Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls. (St. Alphonsus Liguori)

 

For purchasing details, click on image…

But what sort of “good books” and “spiritual reading” will help us to save our souls?

 

I’ve heard young Catholics raving about Lord of the Rings as a great story and a marvellous means of understanding their Faith better. Here’s author J.R.R. Tolkien: “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.” [1] By design The Lord of the Rings is not a Christian allegory but rather an invented myth [2] about Christian and Catholic truths. As one commentator noted, giving a young person Lord of the Rings as a means of communicating essential truths of the Faith is to use the same method a mother uses to feed spinach to her baby – sneaking it in via the rivetting story!

If you can think of other non-fiction works to recommend – not just for the young but for us all, as wholesome as possible – let’s hear it…  

Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls. (St. Alphonsus Liguori)


There is an abundance of solid spiritual reading available;  given the state of the Church right now, however, it is wise to avoid contemporary writings and stick with the tried and tested classics written by great saints,  such as  The Sermons of St Alphonsus…  

for purchasing details, click on image…

For purchasing details click on image…

 

The Secret of the Rosary by St Louis De Montfort is another classic, which I’m currently re-reading – it never fails to inspire and edify – highly recommended, although I have to admit that not everyone finds it an easy read in the beginning – but  it’s worth persevering. I’ve heard it described as “transformative” – with good reason.  You can read it online by clicking on the  link above, at the name of the book.

 

 

For details of how to purchase a copy, click on image…

Another book which has transformed the spiritual lives of Catholics since its publication is St Thérèse of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul which, again, you can read online here

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen is another beautiful read; to quote the blurb on the back page of the complete and unabridged copy which describes the contents faithfully:  “With his customary insight and reverence, the author interprets the scripture and describes Christ not only in historical perspective but in exciting and contemporary terms;  he sees in Christ’s life modern parallels and timeless lessons. Sheen probes the hearts of many prominent New Testament figures – Joseph and Mary, Peter and the disciples, Herod, Pilate, et al – shedding new light on age-old events.  The whole adds up to a masterful study: a faithful blending of philosophy, history, and biblical exegesis.” 

For details of how to purchase a copy, click on image…  

 

 

Share your favourite spiritual reading with us in the comments below – not least reading that will inspire us to persevere during Lent… Now, there’s a challenge, folks!

 

35 responses

  1. This is great. I’m looking forward to reading this and pass in to those I think will benefit from the article and comments.

  2. I have started reading the Book of Wisdom for Lent.

    The short introduction in the Douay Rheims Bible says “It contains also many prophecies of Christ’s coming, passion, resurrection and other Christian mysteries.”

    The chapters are all quite short so it is easy to read a little every day or at different times of the day.

    I’ll let you all know if it has helped me, by the end of Lent!

  3. I really need to buck up my spiritual reading this Lent. This thread has already given me plenty of ideas.

  4. I haven’t read The Story of a Soul for years and I’m delighted to discover that I can read it online. I’ll be making a start on that today, to do something positive for Lent.

    I do have a copy of Sheen’s Life of Christ and I do love dipping into that all the year round.

  5. I’ve just started reading Chapter One of The Story of a Soul and I had to return here to quote this extract because, even though it is really her way of explaining something about her Carmelite vocation, I found it deeply touching and I think it can be helpful to lay people as well as religious:

    Then opening the Gospels, my eyes fell on these words: “Jesus, going up into a mountain, called unto Him whom He would Himself.”[3]

    They threw a clear light upon the mystery of my vocation and of my entire life, and above all upon the favours which Our Lord has granted to my soul. He does not call those who are worthy, but those whom He will. As St. Paul says: “God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.[4] So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”[5]

    I often asked myself why God had preferences, why all souls did not receive an equal measure of grace. I was filled with wonder when I saw extraordinary favours showered on great sinners like St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Mary Magdalen, and many others, whom He forced, so to speak, to receive His grace. In reading the lives of the Saints I was surprised to see that there were certain privileged souls, whom Our Lord favoured from the cradle to the grave, allowing no obstacle in their path which might keep them from mounting towards Him, permitting no sin to soil the spotless brightness of their baptismal robe. And again it puzzled me why so many poor savages should die without having even heard the name of God.

    Our Lord has deigned to explain this mystery to me. He showed me the book of nature, and I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would lose its springtide beauty, and the fields would no longer be enamelled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our Lord’s living garden. He has been pleased to create great Saints who may be compared to the lily and the rose, but He has also created lesser ones, who must be content to be daisies or simple violets flowering at His Feet, and whose mission it is to gladden His Divine Eyes when He deigns to look down on them. And the more gladly they do His Will the greater is their perfection.

