Ok, so it’s not that big and it’s definitely not in the ballpark of comprehensive (would that even be possible?). But, in response to a reader’s request for resources on Catholic teaching, Catholic motherhood, Catholic blogs, and books that influenced our decision to convert, here’s…well, something. It’s off the top of my head with a couple suggestions and notes from Daniel. I would LOVE your suggestions and recommendations for additions!
CATHOLIC TEACHING/CATHOLIC THOUGHT:
(Daniel’s note regarding recommended reading for Catholic thought that also influenced our conversion:
“Read the Church Fathers, beginning with Ignatius of Antioch. Before I was Catholic, I thought that the Protestant Reformation was necessary because of a steady decline that had taken place in the Church from its very beginning. I thought that everything would be great if we could just get back to the Early Church. But I figured we just didn’t have a record of that time. Turns out, we do. Ignatius of Antioch lived in the first century and was martyred in the beginning of the second so his writing held a lot of weight with me. When I read his letters, I was quite surprised by what I found. Over and over again, he emphasizes loyalty to the bishops; an idea that was totally foreign to me. He spoke of the Church as a single organization with a hierarchy and chain of command. He also spoke of the Eucharist with great reverence and called it the ‘medicine of immortality.’
Continuing through the centuries… St. Augustine, St. Maximus the Confessor, St. Anselm. With these guys, it wasn’t so much a particular argument they made that drew me to the church. Instead, it was the continuity that exists over the centuries in their writings. This flew in the face of my idea that there was a ‘falling away’ from the truth. Quite the opposite, their was unbroken consistency of thought and teaching that existed from the early church all the way up to the contemporary Catholic Church. Maximus emphasizes this continuity (albeit in the 7th century).”)
A good place to start is with The Epistles of St. Clement of Rome and St. Ignatius of Antioch. There’s a good Paulist Press edition. Also worth reading are: The Prayers and Meditations of St. Anselm, Confessions or the Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, and Love of St. Augustine, and Selected Writings of Maximus Confessor.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church—doesn’t get much better than this. Confession: I haven’t read the whole thing. Maybe remedying that should (obviously?) be one of my Lenten devotions.
Signs of Life by Scott Hahn—Daniel and I read this together during Lent two years ago. There are 40 chapters so it’s perfect for lenten reading. Dr. Hahn is also a convert and this book is a beautiful introduction to Catholic sacraments, sacramentals, and practices. Hahn includes many, many Scripture references in his chapters which is always helpful to those of us coming from a Protestant background.
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton—Just awesome. Everything Chesterton writes is delightfully funny and painfully true.
On Being Catholic by Thomas Howard: Written by a convert, this book explains facets of the Catholic faith and Catholic worldview and dispells minunderstandings of the Catholic faith that might arise coming from a Protestant worldview.
On Loving God by St. Bernard of Clairvaux—Following in the footsteps of St. Augustine, this medieval saint writes beautifully. I am a medievalist at heart and I just love St. Bernard. Here’s an example: “Faith certainly bids me love him all the more whom I regard as that much greater than I, for he not only gives me myself, he also gives me himself.”
Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday?: The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything by Michael P. Foley—Written by one of our Baylor profs, this is a delightful read.
And if you’re up for something dense but amazing—any of the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Return to Rome by Francis Beckwith—Dr. Beckwith’s story of his reversion to Catholicism after becoming Protestant and being President of the Evangelical Theological Society.
Crossing the Tiber by Stephen Ray—Part I is his conversion story from Protestantism and Parts II and III are on Baptism and the Holy Eucharist.
Confessions by St. Augustine—the ultimate conversion story.
The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton—Another good conversion story highlighting the working of God’s grace guiding us, even when we are unaware.
Apologia Pro Vita Sua by the Blessed John Henry Newman—The spiritual autobiography of a former Anglican. Confession: I haven’t read this one, but Daniel really liked it.
CATHOLIC PRAYER AND DEVOTION:
St. Benedict’s Prayer Book—We love using this for morning and evening prayer for our family.
An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales—Exhortations to holiness through prayer and examination of conscience by a wonderful saint of the Church.
The Rosary: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary by Karen Edmisten—Fantastic introduction to praying the Rosary. I’ve read it twice and it has helped me make the Rosary a frequent and familiar devotion in my spiritual life.
Familiaris Consortio, Encyclical by the Blessed Pope John Paul II: This one definitely falls into the category of Catholic teaching but has much to say on motherhood and the family in modern life. I’m more than halfway through and loving it.
Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset—Well-researched and beautifully written biography of St. Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset, another fellow convert to Catholicism.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, “The Dumb Ox” by G.K. Chesterton—Nobody writes biography as delightfully as Chesterton. A wonderful introduction to this great saint.
ANYTHING written by Flannery O’Connor. My favorite is The Violent Bear It Away.
(Daniel’s note: “This is hard to explain. Perhaps it was that she was a Southern author writing about the South. I guess she was able to translate her Catholicism into the language of my Southern Protestantism. I can’t really put my finger on it. Obviously, the sacraments are a huge part of her work, even when they are slightly hidden. There is a kind of radicalism in her stories that makes sense to me and I think is a core part of the Gospel message. There is a totality to it that I think is clearly shown in Catholic theology. She also helped me see that some of my objections to the Catholic Church were actually rooted in my modern, materialist perspective and not really in anything biblical.”) Warning: If you’ve never lived in the South…these works might be really hard to understand.
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh: THE 20th Century Catholic Novel. Wickedly funny and full of heartbreaking truth, Brideshead follows the working of God’s grace in the aristocratic Flyte family through the eyes of their friend Charles Ryder. I read it every year and the characters have become beloved companions. I can’t explain why, but I think this book influenced me to become Catholic more than any other.
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset: I’ve written about how much I love this saga before—how often do you find good medieval historical fiction? Kristin’s spiritual journey chronicled throughout the books is complex, beautiful, and worth reading.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (Daniel’s note: “I guess this is hard to explain, too. Maybe part of it was that I absolutely loved Tolkien and his worldview. So the fact that he was Catholic made me see Catholicism in a more positive light. There are also a lot of sacraments in his work. The Eucharist shows up all the time.”)
What are your suggestions for MUST-READ books and resources on Catholic faith?
(p.s. Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a copy of the clothbound Penguin classic edition of Pride and Prejudice! It ends tomorrow at noon!)
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