Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor by Jana Reiss


I love a good memoir, and at this time of year, I thought Jana Reiss’s Flunking Sainthood would be an appropriate choice.  Jana Reiss decides she needs to jump-start her relationship with God. While she is not a holy roller, she is determined and perhaps worthy of more credit than she gives herself.  How does a person like this aim for sainthood?  With a book deal:  research twelve different spiritual practices (one per month) over the course of the year.  As she prepares to explore these different practices, Reiss decides that just reading about each practice isn’t enough; she needs to try them.   What follows is a cleverly told account of fasting, fixed hour prayer, gratitude…a year’s worth of practices from a variety of faiths.  Interwoven throughout the memoir are brief snippets from Reiss’s life, and small windows into her relationships with family and friends.   Though Reiss doesn’t think she succeeds at any of the practices, she does incorporate versions of a few into her life.  Maybe a month is not enough time for mastery and maybe the fact that some of these practices come from faiths not her own adds to her frustration and sense of failure.  As I neared the end, I thought, good read, maybe four out of five stars.  Then…the end.  I won’t spoil it so you can fully experience the real purpose for Reiss’s exercise, but let me say that the cumulative effect of these failed spiritual practices equalled enough successes to give Reiss strength when she needed it most.  A beautiful ending!