"Everyone who belongs to the Truth hears my voice…" (John 18:37)

Recommended Reading

Apologetics
Spiritual Life
Marian Spirituality
Marriage & Family
Mass & Liturgy
Philosophy
Theology
Catholic Fiction
Catholic Non-Fiction/Lives of the Saints

Apologetics

Austen Ivereigh, How To Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot-Button Issues (Our Sunday Visitor)

It is about winning friends, not arguments. It is about shedding light, not heat. It’s about reframing the argument so hearts can be opened and minds can be inspired.

How to Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice is a new sort of apologetics. It is for those moments when you are thrust into the spotlight as the “token Catholic” – whether the spotlight is at the office water cooler or at the in-laws’ holiday celebration. How to Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice gives Catholics a fresh way of explaining the Church’s teaching on contentious issues – humanly, compellingly, and succinctly. Topics include the Church and Political Life, Homosexuality and Contraception, Equality and Religious Freedom, Assisted Suicide, Clerical Sex Abuse, Defending the Unborn, AIDS, Marriage, and Women and the Church.

Christopher Kaczor, The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church: Distinguishing Fact from Fiction about Catholicism (Ignatius Press)

The Roman Catholic Church has long been the target of suspicion and hostility. But how much of this is based on ignorance and prejudice and how much is the fruit of thoughtful consideration of the facts?

This book separates fact from fiction. Without excusing or justifying wrongdoing, author Christopher Kaczor clarifies official Catholic teaching and demonstrates that much popular opinion about Catholicism is based on misunderstanding and misinformation. He also provides robust and lucid arguments for Catholic belief and practice.

No one book can answer everyone’s questions or objections about Catholicism, but this work examines seven of the most controversial and most common myths about the Catholic Church.

The Seven Myths:

  1. The Church Opposes Science: The Myth of Catholic Irrationality
  2. The Church Opposes Freedom and Happiness: The Myth of Catholic Indifference to Earthly Welfare
  3. The Church Hates Women: The Myth of Catholic Misogyny
  4. Indifferent to Love, the Church Banned Contraception: The Myth of Opposition between Love and Procreation
  5. The Church Hates Gays: The Myth of Catholic “Homophobia”
  6. The Church Opposes Same-Sex Marriage Because of Bigotry: The Myth That There Is No Rational Basis for Limiting Marriage to One Man and One Woman
  7. Priestly Celibacy Caused the Crisis of Sexual Abuse of Minors: The Myth of Priestly Pedophilia

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Spiritual Life

Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth (Ignatius Press)

- From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (vol. 1)
Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (vol. 2)
The Infancy Narratives  (vol. 3)

In these three volumes, Pope Benedict explores Jesus’ true identity as discovered in the Gospels.  Through his brilliance as a theologian and his personal conviction as a believer, the Pope shares a rich, compelling, flesh-and-blood portrait of Jesus and incites us to encounter, face-to-face, the central figure of the Christian faith.

Dom M. Eugene Boylan, This Tremendous Lover (Christian Classics)

This remarkable spiritual classic, written by a Trappist monk, has been called a modern Introduction to the Devout Life.  It is a book that takes the question of personal sanctity and relates it to a Pauline vision of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.  It is a spiritual reading experience that is very old, ever new, a book which, when read again, remains remarkably fresh and inspiring.

Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P., Jesus, Present Before Me: Meditations for Eucharistic Adoration (Servant Books)

Through meditations, prayers and probing questions for reflection, Father Peter John Cameron, O.P., invites you to see beyond appearances and enter into the mystery and miracle of Jesus present in the Eucharist. You were made for this presence, Father Cameron says.  This book includes thirty separate Eucharistic meditations, Eucharistic reflections on the twenty mysteries of the rosary, a Eucharistic colloquy, a litany and a Way of the Eucharist, all designed to help you offer your time of adoration wholeheartedly, without weariness or distraction.

Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo, Humility of Heart (Tan Books)

Fr. Cajetan da Bergamo has assembled in this incomparable Catholic classic every conceivable motive for us to practice the virtue of humility.  From every direction, he marshals up the reasons why this virtue is paramount in the lives of all Saints and of all those on the way of perfection.  As no one will enter Heaven who is not perfect and as no one will gain perfection who is not humble, it behooves us all to apprise ourselves of the requisites for gaining true humility of heart, for once possessing this virtue, we can then make great strides in the spiritual life.  But without it, we are simply deceiving ourselves regarding our spiritual progress and postponing the great work of our own salvation.

Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith (In the Arms of Mary Foundation)

The Gift of Faith is a book about the interior life that looks at faith in an unconventional way, yet is rooted in the sound theology of traditional Catholic spirituality.  The fruit of spiritual direction given to people for over thirty years, this book expounds fatherly guidance to those who desire to live in deep union with God in their everyday life.

