Read This! 12 Catholic Books on the Spiritual Life You Should Read in 2016

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1622822285/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1622822285&linkCode=as2&tag=liveca-20&linkId=OHRV37HXG7AUBLES

Here are the books I think you should read in 2016. They are indispensable classics for me and they all sit next to me in my prayer corner or next to my bed. These are ones that have really helped me in my spiritual life. Each is amazing in its own way. Some are easy to read, some are ones you want to take the whole year to read carefully.

1) These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body by Emily Stimpson. When I first saw this book I thought, “Oh no, the difficult Theology of the Body.” Boy, was I wrong. This is super easy to read and brings this great topic to every part of your life. Just reading what the culture thought of man, before the Enlightenment, was breathtaking. It turns out that sex is only a really small part of John Paul II’s teaching on the body. It is a wonderful way to guide your whole life into beauty and holiness. You can tell the author is an expert on the topic and has synthesized years of study on this topic into a really easy to understand and implement teaching. I’m planning on reading it again this year.  I also really enjoy Emily’s website The Catholic Table and recommend you pay a visit. I’m a BIG fan of her Polenta recipe.

2) Worshipping a Hidden God by Archbishop Luis Martinez. I had this book on the shelf for years before I actually read it. I can’t believe I waited so long. Abp. Martinez was a Mexican bishop, poet and mystic and this book completely changed my view of God. It is geared to helping you through problems with prayer and your spiritual life and understanding the nature of God. I cried through several chapters. It was a breakthrough for me and I hope it will help you too.

3) Fatima for Today: An Urgent Marian Message of Hope by Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R. This book has everything you ever wanted to know about the Marian apparitions at Fatima and what happened afterward. During this time of chaos, confusion, and darkness, the Blessed Mother’s message is more imperative than ever in saving the world from evil. If you have ever wanted to know how or why to do the Five First Saturday devotions, or why the Rosary is so important, this is for you.

4) Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina by Tim Gray. This is an excellent explanation of how to pray using the Scriptures. Easy to read and understand.

5) The Navarre Bible: Gospels & Acts by the University of Navarre. This has been my mainstay Bible commentary for years. I use it constantly. I have several volumes of the Navarre Bible but, of course, this is the one I use the most. Other volumes I love are The Pentateuch (The first 5 books of the Old Testament) & the Letters of St. Paul. I highly recommend all the volumes. They have extensive commentary on all the text using lots of writings of Pope St. John Paul II, St. Josemaria Escriva and lots of other saints and Church writings.

6) Seeking Spiritual Direction: How to Grow the Divine Life Within by Fr. Thomas Dubay. Gives advice on finding a spiritual director. What I find the most profitable in this book is the advice in the back third of the book on problems and questions in the spiritual life. I’m definitely going to read this again this year. A related type book is Dan Burke’s Navigating the Interior Life: Spiritual Direction and the Journey To God. I read this when it first came out a few years ago, but I, unfortunately, don’t own a copy. It is excellent though, and helps guide you in spiritual direction and how to determine your main faults so you can overcome them.

Dan Burke also has several other resources that I can recommend. He has edited two other books that I do own and think you will profit from them: Finding God Through Meditation by St. Peter of Alcantara – St. Teresa of Avila’s spiritual director, which I am reading now; and selected letters of St. Teresa of Avila on prayer, 30 Days With St. Teresa of Avila, which I really enjoyed. He has the bestwebsite on prayer and the spiritual life online (and I don’t say that lightly,) Catholic Spiritual Direction is just excellent. I remember a time when everything online about Catholic prayer was wrong, or vacuous, or tainted with techniques from other religions that were the opposite of what Catholic spirituality taught. You still can find that stuff online, but this website was a revolution, and happily it is filled with excellent advice and direction, and others have followed the lead with the true teachings of Christian prayer. What we now have is a blossoming of the spiritual life. 

Also, check out the related Relevant Radio’s Divine Intimacy Radio show and podcast, among other helps. Another radio show, from Radio Maria is Carmelite Conversations. It is absolutely my favorite podcast and I cannot tout it highly enough for discussions on Catholic spirituality, books, and Carmelite saints. I have learned so much!

7) 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC. A very approachable and understandable preparation for consecration to Jesus through the Blessed Mother. It uses teaching from Mother Teresa, Pope St. John Paul II, St. Louis de Montfort, and St. Maximilian Kolbe. Everyone I know who has read it has been very impressed. 

8) Trusting God With St. Therese by Connie Rossini. A lovely book on how St. Thérèse of Lisieux allowed God to guide her through difficult times in her life and how you can trust God in hard times too. 

Other books I can recommend but am not finished with yet:

Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI. I have the first of the three volumes.
 
The Hidden Power of Kindness: A Practical Handbook for Souls Who Dare to Transform the World, One Deed at a Timeby Lawrence G. Lovasik 
 
An Introduction to the Devout Lifeby St. Francis de Sales, excellent for beginners. 
 
