If I didn’t inflate your reading list enough last week, how about a few more titles to try this Lent, or maybe, sometime within the next five years?
All the ladies who generously shared their top picks with me were limited to three titles and only a brief paragraph on each. You can link up a 9,000 word behemoth about your favorite 12 volume set if you’d like.And yes this post is just LITTERED with affiliate links. If you hate Amazon, don’t click on anything!!!
I Believe in Love, by Father Jean C. J. d’Elbee: This is a personal retreat based on the teachings of Saint Therese of Lisieux. I was really torn about whether to give preference to her autobiography, The Story of a Soul (another favorite of mine) or not, but what I love about this book is how it synthesizes so much of The Story of a Soul and goes to heart of Saint Therese’s spirituality. This was a really huge resource for me when I was first coming into my faith in college, and it will forever be a favorite of mine.
In Conversation with God, by Francis Fernandez: Learning how to live Saint Therese’s little way of love in small things was really hard for me– concretely– at first, and it was being introduced to Saint Josemaria’s spirituality of holiness in everyday life, for people who live in the world, that really helped me to understand it in the day in and day out, and this series encapsulates his teachings. I happened upon these books toward the end of college and beginning of my dating and engagement with Mike because my mother read them while we were growing up and she let me use hers. They were instrumental in my deepening of faith and provided so much enrichment and encouragement while I was working hum drum, normal jobs and trying to bring Christ to those places. They continue to be a go-to for me in my vocation and are especially great because they are reflections that go along with the liturgical readings throughout the year.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
I know. But hear me out. In college we were required to read the official Catechism of the Catholic Church. Like, the whole thing. I remember clearly our professor telling us that the Catechism can and should also be read as a devotional and encouraging us to use it as such. And she was right. Reading that Catechism not only informed my Faith but richly deepened my personal spiritual life as well. The more we understand what we believe the more it can deepen our worship and our worship should then deepen our belief. If the spiritual life is about knowing Him and He IS the Truth, then the more I learn understand the truths He’s given us, the more I can know and understand Him. I’ve definitely found that to be true in my spiritual life.
The Imitation of Christ
Another of the books that has had a profound impact on me is The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. This book I read through when I was really starting to get serious about my spiritual life in early college. I like a book that doesn’t pull punches and this one qualifies. I found the short chapters readable and powerful and very challenging. It teaches clearly and is one of those books that sinks down into a soul if allowed, changing one’s interior dialogue with Christ. This book is a classic and it would be hard for anyone to not be changed through it. It’s a book that certainly deepened my love for the Lord and my commitment to becoming more like Him.
The Theology of the Body
Reading the Theology of the Body changed pretty much everything about how I understood my Faith as well as how God created me as a woman. I constantly refer back to it in marriage, motherhood, and just everyday life decisions and attitudes. It revolutionized the way I viewed my role in the world, my vocation, and the idea of self gift. I’d highly recommend either the original or one of the books designed to simplify its teaching to anyone wanting to deepen their spiritual life.
Abandonment to Divine Providence by Fr Jean-Pierre de Caussade
The People of the Towel and Water: Restoring the World Through Christ in Everyday Life by Catherine Doherty
One of my favorite “spiritual books” that I have read at least twice now is “Walking with Mary: A Biblical Journey from Nazareth to the Cross” by Edward Sri. Professor Sri walks the reader through Mary’s journey in the New Testament. It unpacks the biblical truths of Our Lady and really breaks down into easily understandable points everything she went thought. Yes, she was born without sin and remained a virgin her whole life, but she was also a woman who went through everything we go through as woman and mothers. I really identify with her suffering, especially as she had to watch her son be crucified and die on the cross. I felt many of those same things as we cared for our Courtney in her last year of life. I know that suffering takes place for a reason. To teach us how to truly let go of ourselves and unconditionally love another and to allow us to help others by offering our suffering for their needs. I learn something new every time I read this book. In my opinion, it’s a must on every Catholic woman”s book shelf.
If you’re like me and can’t think of when you last had the time or attentiveness to digest a whole book’s worth of spiritual food-for-the-soul, maybe In Conversation with God, by Fr. Francis Fernandez, is the thing for you! It’s my current go-to spiritual reading, and I’m guessing it will be for some time, not only because the daily meditations are relatively short, but because they are timeless, yet ever new. Each day is focused on a theme for reflection (a particular sin or virtue, a Sacrament, devotion to Our Lady, an element of the life of Christ, etc…) and is full of the wisdom of the saints, particularly the spirituality of St. Josemaria Escriva. My pride has been cut down time and time again when I open to a page, glance at the day’s theme and think “Ugh. I don’t really need to read about Examination of Conscience.” Or Chastity. Or Penance. Or Spiritual Guidance. Or fill-in-the-blank. The areas in which I think I need the least direction have often been the meditations that have taken me by surprise, opened my eyes, softened my heart, and strengthened my resolve to sanctify the daily tasks of my ordinary life for Christ and the Church. Turns out, Fr. Fernandez has a gift for making chastity, penance, examination of conscience, and any number of topics, issues that are directly linked to the holiness I strive for in my harried and distracted state of stay-at-home-mom-ness. He kind of smacks you upside the head and says, “Do better!” and leaves you with the spiritual wisdom, practical advice, and encouragement to actually think, “Yes! With Jesus, I can! And for Jesus, I will!”
Kelly Mantoan, This Ain’t the Lyceum
As someone who struggles with spiritual reading, I found The Rule of St. Benedict to be an easy read. Maybe because it wasn’t meant to be some deep meditative work, but rather a guidebook for monks. However, the advice and guidelines outlined by St. Benedict 1,500 years ago can easily be applied to running a household and living an orderly life. St. Benedict is the patron of our home and my husband is known to quote passages of the rule to our children whenever there is grumbling about chores, meals or prayers. (But don’t worry, we don’t follow the recommendations of Chapter 30 when the kids misbehave.) In a rushed society that struggles to stay organized and in control of everything, it is good to be reminded that a truly full life contains very little except routine combined with diligence in work and prayer.
As promised last week, this post is a link up! Have a spiritual book to recommend? Write a post on your blog, or even Instagram, and share the link below. I look forward to reading your suggestions!
(And in case you missed it, don’t forget to check out Part One!)