Religion: 2,565 Saints

How would it seem to find oneself in an assembly of assorted saints? Short of going to heaven, the best way to answer that question is to dip into the four lively and curious volumes of Butler's Lives of the Saints, just published in a brand-new bicentennial edition (Kenedy; $39.50). The saints are anything but a dull crowd.

Even in the winding-sheet prose of the Rev. Alban Butler, the saints' often wildly exciting lives and extravagant deaths provided the thriller reading for generations of 18th and 19th century Christians, who did not have the...

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