Fr. J. P. de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence (New Edition)  (Catholic Records Press)

Our simple task is to love God in the present moment. In this life-changing work, Jean-Pierre de Caussade reveals a spiritual exercise appropriate no matter what our duties and circumstances. We must love God whatever happens and take everything around us as an expression of His will. We should allow all our actions to be divinely and intuitively guided. Sanctity consists simply in this loving response to God. Jean-Pierre de Caussade was a member of the Society of Jesus, a preacher, and a spiritual director. His classic work has for almost three centuries demonstrated to Christians the power of living in the present moment.  This new edition contains the theoretical part of his text along with many “Letters of Direction” which offer concrete and practical advice for the many difficulties that we may encounter in the spiritual life.

Fr. Jean C. J. d’Elbée, I Believe in Love (Sophia Institute Press)

This spiritual classic has long been beloved by Catholics for its wondrous distillation of the teaching of St. Thérèse of Lisieux into a reader-friendly set of meditations. It’s perfect as a personal retreat when you have only a few moments to spare each day – and for spiritual reading anytime and anywhere. Fr. Jean C. J. d’Elbée, a French priest deeply imbued with St. Thérèse’s spirit, brings you St. Thérèse’s teachings on God’s love and the confidence in Him that it should inspire in your soul; humility, peace, and fraternal charity; the apostolate; the Cross; and what it means truly to abandon yourself to Divine Providence. I Believe in Love has helped countless souls embark on the way to the Father. It will help you focus on Him throughout each day, rest in Him amid your troubles, and live joyfully with Him at every moment!

St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life (Image Books Doubleday)

St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life has remained a uniquely accessible and relevant treasure of devotion for nearly four hundred years. As Bishop of Geneva in the first quarter of the seventeenth century, Francis de Sales saw to the spiritual needs of everyone from the poorest peasants to court ladies. The desire to be closer to God that he found in people from all levels of society led him to compile these instructions on how to live in Christ. Francis’s compassionate Introduction leads the reader through practical ways of attaining a devout life without renouncing the world and offers prayers and meditations to strengthen devotion in the face of temptation and hardship.

Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C., But I Have Called You Friends (Ignatius Press)

Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C., was abbess of the Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Roswell, New Mexico. In these gentle, simple, yet profound conferences, Mother Mary Francis explores both the necessity and the difficulty of Christian friendship. Friendship is the basis of all fruitful love, she wrote. Whether we are single or married, priest or religious, the Lord himself called us His friends and commanded us to be the friends of one another. Mother explained the reason this command is so difficult: knowing, understanding, and respecting another person are necessary for loving him, and these things take time. We must be friends if we are to love. With this small volume, Mother Mary Francis inspires us and helps us to be patient by revealing both the demands and the rewards of our vocation to love and be loved.

Fr. Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV, The Discernment of Spirits (Crossroad Publishing)

St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, is one of the most influential spiritual leaders of all time, yet many readers find his Rules for Discernment hard to understand. What can Ignatius teach us about the discernment of spirits that lies at the very heart of Christian life? In The Discernment of Spirits, Fr. Timothy Gallagher, a talented teacher, retreat leader, and scholar, helps us understand the Rules and how their insights are essential for our spiritual growth today. By integrating the Rules and the experience of contemporary people, Gallagher shows the precision, clarity, and insight of Ignatius’s Rules, as well as the relevance of his thought for spiritual life today. When we learn to read Ignatius correctly, we discover in his remarkable words our own struggles, joys, and triumphs. This book is for all who desire greater awareness of God’s action in their daily spiritual lives, and is essential reading for retreat directors, spiritual directors, priests, and counsellors.

Fr. Daniel Homan, OSB, and Lonni Collins Pratt, Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love (Paraclete Press)

Today’s culture is increasingly hostile and suspicious toward anyone who appears to be different–especially when tragedy strikes. Our instinct is to bolt our doors and protect the ones we love. But deep within the heart of Benedictine spirituality lies a remedy to hatred, fear, and suspicion: hospitality. At once deeply comforting and sharply challenging, true Benedictine hospitality requires that we welcome the stranger, not only into our homes, but into our hearts. With warmth and humour, drawing from the monastic tradition and sharing personal anecdotes from their own lives, Pratt and Homan encourage us to embrace not only the literal stranger, but the stranger within and the stranger in those we love.

Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God (Christian Classics)

First published over half a century ago, Caryll Houselander’s The Reed of God is a spiritual classic that deserves to be rediscovered by a whole new generation of readers. Houselander’s beautiful and profound mediation depicts the intimately human side of Mary, Mother of God, as an empty reed waiting for God’s music to be played through her. She shares her insightful and beautiful vision of Mary on earth, Mary among us, Mary as a confused but trusting teenager whose holiness flowered with her eternal “Yes.”

