that I’ve never done before in preparing to write this book.

When I read Maria’s lovely treatment of the life of our Blessed Mother in the conclusion, my heart rushed to the weeks I’ve been spending journeying toward Bethlehem and Egypt and Jerusalem in the company of the one who always seeks to lead us to her son.

My favorite Marian title is “Our Lady, Queen of Peace”. I pray regularly through Our Lady’s intercession for my own sons, entrusting them into her loving arms. I beg her to bless the grace of my “yes”. Now, thanks to Maria, I have an even more profound respect for how “ tremenda” Our Lady is… and to how remarkable she calls us to be.

I thank Maria Morera Johnson for giving me a new set of spiritual role models—and an interesting set at that—to know and love as I walk my daily path toward heaven.

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. Are you blessed by friendships in your life? If so, what lies at the heart of making these relationships special? If not, what changes could you possibly make to draw closer to not only Christ, but to special women in your community?
  2. What Marian titles most profoundly speak to your heart and why?
  3. What have you taken away from your experience of reading this book?

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week's reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

Thanks so much for being part of our journey together! For more about this Book Club, including links for all the posts in this series, visit the Saints in 16 Book Club page.


Copyright 2016 Lisa Hendey