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A Few Good Books

Two years ago I posted an answer on Quora to the following question: What are some good books that teach you about spirituality, and how do you improve your life quality? But I'm not so much interested in promoting my answer as in reading yours. Please add to the list with a helpful description why this is your choice. Your thanks will be others' spiritual growth.

I have a small and eclectic set of suggestions in no particular order from the point of view of a Catholic priest (my own) in directing individuals over a thirty year period and developing a spiritual life twice that long. The ones I suggest are Christian classics. Much as I enjoy more modern books like the Tao of Pooh for its delightful insights, I suggest here only tried and true works from saints and other well established authors in the realm of Catholic Religion and Spirituality. I would also suggest the original texts rather than abridgments or Cliff Notes, though commentary may be helpful. Consider this a sampling; the list could easily continue fivefold. Insights weave their way into one’s heart. How can you practice what you don’t know? Wisdom from these books will help guide you in your path to God and a life of peace and joy.

  1. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. Can be found for free on the internet. Solemn conversations between Jesus and one’s soul. Takes the pre-Vatican II point of view, Fuga Mundi or “flee the world” as a source of distraction from intimacy with Our Lord. Still used and highly regarded.

  2. Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. Also should contain The Spiritual Maxims of Brother Lawrence.

  3. The Story of a Soul, an autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, doctor of the Church. Known as the Little Flower, Therese speaks on profound spiritual insights in a warm and human way as she describes her own venture into a life of holiness.

  4. Humility of Heart by Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo, one of my personal favorites. St. Augustine was asked the way to spiritual perfection and he answered: humility, humility and humility.

  5. Introduction to the Spiritual Life by St. Francis de Sales. This gentle saint and doctor of the Church shares his wisdom for students of spirituality wishing to progress in fidelity to God.

  6. Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean Pierre de Caussade. Describes how to live in the present moment trusting God to provide for needy souls.

  7. Mere Christianity by C.S.Lewis, a stirring apologetic for Christianity from his famous radio talks during World War Two. Lewis is one of the most recognized religious authors of the twentieth century.

  8. Uniformity with God’s will by St. Alphonsus Liguori, doctor of the Church. Perhaps, two, his book: Preparation for Death (My mother carried this around the last two years of her life) or Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell: Meditations on the Four Last Things.

  9. Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom, Monk and Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. This little book helped me in my early years in the seminary appreciate and understand the importance of prayer. It brings up conversational aspects of addressing God as a person, living (metaphorically) in a “desert” (spiritually dry) experience, and much more.

  10. The Confessions of St. Augustine, doctor of the Church. Deep spiritual insights and a wonderful autobiography to boot. This book has changed lives and made converts. Besides, St. Augustine writes beautifully and with panache in his marvelously rhetorical way.

  11. The Treatise on Purgatory by St. Catherine of Genoa. Short, 40 pages or so, urged by St. Francis de Sales as a work that should be read by the faithful once a year. Can be found online for free. This work describes purgatory, a teaching implied by Scriptures (“pay the last penny” and “escape with your life in trial as by fire,” etc.) as a positive experience, one which the blessed soul is divested of every strand or molecule of the residue of sin, because evil cannot enter the presence of God. St. Catherine says that if one dies with unremitted sins, such a soul would throw herself into Purgatory if given the opportunity to be perfectly cleansed for God.

  12. Sacred Scriptures. Pick a book of the bible and read it. Nothing better than God’s word to ponder and assimilate!

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4 commenti

John Benko
John Benko
11 nov 2022

I have 8 of the 12 titles on that list. I'm currently reading Humility of Heart. It's really affecting me. There are so many I could add but I'll just add a few. Dark night of the Soul by Saint John of the Cross, Bernadette Soubirous by Francouis Trochu, Diary of Saint Faustina, True Devotion to Mary by Louis De Montfort, The End of the Present World by Father Armijon and the Spiritual combat by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli are among those that have really impacted me as well.

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10 nov 2022

Excellent list, thank you!!!! I would add St. Catherine of Siena's Dialogue, but that's just me ... I do have quite a passion for Santa Caterina!

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John Benko
John Benko
11 nov 2022
Risposta a

I read that one as well. Very moving.

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