Spiritual Combat: How to Win Your Spiritual Battles and Attain Peaceby Lorenzo Scupoli. St. Francis de Sales carried this in his pocket for years.

4 Websites to Deepen Your Spiritual Life

John William Waterhouse

In my numerous travels online I have found some really great websites that are excellent in helping to further your spiritual life. I could not keep them to myself.

  1. Ascending Mount Carmel. This is a great site by writer and assistant editor of MonkRock, Jason Liske. He comes from the perspective of Eastern Christianity and I love all his profiles of different saints, many I have not heard of, or have forgotten about. His writings about the spiritual life is top notch.
  2. The Cloistered Heart. This is a gorgeous site. I could stare at the art for ages. The posts are simple and short, but deeply meaningful. It is geared toward finding Christ in the monastery of your heart. Author Nancy Shulman does an excellent job of displaying the quiet and solitude that brings us closer to the Lord. I look forward to her email with her latest post every day.
  3. The Catholic Young Woman.  Here is another beautiful site. Geared toward young women obviously, I find it so interesting to read. It shows quite well that there are young, intelligent women who seek Christ deeply and are in the world. Not all the young women in our society are looking for hook-ups or screaming for the right to kill their babies. Here are serious (yet fun) women who are taking to heart Christ’s call to love others and respect themselves. They are searching for the best way to fulfill God’s plan in their lives and explore how to live the virtues. I wish I had known some of them when I was in college and starting out. One seems so alone when you are trying to live for Christ, or at the very least not live by the standards of the times. It is a great site to pass along to the young ladies in your life.
  4. The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles have a lovely site that showcases their mission and a great blog answering people’s questions. It could be a great help to you in your walk with Christ. I always want to stay and linger a little longer.

Update: Here is a bonus. I knew there was another one!  Check out Contemplative Homeschool. Yes, it IS about homeschooling, but also about so much more. Connie Rossini writes from a Carmelite perspective about your spiritual life and how to foster the spiritual life of your children. It’s fantastic.

    You’ve Got Questions?

    I’ve recently discovered a gold mine of great info that I thought I would pass on.  Aggie Catholics, a service of St. Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A&M University, is a great blog.  They have a fantastic Question & Answer section dedicated to the questions they have received from the ordinary Catholic.  The list is extensive and the questions people have asked are answered in a knowledgeable and compassionate way. You’ll probably learn a lot by just browsing through to take a look.

    Advice for Someone Returning to the Catholic Church

    A few weeks ago, a woman emailed our parish, of which I am webmaster, to say that she would like to return to the Catholic Church and asked what she should do? She had been baptized Catholic but had not attended since. This is quite a common occurrence, so I thought I would share with you what I told her, in a slightly adapted version. It would be good advice for a new Catholic as well.

    How wonderful for you! I’m so happy for you to take this step!

    First, I would advise you call the Religious Education Office at your chosen parish to register for RCIA, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, which is the program you will need to take to learn about the faith and to get your sacraments. This usually starts in the Fall.

    Second, I would recommend for you make an appointment with one of your parish priests to have a chat to get you started in your spiritual life. I’m sure he would love to meet with you. Don’t be shy.

    Third, I would start attending Mass every week, if you aren’t already. Even though you can’t take Communion, you can make a Spiritual Communion at any time, but especially during Communion time at mass. The Spiritual Communion prayer is found here:

    Fourth, get a Catholic Bible (protestant bibles don’t have all the books of the bible, so you want a Catholic one) The New Catholic Answer Bible: The New American Bible is excellent. The Leather version is called The New Catholic Answer Bible – Librosario It is beautiful, and is the bible we gave our son for his Confirmation. Start reading it in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) & Acts. Mark is a great one to read first because it is short.

    In the meantime, if you haven’t already, you might want to check out these websites and books to help nourish yourself along your journey – of course, at your own pace.

    Catholic Answers
    A Simple Guide to Christian Meditation
    How to Pray the Rosary
    EWTN Faith Teachings
    Envoy Read back issues & articles
    New American Bible Online
    Catholics Come Home

    Books:
    Prayer Primer : Igniting a Fire Within – Fr. Thomas Dubay
    Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism An easy must-read by Scott & Kimberly Hahn
    The How-To Book of the Mass: Everything You Need to Know but No One Ever Taught You Michael Dubruiel
    7 Books for New Catholics

    Also, see if there is a Catholic library at your parish or a neighboring one. There are also great podcasts online to help nourish you too. You can listen to them on an MP3 player or on your computer. See my list of podcasts on the left side of this website.

    If you need any information or have any questions about the Faith, please don’t hesitate to contact me so I can send you in the right direction.

    Congrats on this great step in your life,
    God Bless,
    Marcy

    UPDATE: You might also find helpful the Catholics Come Home website.

    Advent Resources


    Advent, the 4 weeks (approximately) of spiritual preparation before Christmas is such a neglected season of the year. It sneaks up on you, hiding amidst the turkey and pie, while you watch the neighbors put up their Christmas tree indecently early.

