Transcript of CS#135: John Paul II Beatification and 39 Saints You Should Know Brian O’Neel

Transcript of Interview with Brian O’Neel about 39 Saints You Should Know. This interview and others like it can be found at

Listen Now to the audio version of the show.

39 New Saints You Should Know is available at The Catholic Company.


Chris Cash: Welcome to Catholic Spotlight. This is the Catholic Spotlight, the show where we talk about what’s new, cool and exciting in the Catholic marketplace. I’m your host Chris Cash from the Catholic Company, your source for all your Catholic needs.

Today in the Spotlight, I have Brian O’Neel. He is from Wisconsin and has written a excellent new book called 39 New Saints You Should Know. We’re going to be talking about these saints, as well as the very soon up coming beatification of John Paul II. And the *** [00:53] here of course is that these 39 new saints you should know they were all made saints by John Paul II.

Brian, glad to have you on the show. How you’re doing?

Brian O’Neel: Chris, I’m doing great. Thanks so much for having me.

Chris Cash: And you know I’m looking in your bio here, I see that your dream is to get all six of your kids to Green Bay Packers games. It sounds like fun, huh?

Brian O’Neel: Well, let me put in context for you Chris. There are people who are put on to that list; the list is season ticket holders that is. And it is something that they could expect to maybe come up – their number might come up for the lottery or you know might come up for actually being able to buy this tickets when they hit their 50’s to 70. There is just a huge – I think we’re number 68,751 to 59 or something. It’s just a ridiculous thing. But as you can – might imagine in an environment like that the cheap things notably seems, they start at least you know a $100 a pot. So, yes, the dream would be you know world *** [02:07] up you know Wisconsin. And so, if we cut our base we’re Bleeding Green and Gold. And well, you know getting – if you take one of the kids and you don’t take the rest of ‘em of course you are persona non grata for the rest of the century. So, you can’t have that. I want to keep all my kids happy.

Chris Cash: I understand. Well, let’s talk about the 39 New Saints You Should Know. What brought you to the point of saying, I want to write about some of these saints that John Paul II turned into saints or at least a name – canonized the saints?

Brian O’Neel: Well, I love saint stories, and as anyone who knows how beautiful and how enjoyable reading saint stories are. It is something that you just get so much pleasure out of reading these incredibly inspiring examples of our catholic Christian faith. And so, I would read about these people like Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati or Blessed Franz Jagerstatter or Saint *** [03:14] and so and so forth. And I was just wax rhapsodic about these people and I would be met with these dumb sounded here in the head like type there’s, because it was clear that these people good Catholics so they were had no clue. They had never heard of these people. And the more I studied these saints live the more I thought to myself you know, this is clearly a shame. Because anyone of us will be proud to say that we knew any one of these people. And you know especially when you can say that some of these folks, if you told the – if you went back in time if you know this friend of yours or this person you know whose walking to your village, they are going to be a Saint. There can be in 40, 50 years now, they’re going to be declared a Blessed or a Saint. And you know they weren’t maybe that remarkable. Just like Saint *** [04:08] you know when she died one of the nun say, what are we going to do? Because they had to inform all the other Carmel’s in the area.

*** [04:17] we’re saying about *** [04:15] she never did anything. And you know it’s the same sordid deal, but you know you look at their lives and it’s so inspiring.

And the great thing you know about these stories that are in this book, 39 New Saints You Should Know, Chris is the fact that everyone one of them – none of them is one of these kind of plaster saints that you see or sometimes you read about and you think I could never be a holy, I could never be a saint. If this is what it means to be a saint it’ll never happen. You know there’s this great story about Saint Bernard. He is – Saint Bernard is someone who have said to have – didn’t know what the feeling in his *** [04:55] chapel look like, because his eyes were always cast down in prayer. Well, the real Saint Bernard was driving along on a horse one day with a buddy of his and his buddy was saying how he never got distracted in prayer. And Saint Bernard said, “Oh, really.” So, that’s why his friend said and I go up – I’ll tell you what Saint Bernard replied. I will give you my horse if you can make it through one part of notes there, one of our Father without being distracted once. And his friend said sure on. This will be the easiest bet I’ve ever won. So, he starts of our father who aren’t in heaven how it would be thy – hey if I win this bet, do I get the saddle too? So, you know, I mean that makes Saint Bernard a much more identifiable person for the average person. And that’s the way it is with everyone of the people in this book. There is – I look for that common element that where we could say okay, wow, this person yes they were holy that they went to a lot of pain, they went to a lot of misery. In fact, I can identify with x, y, z factor in that person’s life and if they can become a saint just by persevering and trying to possibly just taking that one step forward, maybe three steps back on occasion, but that one step forward everyday towards being a saint, then you know if they can do it I can do it too.