    I understood this also, that God’s Love is made manifest as well in a simple soul which does not resist His grace as in one more highly endowed. In fact, the characteristic of love being self-abasement, if all souls resembled the holy Doctors who have illuminated the Church, it seems that God in coming to them would not stoop low enough. But He has created the little child, who knows nothing and can but utter feeble cries, and the poor savage who has only the natural law to guide him, and it is to their hearts that He deigns to stoop. These are the field flowers whose simplicity charms Him; and by His condescension to them Our Saviour shows His infinite greatness. As the sun shines both on the cedar and on the floweret, so the Divine Sun illumines every soul, great and small, and all correspond to His care—just as in nature the seasons are so disposed that on the appointed day the humblest daisy shall unfold its petals.

    I think that is all beautiful but this one line has already made me think hard about how to live a Catholic life, pleasing to God, not just tending to “accept” God’s will (which I have been trying to do all my life) but “gladly doing His Will” “And the more gladly they do His Will the greater is their perfection.

    That is insightful, IMHO – I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the book.

  6. Elizabeth has emailed to tell me that she has been having a lot of difficulty logging in for a number of weeks now, and she asks me to post the following comment from her for this thread:

    I am re-reading Cardinal Sarah’s beautiful book The Power of Silence, against the dictatorship of noise. It begins with an account of his visit to the Grand Chartreuse Carthusian monastery and his meeting with a young dying monk. He then proceeds with a profound message for our contemporary noisy world. And pleads for a place for silence, not simply a pause, in the liturgy.

    • Actually, I have a DVD called ‘Into Great Silence’ which visibly portrays the power of silence: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Into-Great-Silence-Disc-Collectors/dp/B000NDETLA The info on the site says “Writer/Director Philip Gröning’s award-winning documentary about life in the Grande Chartreuse monastery, the mother house of the legendary Carthusian Order in the French Alps. 19 years after asking permission to film there, he was finally granted permission to film inside. In accordance with the monks way of life, the documentary is a virtually silent affair, with no music, just the chants in the monastery, and no interviews or commentaries. Instead the viewer is invited to watch the film as part of a meditative experience where the film becomes the monastery, rather than depicting one. The 2-disc set has the 162 minute feature on disc 1, with literally masses of extras on disc 2, including a wealth of footage never seen before, a personal account of the film-making proces, a guide to the Carthusian way of life, and additional information on the international marketing campaigns and the critical response to the film.”

  7. I always “fed” books to my children and I still do although they are now young adults. I’d recommend any of C.S. Lewis, obviously age dependant in some cases. Hugh Benson’s “Lord of the World”, Huxley’s “Brave new World”, George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, P.D. James “The Children of Men” for older teenagers and I’ve recently discovered “Love in the Ruins” by Walker Percy. Most of these are non religious per se but good reading and an aid to forming critical thinking in the young.

  8. My favourite spiritual texts are “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas A Kempis and “An Introduction to the Devout Life” by St Francis de Sales.

    Being a Dominican, I also love St Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Theologica” and anything by Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange OP.

    • Petrus,

      I like The Imitation of Christ, as well, although I think it’s probably more suited to people in monasteries! Still, I can take some thoughts from it, which are definitely beneficial to my spiritual life.

  9. My recommendation is the book Diary of a hunted priest by Fr. John Gerard SJ, available here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Autobiography-Hunted-Priest-John-Gerard/dp/1586174509

    This is more inspiring and eventful than any fictional drama, a truly riveting real life account of Fr. Gerard’s priestly ministry during the persecution in Tudor England. It is a work that can be read at any age with great spiritual benefit. This is how great the Jesuits once were. I highly recommend it.

  10. Lots of very good suggestions so far – thank you to everyone who has posted titles and links so far.

    I can think of two teenage lads who are likely to be very attracted by your recommendation, Athanasius. I will make sure they know about it. Thank you for that.

  11. Editor

    It’s a book that will inspire boys of their age, a factual account of the persecution of priests in Tudor England. It’s such a well written account by Fr. Gerard, full of drama, that you almost feel like your living it with him. By the way, Fr. Gerard was the only priest to escape the Tower of London. Gripping stuff and completely factual.

  12. Editor

    I have a copy of the book that I would be happy to let the boys have for a while provided I get it back!! I gave my original copy to someone who didn’t return it and I can’t remember who it was. The copy I have now I had to have shipped from the U.S., although it seems it is now available on Amazon.