John Hulsman, editor, The Rule of our Warfare:  John Henry Newman and the True Christian Life: A Reader (Scepter Publishers)

Here is moral and spiritual guidance from “one of the most distinguished and versatile champions of English spirituality,” as Pope John Paul II called John Henry Cardinal Newman. This new collection of Newman’s Writings on virtually every aspect of life in Christ shows why he has won such respect. Editor John Hulsman here presents brief, readable excerpts from Newman’s sermons on faith, the true Christian life, temptations, the world, doubts, and the mysteries of the Catholic faith. These selections give you a comprehensive overview of Newman’s profound and influential teachings on daily life as a Christian, including his wisdom on the Church, God’s Providence, the Mass, the intercession of Mary, prayer, temptation and sin, the Christian character, happiness, and much more. Full of Newman’s elegant prose and piercing Christian insight, this volume is not only a winning introduction to Newman, it is also a remarkable resource for daily spiritual reading.

Matthew Kelly, Rediscover Catholicism (Beacon Publishing)

Over the past 20 years, Matthew Kelly has seen more of the world than most presidents and more of the Church than most bishops. Now, in this unique and timely book, he proposes that Catholicism is not a lifeless set of rules and regulations, but a way of life designed by God to help each person reach his or her full potential. With remarkable insight, Kelly dispels dozens of myths that surround the rejection of Catholicism today and provides a profound and practical vision of what will lead the Catholic Church to thrive again in the future. Rediscover Catholicism is quickly becoming the most read Catholic book of our times. From the spellbinding opening story, Kelly grips his readers and takes them on a life-changing journey to rediscover the genius of Catholicism.

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (various editions)  

The spiritual classic by à Kempis, the second most widely read spiritual book after the Bible, has had an astonishing impact on the spiritual lives of countless saints, peasants, and popes for centuries. Even today, the soul-searching words of the fifteenth-century cleric Thomas à Kempis continue to resonate, unbounded by time or geography. Drawing on the Bible, the Fathers of the early Church and medieval mysticism, his four-part treatise shrugs off the allure of the material world, blending beauty and bluntness in a supremely spiritual call-to-arms.

Br. Joseph Langford, Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire (Our Sunday Visitor)

The entire world has heard about Mother Teresa’s life, her charity, and even her darkness.  Now, for the first time, this captivating work by her trusted friend and co-founder of her priests’ community reveals what Mother Teresa herself considered the heart of her life’s message.  At age 38, Mother Teresa broke out of her safe and reliable routine as a teacher.  With only five rupees to her name, she began going daily into the slums of Calcutta.  By the time of her death in 1997, her Missionaries of Charity had spread to more than 120 countries and touched millions of lives.  What was it that caused this transformation?  What special qualities did she have that moved her into action?  How do we account for her universal impact from such extreme, humble conditions?  What was it in her that touched so many so deeply?  Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire provides the answers and what they mean for you.

Brother Lawrence, Practicing His Presence (The SeedSowers)

Brother Lawrence was a man of humble beginnings who discovered the greatest secret of living in the kingdom of God here on earth. It is the art of “practicing the presence of God in one single act that does not end.” He often stated that it is God who paints Himself in the depths of our soul. We must merely open our hearts to receive Him and His loving presence. For nearly 300 years this unparalleled classic has given both blessing and instruction to those who can be content with nothing less than knowing God in all His majesty and feeling His loving presence throughout each simple day. 

St. Teresa of Ávila, Interior Castle (Christian Classics)

Deeply spiritual and profoundly human, this 16th-century masterpiece is the work of a revered saint. Teresa of Ávila visualized the soul as a many-faceted diamond, with the ecstasy of divine communion at its center. Her insights into prayer and meditation as the keys to fulfillment have inspired generations of readers.

St. Teresa of Ávila, The Way of Perfection (Image Books Doubleday)

The Way of Perfection by Sister Teresa of Ávila was originally written for the sisters of her reformed convent of the Carmelite Order, but this work has since become a classic text in Christian spirituality and mysticism, especially in the realm of prayer. St. Teresa set out to teach how to progress through prayer and Christian meditation. The first 18 of the 42 chapters discuss the rationale of being a nun; the rest deal with purpose and approaches to spiritual life. Herein she describes ways of attaining spiritual perfection through prayer and its four stages, as in meditation, quiet, repose of soul, and finally perfect union with God, which she equates with rapture. Written in a direct and accessible style. 

Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyên Văn Thuân, Testimony of Hope (Pauline Books & Media)

Every year, John Paul II selects a preacher for a course of Spiritual Exercises for himself and the Vatican’s Roman Curia. For the Jubilee 2000, he chose Vietnamese Archbishop Francis Xavier Nguyên Văn Thuân. Testimony of Hope is the complete text of those Spiritual Exercises. In this moving work, Archbishop Văn Thuân addresses our need for hope at the beginning of the twenty-first century. As a prisoner in various Communist prisons for thirteen years, nine of them in solitary confinement, Archbishop Văn Thuân faced what he describes as the agonizing pain of isolation and abandonment. Recounting the details of those long years, he reveals the secret that allowed him to cling to hope in the midst of despair. Archbishop Văn Thuân’s message to John Paul II is also for us: the hope he discovered in imprisonment is also our hope for the Church and the world at this momentous point in history. Faced with any darkness, we have a reason for confidence: Christ, Hope of the World. Francis Xavier Nguyên Văn Thuân was made the bishop of Nha Trang in 1967, and in 1975, coadjutor bishop of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Arrested only a few months after his appointment, Archbishop Văn Thuân was imprisoned by the Vietnamese government for thirteen years and then released to house arrest. In 1991, Văn Thuân was expelled from Vietnam. He went to Rome and began his work in the Roman Curia as Vice President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Since 1998, Archbishop Văn Thuân has served as the Council’s President. In 2001, Văn Thuân was named a Cardinal. He entered eternal life on September 16, 2002. 

Dietrich Von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ (Sophia Institute Press)

Recognized as a modern spiritual classic and perhaps Dietrich von Hildebrand’s greatest work, this sublime and practical study gives a penetrating analysis of the true path to holiness for those who love Christ. The first requisite is the person’s desire for change, and with that fundamental attitude in mind, von Hildebrand devotes a chapter to each of the successive spiritual attitudes necessary for those who strive for Christian perfection. The Beatitudes are treated with beauty and depth in an uncompromising challenge to every serious Christian to put into practice these teachings of Christ.

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Marian Spirituality

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M.Cap., Mary, Mirror of the Church (The Liturgical Press)

Mary is a great gift and example to all Christians because in her God’s Word was written, and by her it was accepted and its grace manifested. In this she is, as the title indicates, a mirror of the Church, the people of God. She reflects what we are called to be. While this work cannot help but discuss aspects of Mariology, it is not so much a study as it is a pilgrimage. Reflecting on and following Mary’s example, as Father Cantalamessa presents it here, we enter into a pilgrimage of listening and obedience to God’s Word.

St. Louis-Marie De Montfort, The True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin (Baronius Press Classics)

True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin is one of the greatest and most celebrated books ever written about Our Lady. Praised by popes, mystics, and theologians, this profound and powerful book presents Mary as the essential and infallible key to the heart of Jesus. Nowhere will you find a deeper and more life-changing book on that quintessentially Catholic doctrine: the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of the Christian and the life of the Church. Unpublished during the saint’s lifetime, it has enjoyed the endorsement of the many outstanding popes the Church has been blessed with since its discovery in 1842. John Paul II, in particular, was its tireless champion, crediting True Devotion with a turning point in his spiritual life, adopting his motto, Totus tuus, from St. Louis. The key to De Montfort’s Marian spirituality is that he considered Our Lady to be the infallible and chosen gate to the heart of Christ – To Jesus through Mary: it is Christ Himself Who is at the centre of True Devotion.

 
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Marriage & Family 

Kimberly Hahn, Life-Giving Love:  Embracing God’s Beautiful Design for Marriage (Servant Books)

God has a beautiful design for your marriage. Have you discovered it? Blueprints for building a family seem to abound today. But the countless plans proposed don’t all agree, and married couples are often left confused. Where can we turn for a true vision of what it takes to build happy, healthy, holy families? Kimberley Hahn takes us back to the One who designed marriage in the first place. God’s wonderful plan for the family is clearly revealed in the time-tested teachings of the Catholic Church. Hahn offers a fresh but deeply rooted perspective on the true meaning of marital love and its implications for a number of significant issues: natural family planning, contraception, infertility, abortion, sterilization, and miscarriage. She draws from Scripture and Church teachings as well as poignant personal experiences from dozens of families who share their stories. Their testimony will help you rediscover the path of prayer, sacrifice, and self-discipline that God intends for married couples–the path of life-giving love.

Art & Laraine Bennett, The Temperament God Gave You (Sophia Institute Press)

Unlock the secret of your personality and learn how to be a better spouse, parent, friend, and Christian! All of us are born with distinct personality traits. Some of us live for crowds and parties; others seek solitude and time for quiet reflection. Some of us are naturally pushy, while others are content just to get along. We don’t pick and choose these traits; they’re just part of the way we’re made. For in the womb God doesn’t merely mold our body; He also gives us the temperament that, all our days, colors our understanding, guides our choices, and serves as the foundation of our moral and spiritual life.

Ancient philosophers identified four basic temperaments, and over the centuries, countless wise souls have used these four to understand human nature. Now comes The Temperament God Gave You, the first Catholic book on the subject in 70 years. Here veteran Catholic counselor Art Bennett and his wife Laraine provide an accessible synthesis of classical wisdom, modern counseling science, and Catholic spirituality: a rich understanding of the temperaments and what they mean for you and for your family. Drawing on decades of study, prayer, and practical experience, Art and Laraine show you how to identify your own temperament and use it to become what God is calling you to be: a loving spouse, an effective parent, and a good friend. Best of all, they give you a Catholic understanding of the four temperaments that will bring you closer to God and help you discover the path to holiness that’s right for you. Peace. Happiness. Holiness. You’ll find yourself growing in each of these qualities as you come to understand–and learn to use as you should–the temperament God gave you.