You know we have some people in there who are great, great sinners. I mean, one of the guy I write about, his name is Blessed Bartolo Longo. And he was a former Satanist priest. Satanically, some say he’s satanic archbishop. And you know to me its a great comforting thing about Blessed Bartolo is that if a man like that can be forgiven by God and be considered amongst the saints countered at the alter, then why can’t I, why can’t anyone whose sins *** [06:57]. So, it’s a – you know there’s a lot of very comforting stories like that.

Chris Cash: Wow and those – you know one of the great sayings about saint stories, especially the ones that we haven’t heard is that they are always such an inspiration of what we can aspire to be.

Brian O’Neel: Exactly.

Chris Cash: I think that that’s always just so edifying to be able to crack open the book and say you know I could be like this person, at least in this way.

Brian O’Neel: Yes, I mean, one of my favorites in – two was – I’ll talk about two of my favorites to briefly, Blessed Franz Jagerstatter and Blessed Anna Schaffer. Franz Jagerstatter, he was a husband. He was a father. He has four little girls that he had to take care of. He was told that if he has got – been in the German Army during the World War II had received two deferments, decided by – it called up a third time. I’m not going back and so I’m not going back in an infantry and that’s for sure. Because he come to understand a very its very use of deferrals, because he was a farmer. He had to bring in the harvest. That Nazism was evil. And that what they were doing to the Jews and he knew exactly what they were doing to the Jews. They were going to Jew to Christianity afterwards. And the archive show that he was absolutely correct. And people kept telling him look, you can’t do this, you have a wife and children to support. Who’s going to take care of them if you are dead? Because there was no guess work as to what the Nazis would do if you refuse to serve them in their army. And he said, “I don’t know that being a husband and a father gives me the right to offend God. Why is that the case?”

And so, he went to his death. He’s a modern day *** [08:50] I call him in the chapter. That I have on the book on him. And he is – you know so he’s inspired me as a husband and a father, because he shows me that there are – my vocation is first and foremost, but serving God is above and beyond that.

Anna Schaffer, she had just tremendous, tremendous heartache, tremendous struggles with her life. She wailed in *** [09:15] God. She was frustrated with God, she wanted God to her will, because she thought her will was his will. And when she – he wouldn’t comply, he wouldn’t cooperate. Boy, I tell you she got really angry with him for eight, nine years. And in the end, she came to understand that well you know my will is not what’s paramount here, what I want is not what’s paramount, what’s important is what God wants and I just have to follow and believe on that.

And so, you know it’s someone who is wanted his life to go differently than it had, someone who have wanted things to go in a bit of different way. And my gosh we’re not doing this for you. Why isn’t this going well? Well, you know you just – she’s a great example for us.

Chris Cash: Okay, well, let’s talk a little about John Paul II and his beatification coming up here. As we’re recording this, it’s less than a week away. So, some of you maybe listening to this after the beatification, but I’m sure that everything we talk about is still going to be important. What is the biggest significance of John Paul II being beatified at this time and so soon after this death?