    Perfectly happy to let the lads borrow it for as long as it takes for them both to have a read.

    • Athanasius,

      Thank you for that offer but it will save me having to spend time working out what to get them for next birthdays – and, like you, I’ve lost so many books by “lending” them out (not realising I was actually giving them away – one classic in particular) that I now live by the old adage “neither a borrower nor a lender be”! 😀

      But thank you again – kind offer much appreciated.

      • When I was on retreat years ago, the little booklet we had had this for good reading:

        Holy Scripture
        Anything written by or about the Saints
        The Catechism of the Council of Trent
        Anything by Archbishop Lefebvre
        Any pre-VII encyclicals e.g. Mortalium Animos

        And since today is the Fourth Sunday of the Great Fast, The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus whose feast was yesterday (March 30th) but is always commemorated on the Fourth Sunday of the Great Fast.

      • Also, that advice from St. Alphonsus is spot on. When I was at university, I took my father’s prayer book with me. Following this advice helped preserve my Faith:

        “Reading is food for your mind. You should read only those books and papers that help you to improve your Catholic mind and to save your soul. The Holy Bible, the lives of the Saints and a good Eastern Rite Catholic monthly or weekly should be your best friends that will keep you away from idleness. Idleness is the enemy of purity. Always be usefully occupied in good reading or doing something at home. The devil will always find work for idle hands to do…Every Catholic girl should repeat with St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus: “I was born to save souls.”

        Source: Schudlo, Rev. M., compiler. My Divine Friend. 1959, Yorkton, SK, Redeemer’s Voice Press, pp. 102-103.

  13. Editor

    Well, I suppose a book for your birthday is a little more practical than a first class, all expenses paid, trip to Rome!! I hope the boys appreciate that kind of fiscal prudence!

    No worries about the loan of the book, it’s there if you change your mind.

  14. I love reading the lives of the saints – any saints. I also love reading the sermons of the great saints like St Alphonsus and St John Vianney. I see there’s a link to St Alphonsus in the blog introduction, so I went to look for a link to St John Vianney – here it is, where his sermons are listed
    https://www.theworkofgod.org/Library/Sermons/JdVianey/Sermons.htm

    I’m about to read the one entitled “Be religious or be damned” and if it’s as thought-provoking as the others I’ve read (I’ve not read them all, I tend to pick them by title) then I just might manage to keep up my Lenten penance, LOL!

  15. This article at the Remnant is very suitable for this thread – I was especially interested in what the author says about Jordan Petersen because I’ve never been sure what to make of him
    https://remnantnewspaper.com/web/index.php/fetzen-fliegen/item/4391-jordan-peterson-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-a-catholic-analysis

    I was also interested in her comment at the end about C.S. Lewis’ writings – I didn’t know that he “repeatedly and expressly” rejected Catholicism. It’s true that we have to keep an eagle eye on what we read, to safeguard our faith and prevent it being tainted.

  16. Might I recommend any book by Alice Thomas Ellis, particularly The Sin Eater and the 27 th Kingdom. Whilst not quite spiritual reading, they are undoubtedly Catholic and thought provoking.

  17. Liberanos,

    Thank you for that reminder of Alice Thomas Ellis who was a very orthodox Catholic after her conversion. She wrote for the Catholic Herald at one point and also for the Spectator. When she answered a feminist survey asking what was the most important event in women’s history, she replied “the Annunciation”! I copied the Spectator link because it’s very interesting to read their obituary, on her death.
    https://www.spectator.co.uk/2005/03/alice-doesnt-live-here-any-more/

    I’d say all her books would be worth a read, so thank you for that mention of a great convert Catholic woman writer.

  18. The article recommends some excellent books.

    To my shame, currently I am poor at making time for spiritual or any kind of reading, as I am often busy.

    But this thread is a good encouragement to rectify that.

    I echo many of the recommendations and would also add “the treasury of the sacred heart”.

    I have a pocket sized copy of this book, dating from 1957 I think. A friend came into possession of some of them and kindly gave me one. It is fantastic, a really great and useful resource – especially in such a handy and easy to transport size.

    Possibly best described as a spiritual manual or prayer book, it has lots of useful and very educational reading about the practice of our faith.

    “Treasury” is an excellent title for it, as for those raised as novus ordo Catholics (like me) it is truly a goldmine. This is what they should be giving older school children and young adults, as opposed to duping them that the Catholic Church is really an organisation set up to praise Jews and Protestants and nothing else.

    I owe my friend a great debt for his generosity.

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