Inspiring Books Every Catholic Should Read
Every practicing Christian knows how important it is to read Holy Scripture on a regular basis. But, other than the Bible, what are the basic building blocks to a healthy and thriving faith? Of course, these are based on my own opinion and experience; others may disagree and have different essential reads. I’m hoping, however, that these ten books will edify and enrich your spiritual journey as they have mind.
The Temperament God Gave You by Art and Laraine Bennett
If you’ve ever been curious about human behavior and personality traits, this is honestly the best book to read. I have an advanced degree in counseling, so I’m familiar with several popular personality inventories, such as the Meyers-Briggs Sixteen Factor and Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Far surpassing both is this book about the four temperaments, all of which are rooted in the ancient humors: sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic. By far this is the most accurate way to understand yourself and those you love more deeply.
Humility of Heart by Fr. Cajetan de Bergamo
The opening of this book is, “In Paradise there are many saints who never gave alms on earth: their poverty justified them. There are many saints who never mortified their bodies by fasting or wearing hair shirts: their bodily infirmities excused them. There are many saints too who were not virgins: their vocation was otherwise. But in Paradise there is no saint who was not humble.” This sets the tone for the entire book, which will help you grow in understanding the holy virtue of humility and how necessary it is to grow in it for spiritual advancement.
Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean Pierre de Caussade
About fifteen years ago, I became a lay associate in the Congregation of Divine Providence. A large portion of this charism is, of course, built upon the lifestyle of abandonment to divine providence, which essentially means a life of surrender and total confidence in God’s goodness for us. Living this abandonment also means recognizing God’s provision and being grateful for our blessings. Jesus’ treatise on dependence of God is beautifully stated in Matthew 6: 25-34, and this book elaborates on the spirituality of abandonment.
Searching for and Maintaining Peace by Fr. Jacques Philippe
I haven’t met a single soul who was not in dire search of more peace in his or her life. As only Fr. Jacques Philippe can do, understanding this spiritual gift and fruit is exquisitely but simply portrayed in a very small book that can nearly fit into one’s pocket. You will discover short, powerful gems in these pages that will help you rethink your life and how to live more peacefully in small ways.
True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort
Many people have opted to read 33 Days to Morning Glory for their preparation for Marian consecration, which is a very good foundational understanding of the purpose and lifestyle of one who has given Mary everything. I find, however, that St. Louis de Montfort’s Marian theology is deeply profound and thorough. This book will provide a solid basis to answering those gnawing questions that so many people have, such as, “Why do we pray to Mary?” or “Can’t I just go directly to Jesus?” You will close the book convinced that your relationship with Our Lady can become wholehearted and personal, yet not overshadow your love of God.
When God Is Silent by Archbishop Luis M. Martinez
This is probably one of the most life-changing books I’ve read on the spiritual life. Based on the gospel story where Jesus falls asleep on the boat in front of his disciples during a violent tempest on the sea (see Matthew 8:23-27), Fr. Martinez offers incredible consolation to the reader about the times in life when God seems distant or absent altogether. Most of us have or will undergo such an experience, in which we persevere through dry spells in our faith but don’t feel God’s presence, and when those times occur, this book will carry you through.
Deliverance Prayers for the Laity by Fr. Chad Ripperger
Another topic that affects all of us is that of spiritual warfare. Few are well versed to recognize or understand spiritual attack, though the diabolic is often sensationalized in television and the media in general. The devout Catholic will need this manual of prayers as s/he advances in the spiritual life, mainly because the attacks from the enemy will increase in both frequency and intensity. I do recommend that the reader become acquainted with Fr. Ripperger through his YouTube talks, because a foundational understanding on how to use the book is essential before delving into prayer.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
All Catholics should have a copy of the Catechism. It’s obviously not meant to be read cover to cover but is more of a reference book. There are many times my daughters will ask me questions about the Faith that I have no answer to. Sometimes I have my own questions or need a deeper explanation about a topic I’m only nominally familiar with. The Catechism is my go-to reference book to help answer those questions, especially since each numbered section often gives references to Scripture verses that provide a Biblical background for its reasoning.
Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen
We all have a deep-seated longing to be loved, to know and be known, especially by God. It’s often elusive, because our relationship with God can be nebulous at times. We want physical contact, to see and hear and touch the one who loves us, which is, of course, not going to happen with God. Despite the reality that He is our all-loving Father, we don’t always believe this or feel it in our hearts. Henri Nouwen has a way of drawing us toward the humanity of God through the Person of Jesus in a tender, authentic manner. This book offers the reader a chance to see how much God loves him or her in a personal way.
The Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux
A spiritual classic, The Story of a Soul is a must-read for any Catholic, young or old, cradle or convert. I included this book because St. Therese’s spirituality was uncomplicated and unpretentious. Some saints are harder to follow or understand, such as St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Augustine of Hippo. But for the average Catholic, St. Therese’s “little way” just makes sense and can be applied at any point in one’s spiritual growth, regardless of how advanced one is in making the journey.
Editor's note: We also recommend Jeannie Ewing's new book, "A Time to Laugh and a Time to Weep", a prayerful journey of healing, forgiveness, charity, kindness, and courage that traverses the highs and lows of motherhood and faith in light of Cora Evans’ work "The Refugee from Heaven".