Caroline COX, Modern Saints and Martyrs. New York: Continuum, 2006, pp. 200 $21.95 pb ISBN 0-8264-8788-2
Reviewed by Ruth POOCHIGIAN, 4717 Ferris Ave., Madison WI 53716

Accustomed to reading about saints and martyrs in history, this book tells the stories of persons whose lives have been lived, and often shattered, in recent years and in some of the most violent places on earth. In telling their stories, the author reveals much about her own life—a remarkable story in itself.

Baroness Caroline Cox, a former deputy speaker of the British House of Lords, is obviously familiar with the 16th century book by church historian John Foxe. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs detailed accounts of persecution and martyrdom during the first sixteen centuries of Christianity. Cox tells similar stories, though hers are from a unique perspective; she has actually seen first hand the circumstances that these Modern Saints and Martyrs have had to endure.

Hers is the kind of book that inspires not only because of the modern saints and martyrs she writes about, but because of the profound embodiment of faith demonstrated in her own life. Cox is impatient with complacent forms of Christianity so characteristic in much of the developed world. She looks instead for a spirituality based on Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemene: “let not my will but your will be done” —the prayer that is on her lips and in her heart as she travels to war-torn countries; that is, to wherever the media have lost interest.

At the heart of the short stories she tells, which often include vivid accounts of modern day torture and terror, she sees glimpses of courage and presence. The presence of God’s Spirit is more credible in these settings than what she is accustomed to witnessing among “observant” Christians. As Cox sees it, the attention of the “observant” is more often devoted to discipline, internal affairs and doctrine. In some ways, perhaps, Cox, the politician, sees similarities between church and state—in both settings much of their focus is on politics, and the power that is exercised in order to manage successfully.

The stories she tells are from various continents and periods of modern history. What each has in common is some horrible fate which is faced with dignity and grace. There are two gifts offered here: the first is the life that is given as faithful witness; the second is the record left behind of these persons who might otherwise have been known only to their own faith communities and not recorded for history.

This clearly is not an academic text. Rather, the stories in this collection will be a useful resource to share with those, whether student or not, who struggle with faith: What does it mean? How is it lived? Is God to be trusted? Where are there credible models of faith? Its compelling nature will resonate with young people who seek vital and vibrant role models that confirm and stir up their own idealism. The stories, uneven in length and detail, organized by global regions, describe ordinary people involved in extraordinary actions—on behalf of a faith community—supported often only by faith. Cox tells the stories because she believes that all Christians are called to the same level of commitment.

This remarkable woman—Christian witness, 3rd Order Anglican Franciscan, politician, humanitarian, educator—has also recently co-authored another book about a truly scandalous, widespread and growing tragedy in the modern world: This Immoral Trade: Slavery in the 21st century. Ruth Poochigian 4717 Ferris Ave. Madison WI 53716

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