Brian O’Neel: Well, it’s a kind of a reminder. It’s like taking an old family film and putting it back on display. So you know at a family reunion where everyone is paying attention. What does John Paul II stand for? He stands – he stood for reinvigorating the church, he stood for – after a period where it had become moribund, placid, just it completely on many levels ineffective. And he also took it and he tried to make real, the intense of the *** [11:13] Council. What they really wanted – what they – you know that he was one of this obviously, and what their vision had been and he made it reality. The other great thing – well and then you know through that – more through that point the whole culture wide that he was always speaking up with dignity of the human person, which we’re seeing more and more assaulted. Not only in countries where Christianity is the minority saying, places in the Middle East et cetera, but also even within places where its on not on paper the vast majority of the people are Christian and yet their lives say in Canada in the UK they’re being assaulted even in the U.S. The freedom of religion is becoming freedom to worship not so much freedom of conscience in any you know traditional sense. And so, you know he’s a good reminder of those sorts of things, but he’s also – it’s a great. The thing I love about it is that this man who proposed so many saints who has to emulate, who wanted, who beatified over 1300 people, 1330 people and who canonized 480 some people more. You know if you took all of those together put ‘em up against every pope from the beginning to end that did canonization, they would not come close to equaling the number of people that he raised to the alters as they say. And so, you know it’s just so beautiful this is.

And you know well – and let’s get back to the reason why he did it. He did that because he didn’t want us to think of saints as the *** [12:58] pieces. When he became the Holy Father, you know you had Saint Maria Goretti, you had Saint Teresa *** [13:07]. Those were about the most well known contemporary icons or figures of saint to be, to which the lady had to look up to. Whereas, you know now at the end of his pontificate, there are not just priests and religious and virgins and *** [13:27], things like this that are held up, but people who are husbands and fathers. Like one of the people – through the people I write about in my book are Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame-Quattrocchi. They were just the ideal married couple. There is a woman named Elizabeth *** [13:46]. She was an 18th century Italian women living in Rome, who was the product of a very abusive marriage. And she just shows how you can take the worst life and make it into the most beautiful picture of Saint to be. There is a guy with learning disability, blessed Marie-Joseph Cassant who was a Trappist priest who had just a terrible time becoming priest.

And so, you know there are all these contemporary examples of saint to be that he has given us, but none is a greater more contemporary you know more saint to be than him – than John Paul himself, because he really does show us what’s important. He reads *** [14:29] biography of him at the first part of *** [14:33], about the second part, but the first part, it makes so clear the things that we are facing today as a church, as a culture, period and you just praise to God that this man was Pope when he was.

Chris Cash: And you know part of him being able to name so many people as saints was also the fact that his pontificate was so long compared to a lot of popes as well.

Brian O’Neel: Yes. Exactly. He had you know the third or fourth longest pontificate in history. The only person whose on record as definitively having had a longer pontificate other than Saint Peter himself is Pius IX who he also beatified, who was a great, great hero. John 23rd desperately wanted to not only beatify Pius IX, but canonize him as well. Its one of his great dreams as Pope. And he didn’t even get to that stage. Well, John Paul was able to beatify this great pontiff who all set a very long pontificate, and who actually made the pontificate of John Paul II in many ways possible. So, yes, he was there forever. And he’s the only Pope that most people living today had ever known.

Chris Cash: Certainly the only one that I really remember.

Brian O’Neel: Yes, I remember I was living in Europe as a boy when the first set of bells went off announcing the death of – we were taking a little daytrip to Germany over the border and all of a sudden these bells start peeling just left and right. And a month and a half later, it was the same sort of situation. We were in Germany on a little weekend getaway and the next thing we know, the bells are just going off everywhere. This was not – and we kind of find out that both times you know because a pope had died. But I don’t really remember Paul VI, I remember John Paul I part, because he was such a happy smiling it. Just you know that picture of him smiling, just really that’s so striking. And then, all of a sudden they said that a Paul had been elected Pope, and that was just so weird. And you know he did so many things that were so weird. He traveled a lot; he was uncompromising in his pursuit of the truth. And he was you know such a Pastoral individual that he really – I predict that every Pope over the next 50 years is going to even someway be measured against him.

Chris Cash: If not longer, I’m sure you know. It’s just the things like the Theology of the Body that he left behind. He wrote more about theology of the body than all the other Popes combined, you know just incredible wealth just in that so.