Willard F. Harley, His Needs, Her Needs (Monarch Books)

In the classic bestseller His Needs, Her Needs, Willard F. Harley, Jr., identifies the ten most vital needs of men and women and shows husbands and wives how to satisfy those needs in their spouses. He provides guidance for becoming irresistible to your spouse and for loving more creatively and sensitively, thereby eliminating the problems that often lead to extramarital affairs.

Meg Meeker, M.D., Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know (Regnery Publishing)

In today’s increasingly complicated world, it’s often difficult for parents to connect with their daughters–and especially so for fathers. In this unique and invaluable guide, Dr. Meg Meeker, a pediatrician with more than twenty years’ experience counseling girls, reveals that a young woman’s relationship with her father is far more important than we’ve ever realized. To become a strong, confident woman, a daughter needs her father’s attention, protection, courage, and wisdom. Dr. Meeker shares the ten secrets every father needs to know in order to strengthen or rebuild bonds with his daughter and shape her life–and his own–for the better. Inside you’ll discover:

• the essential virtues of strong fathers–and how to develop them

• the cues daughters take from their dads on everything from self-respect to drugs, alcohol, and sex

• the truth about ground rules (girls do want them, despite their protests)

• the importance of becoming a hero to your daughter

• the biggest mistake a dad can make–and the ramifications

• the fact that girls actually depend on their dads’ guidance into adulthood

• steps fathers can follow to help daughters avoid disastrous decisions and mistakes

• ways in which a father’s faith–or lack thereof–will influence his daughter

• essential communication strategies for different stages of a girl’s life

• true stories of “prodigal daughters”–and how their fathers helped to bring them back

Dads, you are far more powerful than you think–and if you follow Dr. Meeker’s advice, the rewards will be unmatched.

Mary Beth Bonacci, Real Love:  Answers to Your Questions on Dating, Marriage, and the Real Meaning of Sex (Ignatius Press)

Mary Beth Bonacci speaks to nearly 100,000 people every year. She speaks to people across the country and around the world – about friendship, about relationships, about marriage, about God’s plan for sexuality, and about finding real, honest love. And they speak back to her. They ask her questions — about sex, about dating, about healing after a shattered relationship, about marriage, about their struggles to live love. Now, for the first time, Mary Beth has published those questions – and her answers – in a comprehensive, readable guide which addresses the details of the very real struggle that people face in trying to live real love in a world gone mad. Through these questions and her answers, Mary Beth offers a comprehensive catechesis of the Church’s teaching in the areas of marriage and human sexuality. She tackles the toughest issues – premarital sex, contraception, divorce, homosexuality, pornography and others. She gives practical advice on living the Church’s teachings. And throughout it all, she demonstrates that living respect for God’s gift of sexuality is the way – the only way – to find real, honest, love.

 
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Mass & Liturgy

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), The Spirit of the Liturgy (Ignatius Press)

Considered by Ratzinger devotees as his greatest work on the Liturgy, this profound and beautifully written treatment of the “great prayer of the Church” will help readers rediscover the Liturgy in all its hidden spiritual wealth and transcendent grandeur as the very center of our Christian life. In his own foreword to the book, Cardinal Ratzinger compares this work to a much earlier classic of the same title by Romano Guardini because Ratzinger feels that his insights here are similar with what Guardini achieved in his time regarding a renewed understanding of the Liturgy. “My purpose here is to assist this renewal of understanding of the Liturgy. Its basic intentions coincide with what Guardini wanted to achieve. The only difference is that I have had to translate what Guardini did at the end of the First World War, in a totally different historical situation, into the context of our present-day questions, hopes and dangers. Like Guardini, I am not attempting to involve myself with scholarly discussion and research. I am simply offering an aid to the understanding of the faith and to the right way to give the faith its central form of expression in the Liturgy.”     -Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger 

Dr. Edward Sri, A Biblical Walk Through the Mass  (Ascension Press)

As Catholics, the Mass is the center of our Faith. We celebrate it every day. We know all the responses. We know all the gestures. But do we know what it all means? In A Biblical Walk Through the Mass, Dr. Edward Sri takes us on a unique tour of the Liturgy. Based on the revised translation of the Mass which went into effect Advent, 2011, this book explores the biblical roots of the words and gestures we experience in the Liturgy and explains their profound significance. This intriguing look at the Mass is sure to renew your faith and deepen your devotion to the Eucharist.