    Each year everyone is always worried about the so-called “Black Friday” and “good deals.” We rush around thinking about sales, picture taking, baking, parties, and planning vacations. This year, everyone just seems worried – about jobs, empty bank accounts, those rotten politicians ruining the country… but few seem aware of the small, quiet whisper of a child coming. Grace coming expectantly. The King to literally grace us with his presence.

    So, here is a reminder. STOP!!! Take the time to plan, of course, but also turn off the music, try to be silent, light a candle, set the bible on the dining room table. Actually schedule Advent time into your daily planner, and wait. Wait for the Child to be born in your heart.

    Advent can be detailed or simple. Jesse Trees, O Antiphons, Advent wreaths, etc. But it can also be just the lighting of a candle and a quiet time of prayer in your heart and those of your family.

    If you would like to have some more information about Advent and how to celebrate it, here are a few resources for you during the “Little Lent:”

    Catholic Culture has a great deal of good information in their Advent Resources.

    Well-known author Amy Welborn has given us a generous gift. Her husband, Michael Dubruiel, passed away in February, 2009 but was working on a book of Advent Meditations. She finished editing the book and is giving it away as an e-book in multiple formats. You can find it here. Thank you so much Amy.

    The US Catholic Bishops have created a site, the USCCB Site for Advent & Christmas Seasons including meditations, calendars, prayers and more.

    EWTN has beautiful short meditations and info in their Advent Site.

    Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio has some wonderful downloads and information from the Church Fathers at his Crossroads Initiative Advent & Christmas Resources section.

    You may also be interested in Advent: Awaiting God’s Justice by Pope Benedict XVI

    May your Advent be a fruitful and beautiful time for you and your family this year.

    Update: Here is an article by Lisa Reinhard at CatholicMom.com that illustrates why we need to slow down during Advent – Hating Christmas.

    I Got A Message From God


    A few days ago, I stepped outside my front door and looked up and there was a message from God. A skywriter was working diligently penning a message in Spanish. Dios Te Ama. God Loves You. Someone, somewhere needed to hear this and I’m glad to have benefited from it too. God Loves You too, and sometimes you need to hear it. It’s that simple.

    I’ve been so busy lately, but while I have not posted, I have been working on adding lots of stuff to the resource lists on the right. Good news organizations, podcasts and helpful multimedia. One resource I found just yesterday is a little shop called Gardens of Grace that sells handmade rosaries, parts, directions etc. While they don’t have any rosaries at this time, they do have parts to make your own, and the pictures are absolutely beautiful. I have truly never seen such beautiful rosaries and chaplets. I worked in a Catholic store for about a year and saw just about every rosary you could purchase. That was nothing. These are phenomenal and I urge you to check them out and bookmark it. I don’t get paid for saying that, I just love them.

    Update Your (Family) Calendars

    This has been “Calendar day” here at my house today. A few days ago I bought Mom’s Family Calendar, which is a cute yearly wall calendar to keep track of each person in the family. It is very helpful when everyone has a different schedule. I happened to buy it at Sam’s Club, but it is available everywhere. I did find this website, Families With Purpose while looking it up online. It seems to have a great deal of organizational helps for families.

    I’ve had this calendar before and liked it. I think I wanted a change though, and chose a calendar with Monet a few years ago, but now need more organization. So today is the day that I transfer all existing appointments, birthdays, school schedules, work schedules, etc. onto the new year’s calendar. This seems to take forever but will save me time all year.

    The calendar has 17 months that began in August, so I can use it now. The only drawback would be for families with more than three children. There are only columns for 5 people, so you might have to combine children for a column. I wish it was not so “cutesy” (I would prefer flowers or Impressionism) but I will live with it.

    As I was trying to get everything on the calendar, I realized I needed a liturgical calendar and thought I would share with you what I found. The US Bishops Website (USCCB) has the 2010 Liturgical Calendar, which actually begins the first Sunday of Advent in 2009, November 29th. I happen to prefer the Women For Faith & Family 2010 Liturgical Calendar, which has everything in a more easy to use format and with links for more information about the saints, fasting and abstinence, holy days, etc.

    You might however prefer a daily planner, and a few of my friends really like the Catholic Woman’s Daily Planner. They have some planners with sections for meal planning, homeschool planning or a combination of both. They are very nice. You can also find some other resources by the same people at the Family Centered Life blog.

    In my travels today, I also discovered a great website called ChurchYear.net which has not only church calendars but also explanations of liturgical events, prayers that can be used during certain parts of the year, and many resources you will find helpful throughout the year.

    You might also like a great book The Catholic Parent Book of Feasts which takes you through the liturgical year with recipes, crafts and other helps to help celebrate the year with your family. I find it to be very informative and helpful.

    I now need to update Outlook, sync my phone and iPod to it, and sync my husband’s phone to his Outlook. It’s a calendar type day. If you have any other resources you find helpful, I would love to hear about them.