Brian O’Neel: Yes and the fact that the man stood up for – you know I mean if you look at it in Encyclicals and when they came out, and the things that he did. Like for instance he called *** [17:40] on the family in the early 80’s. And the conclusion that the *** [17:45] fathers came to, which did nothing more than simply reiterate traditional church teaching, which you know I mean what would you expect. But you know there are so many people who are looking for them to in the spirit of that extent, so called spirit to shadow and move into this great new world that they wanted to create in their own image, not in Gods. And you know how radically controversial that was, the fact that he – when he stood up for the male and *** [18:17] priest was not out of prejudice and not out of some you know works hold clean to tradition, but because of very sound theological reasons and because they were true. And he you know showed us how we couldn’t compromise issues. The Evangelion detailing, great document on the Gospel of Life. This Splendor of Truth, very *** [18:38] Splendor, another amazing document. This documents on women on Saint Joseph on the redemption and he just wrote such powerful things and they all seemed that the pen on those seemed to drop at exactly the right moment, didn’t they? Right when the culture needed that new word, that message you know from this anointed man, he gave it to us. And so, the church will – and all of societies whoever in his death with that *** [19:11].

Chris Cash: Well, I go want to go back to your book for just a minute and you know out of the 39 Saints that you’ve got here in the 39 Saints you should know. I guess one question I got to ask is why is it 39 Saints?

Brian O’Neel: Thank you for that question.

Chris Cash: I knew you would appreciate it.

Brian O’Neel: I do, I really do. It’s very appreciate. Well, it’s a question a lot of people ask, why 39 new saints. The story behind that is that my publisher gave me. I have started of with a list of 55 or so individuals and my publishers one day sent me the contract they said you will give us no fewer than 38,000 words but no more than 40,000 words. When I turned the final manuscript in, it was 39,999 words. And that didn’t count the appendix that they asked me to create afterward. And it did not count before was the Joseph Fessio whose does so many great books for Ignatius press on *** [20:18], what not. As a *** [20:21] about Shakespeare that he wrote. So, I fulfill my contract, but I try to get in as many stories as I possibly could. But in the end there were 39, and it was just going to be Saints You Should Know, then they said well we want to call it New Saints You Should Know. And when I got the proofs for the cover, which was here, this is the – how the cover of your book will look. You will like it. It’s a 39 New Saints You Should Know. So that’s how the book came about, well it was the title.

Chris Cash: Always a fun story behind that.

Brian O’Neel: Every time there is.

Chris Cash: So, why was the 39 New Saints ‘cause they didn’t have room for more?

Brian O’Neel: Exactly. We are half way through to our volume 2 if they ever want to do that.

Chris Cash: All right, well, so everybody out there keep your eyes out for 30 something more saints to come.

Brian O’Neel: Exactly. And if you’re in this week, you know as we record this just a week of April 25th, *** [21:20] to my sister whose birthday, sister *Erin* [21:22] whose birthday is today. But if you’re in the week of 25th till the 29th, if you want to watch I’ll be on EWTN every night this week at 11:30 Central or 11:00 A.M – I’m sorry, 11:30 Eastern at night or 11:00 A.M. every morning, with John, *** [21:40] that we recorded five shows. And they are all planning from what I understand, all planning this week. So, every night – everyday of this week, you have a chance otherwise are archive there’s

Chris Cash: There you go. And I get that put some pressure on me now to make sure that this gets up posted this week.

Brian O’Neel: No pressure.

Chris Cash: No pressure, right. All right, you have a blog and the URL for the blog is a little bit complicated to rattle off. So, I’m going to put that in the show notes today. So, head-on over to Look at our show notes for this show. If you want to find the right URL for the blog. And then, you also have a Facebook group. You want to tell ‘em about your Facebook group?

