This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time. It keeps expanding, and I keep putting it off. Recently, Kelly has published some posts on this subject (part 1 and part 2), and the other day a friend texted me asking for recommendations on this very topic. Plus, Lent starts next week, which means I’m especially thinking about and wanting to talk about great, spiritually-stimulating reading. So I think this is just the right time to finally put my thoughts together and write a post about my favorite Catholic books.
I love books. I love Catholicism. I especially love books that help me understand and/or practice Catholicism better. I’m sharing some of my favorites here.
These first four are the books that I found especially helpful at the very beginning of my conversion process:
Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis – This isn’t a specifically Catholic book, but it was the very first Christian book I read when I first started thinking that maybe I wasn’t an atheist. When I began reading it, I thought God was probably real, but didn’t believe in Jesus as the Son of God. This book helped me see otherwise.
The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom – Again, not a specifically Catholic book, and not necessarily written as a spiritual book either, but the simple and profound faith of the people in this book was so inspiring and powerful, I couldn’t help but be moved toward belief.
Rome Sweet Home, by Scott and Kimberly Hahn – Scott Hahn was an anti-Catholic, Presbyterian minister, his wife Kimberly is a Protestant minister’s daughter. This book lays out all the reasons they both eventually came to see the truth and beauty of Catholicism and to convert. Once I started to believe in the basic tenets of Christianity in general, this book helped me to understand the Catholic faith in particular and to realize that I wanted to become Catholic.
150 Bible Verses Every Catholic Should Know, by Patrick Madrid – It seems like a common criticism of Catholicism is that it isn’t very Biblically based. This book shows that in fact it is, pointing out specific scripture passages to support things like the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and the Catholic emphasis on faith and works as the means to salvation, not just faith alone.
After I got the basics of Christianity and Catholicism, I started really delving into understanding the Faith more and deepening my spiritual life. More favorites from the past (almost) three years:
A Biblical Walk Through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do In the Liturgy by Edward Sri – This book is fantastic. I learned so much about the Biblical basis of everything we do during the Mass, what everything means and why we do it. For anyone who ever feels lost or unsure what the point is, or even just wants to feel more connected to what is happening during Mass, it’s a must read.
My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir, by Colleen Carroll Campbell – This book helped me learn about how the saint are present and active in our lives and can lead and inspire us. I’ve read this book twice and gotten so much out of it both times.
Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, by Therese de Lisieux – A beautiful story of an imperfect soul striving for sainthood and finding it with her “little way.” I love the stories of her struggles to be unselfish and to show her love of God by doing little things every day.
33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Marian Consecration, by Fr. Michael Gaitley – This is a guided retreat book. It has short readings for each of 33 days, focused on consecrating oneself to Jesus through His Blessed Mother. It is so rich in insights about Mary’s role in leading us closer to her Son. I have read this book three times and gotten more out of it each time. The first time, I read the book. The second time, I read the book and completed the retreat companion workbook that goes with it. The third time, just recently, I got together a group of people at my parish and led a group in doing the retreat together, with the book, workbook, and DVD series by Fr. Gaitley. Each time, it was an enlightening experience.
Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves, by Jason Evert – Looking at the life and teachings of Saint John Paul the Great by examining the things he loved the most: young people, human love, the Eucharist, the Virgin Mary, and the Cross, is a profound way to understand him and his amazing life and mission, as well as these beautiful elements of our Faith. This book moved me in so many ways, and made me really wish that I had been Catholic when he was the pope.
The Real Story: Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible, by Edward Sri and Curtis Martin – These authors bring the Bible together in such a way that it becomes one startlingly clear, cohesive story of God’s perfect plan for salvation. It’s a short and very easy-to-read book that left me feeling like so much I had read and thought I understood suddenly made so much more sense.
The Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for Our Lives Today, by Timothy M. Gallagher – I had heard of the examen prayer a few times, and really wanted to learn how to do it. My parish offered a few opportunities to learn about it through classes, but I wasn’t able to attend them. I asked my husband to get this book for me for Christmas, and I am so happy I did. I love this method of prayer and have been practicing it daily since completing the book. The book clearly teaches how to do it and why this powerful prayer is beneficial. It is a wonderful way to turn ones focus toward recognizing God’s will and trying to pay attention to and follow the stirrings in our heart that are God’s promptings throughout each day.
I’m always looking for new books to read to help me grow my Catholic knowledge and faith. If you have any must-reads in this area, please share them in the comments! AND, Kelly is hosting a link up with lots of others’ favorites as well, so check out those posts for even more wonderful books, just in time for some Lenten reading.