Given the isolation mandated by the coronavirus crisis, many Catholics find themselves with more time to pray, worship, and deepen their spirituality.
In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic presents the perfect opportunity to do some summer reading on the Catholic faith, the saints, and even the Church catechism.
A quick look at the many books available online and through Catholic bookstore websites reveals fiction, biographies, manuscripts written by doctors of the Church, lives of the saints – even if you started reading this minute, you would never be able to consume all the books related to Catholicism or edited for Catholics.
NOVELS CATHOLICS SHOULD READ
The Blessed Is She blog has a wonderful list of fiction recommended for Catholics at https://blessedisshe.net/blog/fiction-books-catholic/. Among the titles Alabama-based author Carissa Pluta mentions are “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh, which she calls “gorgeously written… haunting, and a book that has left me better for having read it.”
Most people are familiar, Pluta notes, with the Catholic themes of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, as well as C.S. Lewis’ beloved “The Chronicles of Narnia,” but she also recommends Catholic Southern writer Flannery O’Connor’s “The Complete Stories,” whom she says “spins powerful tales of redemption,” and “The Brothers Karamazov,” by Fyodor Dostoevsky, a 700-page Russian novel lauded by Einstein as “the supreme summit of all literature” that also is referenced by three recent popes.
She also lauds Graham Greene’s “The Power and the Glory” as a “real page-turner” that has kept her up late reading. It spins the tale of one of the last priests living in Mexico in the 1930s when being a priest was considered an act of treason. She also recommends Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” whose monster “shows us what life would be like to have a creator who didn’t care for his creation, illustrating to us the gift we have in a Creator who loves and delights in us.”
Pluta’s final recommendation is “East of Eden,” John Steinbeck’s novel centered around the idea found in Genesis 4:7 that “You may turn away from evil and do good.” Steinbeck’s novel, she says, “presents humanity in all its radical freedom given by God, and illustrates that ‘tis freedom affects, not only yourself, but those around you for generations to come.”
SPIRITUAL BOOKS TO PONDER
Brandon Vogt, best-selling author of eight books, founder of ClaritusU, and content director for Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, wrote a wonderful article (https://brandonvogt.com/best-catholic-books-of-all-time/) on the best Catholic books. It includes many titles in different categories, including classics like the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” Otto Ludwig’s “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma,” and Josef Pieper’s “The Four Cardinal Virtues.”
His spiritual classics include 15 books, from St. Thomas Aquinas’s “My Way of Life/Summa Theologica,” and St. Catherine of Siena’s “Little Talks with God,” to St. John of the Cross’s “Dark Night of the Soul,” and Mother Theresa’s “Meditations from a Simple Path.” Also included at two tomes by G.K. Chesterton, three from C.S. Lewis, and two from St. Teresa of Avila, as well as St. Therese of Lisieux’s “Story of a Soul.”
I’ve been meaning to read works by St. Francis de Sales ever since interviewing a consecrated woman about her decision to live a life dedicated to the saint’s philosophy, so his “An Introduction to the Devout Life,” and “Treatise on the Love of God” are on my short list this summer.
With an interest in Ligourian prayer, I’m also considering St. Alphonso Liguori’s “The Great Means of Salvation and Perfection” and “Uniformity of God’s Will” for my spiritual reading. Bishop Fulton Sheen’s magnetism has always fascinated me, so his “Life of Christ” and “Three to Get Married” also are on my want-to-read list.
DYNAMIC CATHOLIC BOOKS
Of course, no reading list of mine would be complete without works by the approachable, charming Matthew Kelly, founder of Dynamic Catholic. Many of Kelly’s books are available free of charge at local parishes in normal times, but you can find them for nominal cost at his website, DynamicCatholic.com.
I’m finishing up “Rediscovering the Saints,” upon which Kelly’s recent series, “Best Lent Ever” was based. Also on my bookshelves waiting to be discovered are his “Resisting Happiness” and “Rediscovering Catholicism.” And I’m looking forward to reading his latest title, “I Heard God Laugh,” which is coming soon and sounds delightful.
Lastly, I’d be lying if I said I spend hours in spiritual reading pursuits. After all, there’s client work to be written, meals to be prepared, family members to love. So I want to close by recommending a book that never fails to inspire me with its easy-to-digest daily reflections: “The God Minute: 365 Reflections to Begin Each Day,” by Father Ron Hoye, C.M., which offers wonderful new thoughts each day.