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Philosophy

Pope John Paul II (Karol Wojtyła), Love & Responsibility (Ignatius Press)

Drawing from his own pastoral experience as a priest and bishop before he became Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyła has produced a remarkably eloquent and resourceful defense of Catholic tradition in the sphere of family life and sexual morality. He writes in the conviction that science–biology, psychology, sociology–can provide valuable information on particular aspects of relations between the sexes, but that a full understanding can be obtained only by study of the human person as a whole. Central to his argument is the contrast between the personalistic and the utilitarian views of marriage and of sexual relations. The former views marriage as an interpersonal relationship, in which the well-being and self-realization of each partner are of overriding importance to the other. It is only within this framework that the full purpose of marriage can be realized. The alternative, utilitarian view, according to which a sexual partner is an object for use, holds no possibility of fulfillment and happiness. Wojtyła argues that divorce, artificial methods of birth control, adultery (pre-marital sex), and sexual perversions are all in various ways incompatible with the personalistic view of the sexual self-realization of the human person.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the book is that Wojtyła appeals throughout to ordinary, human experience, logically examined. He draws support for his views on the proper gratification of sexual needs, on birth control, and on other matters, from the findings of physiologists and psychologists. His conclusions coincide with the traditional teachings of the Church, which invoke scriptural authority. His approach ensures that non-Christians also can consider his arguments on their own merits.

 

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Theology

F. J. Sheed, Theology for Beginners (Servant Books)

Theology for Beginners is one of the most outstanding presentations of the central doctrines of the Christian faith ever penned. After showing how God is Spirit, the author examines God’s infinity and man’s creation from nothing, and then moves on to the Trinity, the Fall, the Incarnation and Redemption, the Mystical Body, Grace and the Sacraments, and the Last Things. For those to whom these doctrines once seemed formidable, Sheed’s is a fresh voice of lucid and carefully reasoned prose. To read Theology for Beginners is to have one’s mind awakened to the spiritual realities at the center of human existence.

F. J. Sheed, Theology and Sanity (Ignatius Press)

Vatican II issued an urgent call for the laity to take a more active role in the life of the Church.  What should the life of the Christian believer be like?  How are average lay Christians called to help save the world?  How does theology fit into the picture? One of Sheed’s most popular books, this is the ideal volume for helping the layman to take a more active role in the Church by showing him the practical aspects of theology and the role it has in the life of Christian believers.  Logic, clarity, simplicity and common sense permeate this eminently readable book.  Sheed understands and communicates better than anyone the importance of theology and its relationship to living sanely in today’s world. A brilliant synthesis of the Catholic view of life.

 

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Catholic Fiction 

Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest (Carroll & Graf)

In this classic Catholic novel, Bernanos movingly recounts the life of a young French country priest who grows to understand his provincial parish while learning spiritual humility himself. Awarded the Grand Prix for Literature by the Academie Francaise, The Diary of a Country Priest was adapted into an acclaimed film by Robert Bresson. “A book of the utmost sensitiveness and compassion…it is a work of deep, subtle and singularly encompassing art.” — New York Times Book Review

Rumer Godden, Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy (Loyola Classics)

This haunting tale of disgrace and redemption centers on Lise Fanshawe, a prostitute and brothel manager in postwar Paris who, while serving time in prison for killing a man, finds God. Lise is helped by an order of Catholic nuns that includes former prostitutes and prisoners like her. She joins the order and is swept up in an unexpected and fateful encounter with people from her past life. Rumer Godden tells an inspiring and entirely convincing conversion story that shows how the mercy of God extends to the darkest human places.

Rumer Godden, In This House of Brede (Loyola Classics)

This extraordinarily sensitive and insightful portrait of religious life centers on Philippa Talbot, a highly successful professional woman who leaves her life among the London elite to join a cloistered Benedictine community. In this gripping narrative of the crises surrounding the ancient Brede abbey, Rumer Godden penetrates to the mysterious, inner heart of a religious community—a place of complexity and conflict, as well as joy and love. It is a place where Philippa, to her own surprise and her friends’ astonishment, finds her life by losing it.

Edwin O’Connor, The Edge of Sadness (Loyola Classics)

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In this moving novel, Father Hugh Kennedy, a recovering alcoholic, returns to Boston to repair his damaged priesthood. There he is drawn into the unruly world of the Carmodys, a sprawling, prosperous Irish family teeming with passion and riddled with secrets. The story of this entanglement is a beautifully rendered tale of grace and renewal, of friendship and longing, of loneliness and spiritual aridity giving way to hope.

Gertrud von le Fort, The Song at the Scaffold (Ignatius Press)

Set during the French Revolution, this classic novella is based on the true story of the Carmelite nuns of Compiègne, who offered their lives for the preservation of the Church in France. The story unfolds around the fictional character of Blanche de la Force, an excessively timorous aristocrat who enters the Carmelite convent in order to flee the dangers of the world. As the Reign of Terror begins, Blanche is no safer in the convent than in the streets of Paris, and some of the sisters begin to doubt her ability to endure persecution and possibly martyrdom. The fates of Blanche and the other Carmelites take several unexpected turns, leaving the reader with an inspiring witness not only of martyrdom but of God’s power being glorified in human weakness.

