Demetrio S. Yocums masterful translation of Luigi Santuccis Tales of Grace makes available what is often lacking in contemporary spiritual reading a work of high literary value that communicates a sense of mysticism not often exhibited in devotional writing.
Without going the route of academic exegesis, Santuccis tales transpose the reader from the gospel texts to imaginative times and places that inspire fresh insights and awakenings. These are robust meditations that seem particularly appropriate in these days of the pope whose Joy of the Gospel echoes these narratives of wonder and awe. Andrew D. Ciferni, O.Praem, St. Norbert College
This morning, while walking to work, I had a chance to read Luigi Santuccis Tales of Graces: Reflections on the Joyful Mysteries. A series of short meditative stories that revolve around the joyful mysteries of the rosary, this book is a feast for the religious imagination. Published in Italian in 1946, this translation by Demetrio S. Yocum is a gift to the English reader. Not only is the prose beautiful but it is illuminated by a series of icons by George Kordis, an occasional visiting professor of the University of Notre Dame.
The gift of the text (from the perspective) of a liturgical theologian is that it stretches the very bounds of time itself, demonstrating that the mysteries of Christs life are not mere historical events, sealed now in the Biblical text. The joyful realities played out in the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation of the Lord, and the Finding in the Temple are contemporary realities unfolding anew in the history of the world and the Church....
Indeed, what pulsates on every page of this text is a deep and abiding Christian humanism. It is not a humanism separate from Christianity, a kind of "liberal Christianity" that seeks to ignore those embarrassing Catholic particularities including the intercession of the Blessed Mother, the legends of the lives of the saints, and the stunning brilliance of the Churchs liturgy itself. Rather, it is a humanism that is grounded in the joy of the Gospel itself. After reading Santuccis imaginative contemplation of the Visitation itself, it will be hard to pass over the wonder of these blessed pregnancies again:
Like two caravels on a placid sea, the pregnancies of the Virgin Mary and Elizabeth proceeded quickly and smoothly. By the end of September, both their bellies were tight as a drumhead and arched, precisely like two sails.
The silence surrounding them was increasingly intense and rustling, almost as if the world, in a secretive and respectful cooperation, pretended to be asleep in order to uncover the mystery. Someone, I am sure, was constantly lending the ear to hear the hidden blending of fluids and liquids that generate life: the life of a man and the life of God. But the secret could be unveiled only by looking at the countenance of two mothers faces: the maiden-mother with her warm brown braid; and the elderly woman, whose pregnancy had restored in her an almost childlike smoothness of skin (44). Nature is taken up and transformed in this moment; and as Santucci will show throughout the remainder of this chapter, all pregnancy, all life is transfigured by these two births.
It struck me upon reading this text that this kind of literary, humanistic, and well….lovely account of the Gospel is precisely what is needed in the context of the New Evangelization. What Santucci produced years ago is a vision of what a Christian culture of joy looks like. It is not one without sorrow, without any reference to the cross. It does not pass over any aspect of what it means to be human. Instead, these stories embody a hopeful, grace-filled existence, which could not help but attract one to the Gospel....
The era of grace, the epoch presented by Christ is not meant to be a time of misery. The Church, if she is attract members to her fold, cannot employ misery or guilt alone. Rather, it is be-dazzlement that the Church offers. An aesthetic evangelization in which new possibilities are opened to the one who gives him or herself over to the joy of the Gospel.
This book, then, is not simply then pleasant reading for a summers walk (and it is that indeed). Rather, it presents a literary, meditative, and imaginative vision of a Church that does not spurn the cultural or the human. It is, itself, a program for evangelization. Timothy P. OMalley, Ph.D. , Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy
Complete with angels who move houses, a dairy boy and pregnant women who share secrets, rogue guests at the Christmas banquet, a miraculous baptism, and students and teachers who reverse roles at an alumni gathering, Luigi Santuccis Tales of Grace celebrate the mystery of Word made flesh. Like the joyful mysteries to which they point, these are tales to savor, to ponder, and to embrace. Thanks to the gifted translation of Demetrio Yocum and the artistry of George Kordis, English-speaking readers are now invited to this imaginative feast as well. Mary Catherine Hilkert, O.P., University of Notre Dame, author of Naming Grace: Preaching and the Sacramental Imagination
Reflections on the Joyful Mysteries is the subtitle of Tales of Grace. ...[I]t refers to the recitation of the Rosary, which is a series of standard prayers said in a certain order, guided by rosary beads....
...During the recitation of the prayers, the supplicant is encouraged to imagine himself in the scene of the mystery or a similar scene, in order to feel closer to the Holy Family. That is just what the author does in the chapters of Tales of Grace, which are named for the Joyful Mysteries.
The reader of this book can share the author's imaginings as he says the Rosary, and thus get a feeling of greater closeness to the scriptural events. The reader can also enjoy the author's creative associations linking the past to the present, which offer some intelligent reflections on how we celebrate our faith today.
I have to mention something that makes this 135 page pocket-sized paperback truly special, the 19 evocative full-color prints of icon art by contemporary artist George Kordis. The icons depict people from the Old and New Testaments, and events from the New Testament, and Mary and Jesus, all with a modern take on classic iconic art form.
I enjoyed this intelligent, creative book very much, and I hope the faithful among you might enjoy it too, or consider giving it as a gift to a faithful friend or family member who enjoys imaginative prose. This very attractive book would make a beautiful gift.
