A Dictionary of Saintly Women/Preface

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The Dictionary of Saintly Women
by Agnes B. C. Dunbar


P R E F A C E


For nearly half of a long life it has been my vocation to collect and arrange legends and records of women worshipped as saints or so considered. Although the work has been to me a sanctuary from the anxieties and vexations of daily life, I have, during the whole time, been painfully conscious of my unworthiness to write on the subject of saints, and my inability to approach the degree of excellence to which such a book might attain in better hands. From the mass of information—often contradictory—concerning this vast multitude, I have selected the most remarkable incidents. Some of these are chosen on account of the historical importance of the heroine, her noble character or wonderful gifts, or because of some interesting side-light which they shed on customs or beliefs of her time and country. Some few stories have been included as examples of the extreme absurdity to which these memorials have reached. Where there are several saints of one name they are arranged chronologically.

My information has been gathered largely from the Acta Sanctorum of the Bollandists. from the histories of the various countries and religious orders to which these saintly women belonged, from collections of Lives and legends, and from many other sources. Authorities are given for each article. A list of the books consulted will be found at the end of the second volume. I have generally abstained from criticising or expressing a personal opinion. Where I have said that a story is untrue or an author untrustworthy, the statement is made on the authority of some accredited Catholic writer.

There are moments when it seems as though the presenting of a subject so remote from modern tendencies almost asks for an apology. If such be needed, let it be found in the reflection that in the same way as the monasteries preserved the slumbering germs of culture and civilization through hundreds of years of barbarism, so, throughout the darkness of the Middle Ages and the spirit-deadening struggle for material prosperity, it was by those who are remembered as saints that the light of the Christian ideal was kept alive.

It appears that there is at present in English no complete dictionary of the Christian saints. When such a work comes to be written I trust that my book may be of use to the compiler. Meanwhile, I hope that readers will find in these pages any sainted woman for whom they are likely to look and some of whom they probably never heard.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to the kind friends who have helped me in various ways. Many of them have passed over the dark river ; to those who remain I offer heartfelt thanks. I commend my subject to the toilers and the idlers of the busy world, and my work to their indulgence.

A. B. C. D.
London,
September, 1904.