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Catholic Non-Fiction/Lives of the Saints 

Fr. William R. Bonniwell, O.P., The Life of Blessed Margaret of Castello (Tan Books)

Blessed Margaret (1287-1320) was born a hunchback, midget, blind, lame and ugly. When she was 6, her proud, noble parents walled her up beside a chapel. She could not get out, but could attend Mass and receive the Sacraments. After 14 years of imprisonment, her parents took her a shrine to pray for a cure. When no cure was forthcoming, they abandoned her. She became a lay Dominican and spent the rest of her life in prayer and works of mercy. When she died at age 33, the townspeople thronged to her funeral and demanded that “the saint” be buried in a tomb inside the church. The priest protested, but when a crippled girl was miraculously cured at the funeral, the people had their way. Blessed Margaret’s story is one of the most moving we have ever read. Her body is still incorrupt.

Archbishop Elias Chacour, Blood Brothers (Chosen Books)

As a child, Elias Chacour lived in a small Palestinian village in Galilee. The townspeople were proud of their ancient Christian heritage and lived at peace with their Jewish neighbors. But early in 1947, their idyllic lifestyle was swept away as tens of thousands of Palestinians were killed and nearly one million forced into refugee camps. An exile in his native land, Elias began a years-long struggle with his love for the Jewish people and the world’s misunderstanding of his own people, the Palestinians. How was he to respond? He found his answer in the simple, haunting words of the Man of Galilee: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

In Blood Brothers, Chacour blends his riveting life story with historical research to reveal a little-known side of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the birth of modern Israel. He touches on controversial questions such as “What behind-the-scenes politics touched off the turmoil in the Middle East?”, “What does Bible prophecy really have to say?”, and “Can bitter enemies ever be reconciled?” Originally published by Chosen Books in 1984 and now expanded with a new introduction by the author, a new foreword by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, and a “Since Then” epilogue by writer David Hazard, this compelling book offers readers hope-filled insight into living at peace in the most volatile region of the world.

Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, S.J., With God in Russia (Ignatius Press)

Father Walter Ciszek, S.J., author of the best-selling He Leadeth Me, tells here the gripping, astounding story of his twenty-three years in Russian prison camps in Siberia, how he was falsely imprisoned as an “American spy,” the incredible rigors of daily life as a prisoner, and his extraordinary faith in God and commitment to his priestly vows and vocation. He said Mass under cover, in constant danger of death. He heard the confession of hundreds who could have betrayed him; he aided spiritually many who could have gained by exposing him. This is a remarkable story of personal experience. It would be difficult to write fiction that could honestly portray the heroic patience, endurance, fortitude and complete trust in God lived by Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J.

Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, S.J., He Leadeth Me (Ignatius Press)

He Leadeth Me is the deeply moving personal story of one man’s spiritual odyssey and the unflagging faith which enabled him to survive the horrendous ordeal that wrenched his body and spirit to near collapse. Captured by the Russian army during World War II and convicted of being a “Vatican spy,” American Jesuit Father Walter J. Ciszek spent some 23 agonizing years in Soviet prisons and the labor camps of Siberia. He here recalls how it was only through an utter reliance on God’s will that he managed to endure. He tells of the courage he found in prayer – a courage that eased the loneliness, the pain, the frustrations, the anguish, the fears, the despair. For, as Ciszek relates, the solace of spiritual contemplation gave him an inner serenity upon which he was able to draw amidst the “arrogance of evil” that surrounded him. Learning to accept even the inhuman work of toiling in the infamous Siberian salt mines as a labor pleasing to God, he was able to turn adverse forces into a source of positive value and a means of drawing closer to the compassionate and never-forsaking Divine Spirit. He Leadeth Me is a book to inspire all Christians to greater faith and trust in God – even in their darkest hour.

Gavan Daws, Holy Man: Father Damien of Molokai (University of Hawaii Press)

Holy Man tells the story of St. Damien, a Catholic priest who belonged to the Congregation of the Sacred Heart Fathers and worked in the mission of Hawaii.  Gavan Daws, a secular historian, does not idealize St. Damien or make him out to be some sort of superman.  Instead, he reveals him as an ordinary man with his own weaknesses and flaws, a man who was also a hero and martyr.  In doing so, Daws provides much food for thought on what it really means to be holy.  More than just a biography, Holy Man provides a wonderful snapshot of the social history of Hawaii during the second half of the 19th century, of the attitude towards (and treatment of) leprosy in the Hawaiian Islands, and of the Church at that time.