...The typesetting of the book, published by Paraclete Press, a small publishing house that has a catalog full of exquisite religious texts, is exceptionally attractive. Candida Martinelli, Italophile Book Reviews
This book is an extravagant invitation inviting the reader on a rich and powerful journey through the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. We follow the author as he is inserted into the story in the style of imaginative contemplation. Examining everyday elements of sin and grace, this astonishing allegory is rich in language and symbols, illustrated with magnificent icons that beckon us into deeper prayer. The mystical meditations build to a brilliant crescendo of the joy of the salvific power of Christ. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn is a Catholic writer, speaker, and lay minister in Albany, NY. Her work can be accessed at There Will Be Bread
Celebration is what Santucci offers with Tales of Grace
, stories that express the exuberance and abundance of the Gospel. This edition is itself a feast of words and images. Yocums poetic translation expresses the beauty and spirit of the stories, and the rich biblical icons of George Kordis offer a visual complement to the lively tales. This literary work holds value as a primary source for academic study of spirituality as well as for personal reflection. It displays a hope, rooted in Christ, that endures in spite of the horrors that Europe had experienced in the 1930s and 1940s. It is a delightful book that can be read for sheer enjoyment while also challenging the reader to imagine and experience life as a feast of delight. Kimberly F. Baker, Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology
Complete with angels who move houses, a dairy boy and pregnant women who share secrets, rogue guests at the Christmas banquet, a miraculous baptism, and students and teachers who reverse roles at an alumni gathering, Luigi Santuccis Tales of Grace celebrate the mystery of Word made flesh. Like the joyful mysteries to which they point, these are tales to savor, to ponder, and to embrace. Thanks to the gifted translation of Demetrio Yocum and the artistry of George Kordis, English-speaking readers are now invited to this imaginative feast as well. Mary Catherine Hilkert, O.P., University of Notre Dame, Author of Naming Grace: Preaching and the Sacramental Imagination
There are 1.2 billion people in the world who might enjoy Luigi Santuccis Tales of Grace: Reflections on the Joyful Mysteries (trans. Demetrio S. Yocum); they are Catholic. And then there is a much smaller, odder demographic that might enjoy the book, and that is those who arent Catholic but who sometimes like to pretend they are; that includes me.
We Protestants, who owe our very existence to lawyers-cum-systematic-theologians, sometimes forget that the Incarnation and the Trinity are two great mysteries, but they arent the only ones. Santucci, a writer and poet who was active in the Italian resistance during World War II, helps us open up our conception of the mysterious and let it spill over into other areas of our faith.
He does so by reimagining the five Joyful Mysteries* of the rosarythe annunciation, the visitation, the nativity, the presentation of Jesus at the temple, and the finding of Jesus at the temple. In the context of the rosary, mystery means deeper truth, or a truth that is more than what it seems on the surface. But Santucci teases out mystery within these mysteries, by casting out time and letting us see the events as God, who is outside of time but who operates within time, might see them. In "The Visitation," Mary, Elizabeth, and a dairy boy casually exchange stories from the future about Marian devotion, utterly unaware that, technically speaking, it is not possible for them to know about such things. In "The Nativity," the dairy boy recounts an otherworldly banquet where the storys villains (Herod, Pilate, Judas), are harmless grumps who cannot diminish the eternal joy of heaven. The tales are accompanied by the gorgeous icons of George Kordis, whose work is both Byzantine and modern and likewise wipes away time and points us toward eternity.
The tales are whimsical, imaginative, endlessly playful. The characters in the mysteries eat chestnuts and ravioli, unlikely foodstuffs for first-century Jews. An angel shows up to milk Zechariahs cows. In the foreword, Nathan Mitchell says that Santucci invites us to "believe in the good news of the Gospel, in the mysteries of faith, with the abandonment of the child who believes in fairy tales. After all, did Jesus not make storytelling his preferred means of communication to teach us about God and the kingdom of heaven?"
By far my favorite chapter of the book was the last, "Finding Jesus at the Temple," in which we find the author at his old boarding school, arguing with his old teachers about whether their faith is more one of sorrow or of joy. Santucci advocates for joy in a way that reminded me of G. K. Chesterton and the lives of saints like Francis all at once. He instructs the priests to confront pleasure-seekers with "the divine remedy of our Christ-euphoria rather than with abstinence. "Grace," he says, "is about finding more pleasure in avoiding sin than committing it." His vision is so ecstatic, so beautiful, that by the time he imagines hell as the residence of only three people, "eternally bored and furiously playing games with soot-smeared cards," while above "the great multitude in heaven sings Hallelujah!" I was ready to hope for it wholeheartedly and imaginativelylike a child. Erin Zoutendam
This book offers a series of meditations on the Joyous mysteries of the Rosary, following an ancient practice of reflecting on scriptural passages through extended narratives. Santucci places himself in conversation with the angel Gabriel and Our Lady, and invites us to join in. And few will be able to resistthese lovely tales are told with wit and charm, and their theological seriousness is worn lightly. Demetrio Yocum has done a commendable job in translating these, in such a way that the freshness of Santucci's style comes through. Finally the book is beautifully produced, with high quality reproductions of icons throughout. I recommend this highly! Jean Porter, Prof. of Theology at Notre Dame