Brian O’Neel: Absolutely. It’s a fan page for the book. It certainly not for me exists. Nothing about me that’s worthy to fan up, but about the book its 39 New Saints. If you go to Facebook and in the search engine there at the top of the page, you just type in 39 New Saints, should be the first and only thing that comes up. And you just put there and if there are any book appearances, signing – your book signing, seeking engagements or just you know – its not – most of the time, I just post some little things that are fun. About the saints sometimes, I’ll put posts. You know just go have a look at it and see if it might be you’re of cup tea. And if you do like and we’re on our way.

Chris Cash: Absolutely. So, we will see all of you there on the Facebook page, maybe on the blog too. And make sure you go out and checkout all 39 of these saints. Get the book; it’s a great inspirational read. And I think everybody out there will enjoy it. It’s even something you could share with your kid’s, right?

Brian O’Neel: Absolutely. You – we…

Chris Cash: No, bloody gory stories that you’re going to worry about.

Brian O’Neel: Well, there’s one that’s – there’s not blood and guts, but there is one that’s doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination. But by the Saint *** [23:58] it’s not the ravage that your kids are going to stay up at night. But we had this one book that we got the idea from Scott and Kimberly Horn. Lot of people know them, great converts and apologists for the faith. But they would these daily devotions with this one book on, the Saints. It was different Saint for everyday. And you know its so much of the – you know this persons holy all their life and just that the other thing. I would read these stories to the kids and they just would be so bored with them. And so, that was another reason why I wrote this book was because I wanted something for the parents to read to their kids. Or the kids you know 7th grade on up or something could read to themselves. And it would be something that would interest them. Would really, really interest them and would keep their attention. And you know my own kids say that it does, of course you know I’m holding the bells over them while they’re there. But you know I’m kidding, but no, I mean everyone whom I read *** [24:49].

Chris Cash: Yes, dad. You’re right kid.

Brian O’Neel: Right. We love it dad, we love it.

Chris Cash: Read another one.

Brian O’Neel: It’s the best dad. Yes daddy dearest, yes daddy dearest. So, yes, it is – but you know a lot of people have told me that they like reading it to their kids or their 7th grade son. It’s really got him interested and he’ll read it, which is better than reading you know the Harry Potter subject he wants to do or whatever. So, you know I mean praise God, as long as we *** [25:15] for him, I’m happy if it’s a three year old reading or if a 98 year old reading it. That’s what’s important.

Chris Cash: Thank you so much for sharing all this with us. Was there anything else you want to share with our listeners before we finish up?

Brian O’Neel: Well, for those who are in the either Chicago or Southern Wisconsin area. There will be on this Friday, April 29th, 7:00 P.M. at the Tommy Thompson Center, I will speaking on how you can make the Saints a great teaching tool for your children. It’s in Catholic Home Educators Conference for the Milwaukee area. And their annual conference and I’ll be speaking there with Joseph Piers who authors the forward of my book and a bunch of other great people. So, come out and see it’s again at Friday night April 29th at 7:00 P.M.

Chris Cash: And this is 2011, just so you know. You’re really dating my show today.

Brian O’Neel: I am so sorry. That’s what the great thing about editing software is; you can just cut that out.

Chris Cash: Oh, no, no, we don’t edit. We try not to edit around here. That takes even more time, no.

Brian O’Neel: Well, I apologize.

Chris Cash: I used to do a lot of editing on the show and then I just realized that you know what, you just leave it in. Somebody will be amused, even if they are listening to it in 2014.

Brian O’Neel: There you go, perfect, perfect, perfect. You know it’ll be funny if someone listening to it in 2014 edit out this the whole thing about the year and no she’ll have to know like *** [26:47], there was this big conference in this weekend.

Chris Cash: Well, yes, that’s why I get the year in there for you. All right, thank you so much Brian. You have a great day and God…

Brian O’Neel: There you go. It’s a real pleasure. God bless you, Godspeed and God bless all of your listeners. I hope that God will give them just immense ways to grow ever close to him, and to themselves become saints. That would be the greatest this thing that could ever happen.


Transcript of Interview with Brian O’Neel about 39 Saints You Should Know. This interview and others like it can be found at

Listen Now to the audio version of the show.

39 New Saints You Should Know is available at The Catholic Company.

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