Sr. Geneviève of the Holy Face (Celine Martin), My Sister Saint Thérèse (Tan Books)

This famous little classic by Sister Geneviève of the Holy Face – Celine Martin – is a wonderful treasury of little-known stories and sayings of St. Thérèse, almost equivalent to a second Story of a Soul.  Celine was St. Thérèse’s closest friend and her disciple in Carmel, having been placed under St. Thérèse’s direction in the novitiate.  Here Celine recounts a wealth of precious memories of her sister – teachings, anecdotes, hidden virtues, conversations and even amusing remarks – by which St. Thérèse translated her beautiful doctrine of Spiritual Childhood into the homely routines of daily life.  Plus, Celine gives us privileged details of St. Thérèse’s last months and beautiful death.  My Sister Saint Thérèse is a wonderful book of spiritual encouragement which should go far toward fulfilling St. Thérèse’s great desire to teach others to love God as she loved Him. 

Fr. Gereon Goldmann, OFM, The Shadow of His Wings: The True Story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann, OFM (Ignatius Press)

Here is the astonishing true story of the harrowing experiences of a young German seminarian drafted into Hitler’s dreaded SS at the onset of World War II. Without betraying his Christian ideals, against all odds, and in the face of Evil, Gereon Goldmann was able to complete his priestly training, be ordained, and secretly minister to German Catholic soldiers and innocent civilian victims caught up in the horrors of war. How it all came to pass will astound you. Father Goldmann tells of his own incredible experiences of the trials of war, his many escapes from almost certain death, and the diabolical persecution that he and his fellow Catholic soldiers encountered on account of their faith. What emerges is an extraordinary witness to the workings of Divine Providence and the undying power of love, prayer, faith, and sacrifice.

Immaculée Ilibagiza, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust (Hay House Inc.)

Immaculée Ilibagiza grew up in a country she loved, surrounded by a family she cherished. But in 1994 her idyllic world was ripped apart as Rwanda descended into a bloody genocide. Immaculée’s family was brutally murdered during a killing spree that lasted three months and claimed the lives of nearly a million Rwandans. Incredibly, Immaculée survived the slaughter. For 91 days, she and seven other women huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor while hundreds of machete-wielding killers hunted for them. It was during those endless hours of unspeakable terror that Immaculée discovered the power of prayer, eventually shedding her fear of death and forging a profound and lasting relationship with God. She emerged from her bathroom hideout having discovered the meaning of truly unconditional love—a love so strong she was able seek out and forgive her family’s killers. The triumphant story of this remarkable young woman’s journey through the darkness of genocide will inspire anyone whose life has been touched by fear, suffering, and loss.

María Ruiz Scaperlanda, Edith Stein: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Our Sunday Visitor)

Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was a brilliant professor, an intellectual, a philosopher, a feminist, and a Jew. She was also a convert, a contemplative nun, and a martyr of the Holocaust. Now she is a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Better known as Edith Stein, she is perhaps the most controversial saint in recent history. Award-winning journalist María Ruiz Scaperlanda shows how this complex woman, her culture, and the pivotal period of history in which she lived and died can lead Catholics to holiness today. More than a biography, this gripping account calls to mind the struggle with truth, Faith, and prayer all of us must ultimately face.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul (Image Books Doubleday)

Few spiritual figures have touched as many readers in the past century as Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, the saint popularly known as the Little Flower. Though she was only twenty-four years old when she died, her writings have had tremendous impact, making her one of the most popular spiritual writers in the twentieth century. Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, has been a source of priceless inspiration ever since it was written, and has become the great spiritual bestseller of our time. A hundred years after her death in 1897, millions of copies have spread throughout the world and it has been translated into more than fifty languages. The reason for the continued success of her autobiography is, quite simply, that it is unlike any work of devotion and spiritual insight ever written. Once it is read, it cannot be forgotten. Its appeal across cultures and generations has been extensive, moving both peasants and popes, men and women, young and old — people of every kind of intelligence and education to succumb to its spell. Yet it is not a conventional work of religious devotion; instead, it is in many ways a supernatural book. In the words of Pope Pius XI, Saint Thérèse “attained the knowledge of supernatural things in such abundant measure that she was able to point out the sure way of salvation to others,” and it is especially in The Story of a Soul that she has pointed out this sure way to the generations that have followed her. As Thérèse herself said of this book just prior to her death, “What I have written will do a lot of good. It will make the kindness of God better known.”

Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (Ignatius Press)

Evelyn Waugh presented his biography of St. Edmund Campion, the Elizabethan poet, scholar and gentleman who became the haunted, trapped and murdered priest as “a simple, perfectly true story of heroism and holiness.” But it is written with a novelist’s eye for the telling incident and with all the elegance and feeling of a master of English prose. From the years of success as an Oxford scholar, to entry into the newly founded Society of Jesus and a professorship in Prague, Campion’s life was an inexorable progress towards the doomed mission to England. There followed pursuit, betrayal, a spirited defense of loyalty to the Queen, and a horrifying martyr’s death at Tyburn.

 

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