James Martin, S.J. can be called, I suppose, a late vocation inasmuch as he graduated from the Wharton School of Business and worked for General Electric for six years thereafter. Although he was raised in a Catholic family, by his own admission he did not know a great deal about his religion until he decided to enter the Jesuit Seminary at the age of 28 in 1988. He was ordained a priest of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1999.
In his book My Life with the Saints, Father Martin gives us great insight into his own life through telling of his experiences when he was in the novitiate and worked with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Kingston, Jamaica; in the Jesuit Refugee Service in Nairobi, Kenya; and in an outreach program with street gang members in Chicago’s inner city. Father Martin is quick to point out his own deficiencies and his early lack of knowledge of fundamental Catholic culture, and even his early lack of familiarity with the lives of many of our Saints.
It was through his studies in the novitiate that he became familiar with many of the Saints and has chosen several of them whom he has admired and holds up to us to admire and emulate as well. He did not know who St. Therese of Lisieux (The Little Flower) was until a fellow novice gave him Therese’s book “Story of a Soul” to read. He now prays to her often.
St. Bernadette Soubirous is another Saint to whom Father Martin was introduced during his Seminary days when the movie “The Song of Bernadette” was shown in the novitiate TV room. Later, as an ordained priest, he had the privilege of visiting Lourdes, the setting of the apparitions of the Blessed Mother to St. Bernadette. Father Martin admires Bernadette for her fortitude when she was ridiculed and scorned for her so-called tales of seeing and talking to the Virgin Mary.
I learned from Father Martin a great deal about St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of his order, the Society of Jesus. He also considers Pedro Arrupe a Saint; he was the Superior General of the Jesuits from 1965 to 1983, a Spanish priest who suffered a massive stroke and was partially paralyzed and unable to communicate for the last ten years of his life.
He talks about Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton who are not canonized saints but may very well be one day.
Father James Martin is a joyful man who is easy to read and imparts his knowledge humbly. Today he is the culture editor of America, the national Catholic magazine. He is the author of several other books which provide delightful reading such as:
“Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life,” and “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life.”
My Life with the Saints by James Martin, S.J. (2006)