Crossroad, $19.95, 316 pp.
Robert Ellsberg enjoyed much success with his book All Saints (1997), which provided daily reflections on saintly and prophetic figures. Blessed among All Women is a follow-up to that book, although it is devoted exclusively to “women saints, prophets, and witnesses for our time.” Instead of following a calendar year, these portraits are grouped under the rubric of the Eight Beatitudes.
Roughly 140 women are included in this book. Some are well known, such as the Blessed Mother and the great saints. Other choices are more unexpected. Under “the meek,” for instance, Ellsberg places the black children who died in the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, bombing. Among the “peacemakers” he includes Sophie Scholl and other members of the White Rose resistance movement who were killed by the Nazis. The entries span women from second-century martyrs like Blandina to our contemporaries. Readers of Commonweal will be pleased to see an essay on the late associate editor Daria Donnelly (died 2004), who finds her place among “the pure of heart”-the only popularly acclaimed saint with whom I exchanged e-mails! One could use this volume for daily meditation, or for browsing. Thumbing through the pages reveals many insights: one understands the pure anguish of Käthe Kollwitz’s art when...