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

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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.

Faith & Reason

In a podcast I was listening to today, Fr. Ryan Humphries, was discussing faith and reason.  One of the things I found interesting that I thought I would share with you was a simple concept.  You need both faith and reason to have a relationship with God.  Some argue that you only need faith, but ours is an informed faith, it is not “blind,” but is an educated faith – or at least it should be.  One cannot, of course, just reason their way to God.  An analogy I thought of (which is not new I’m sure – but that I thought was clever) was that reason gets you up to the boat, but it is the leap of faith that actually gets you into the boat.  So if you want to further your love for God, you need to educate yourself.  Read the Bible. Read the Catechism.  Go to some great websites, listen to some great podcasts, and most of all pray for the strength, wisdom and light to proceed.

Getting Ready for the New Mass Corrections

This Lent I gave up my iPod, so I’ve been playing catch up to all the great podcasts I missed.  iPadre is one of my favorites.  Fr. Jay Finelli, a priest of the diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, has had a great series of podcasts leading us into the new corrections for the Mass that will happen in November.  You can get these at iTunes or at his website, and listen to them either on your iPod/mp3 player, or on your computer.  Let me run them down for you:

Episode 222 – A Short History of the Mass, Part 1
Episode 223 – A Short History of the Mass, Part 2
Episode 224 – Why a New Translation of the Mass?
Episode 225 – A Walk Through the New Translation, Part 1
Episode 226 – A Walk Through the New Translation, Part 2

These topics are part of his regular podcast and if you are in a hurry, the topic usually begins about 20-24 minutes into the show.

If you want a more in depth look at the changes coming I HIGHLY recommend Fr. Bill Holtzinger’s Mysteries of the Mass podcast.  He has three absolutely excellent podcasts featuring a talk by one of the lead translators, Fr. Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B.  I urge you to listen to the podcasts entitled  The New Roman Missal Parts 1, 2 and 3.  They are episodes 10-12.  You can get them at iTunes or listen on the web.  Fr. Driscoll only gave this talk at this conference, and his insights are invaluable at understanding why a translation was needed, Mass translation in general, and how they went about correcting the current translation.  I cannot urge you highly enough to listen during your commute or workout.  I was fascinated. 

As the time gets closer for us to start using the new translation, I’ll put up what I find that will help get you ready.  I’m looking forward to seeing what new missals will be coming out, and what aids will be released to help us.  I found this just yesterday.  It is the Magnificat Roman Missal Companion.  It is very modestly priced at $3.95.  At this point, I think I will subscribe to the Magnificat this year, before I choose a permanent missal.  It is beautiful monthly publication that is part missal, part daily prayer and meditation aid.  You can order a complimentary copy to try it for yourself.  I know many friends and clergy who love it.

Getting Mad at God

One of my favorite podcasts is Catholic Under the Hood by Fr. Seraphim Beshoner, TOR a Franciscan Priest at Franciscan University in Stubenville, Ohio. He has a great podcast I have mentioned before, about the spirituality and history of the Catholic Church.

Since Fr. Seraphim has over 200 podcasts, I’ve been working my way through old episodes and found one today that I thought many of you may find helpful. Getting Mad at God takes a look at whether it is OK to be angry with God, how we should deal with our emotions about suffering, and how to pray when you are angry so that Christ can enter into your life more deeply. If you have been struggling because of life’s difficulties this may be for you.

10 Catholic Podcasts Not to Miss

If you want to both learn about the faith, and be entertained, then podcasts are a great way to do it. You can use your iPod or another mp3 player, or just listen on your computer. Here are 10 great Catholic Podcasts for your perusal.

  1. Catholic Underground has two great priests from Baton Rouge, LA and adds two former seminarian friends who discuss the Catholic faith, current goings on in the Church, and technology talk for a great show.  It’s hard to pick, but this may be my favorite.
  2. Catholic Under the Hood with Fr. Seraphim Beshoner, TOR.  Fr. Seraphim is a friar of the Third Order of St. Francis. He is also an assistant professor of history for the Franciscan University of Steubenville on their campus in Gaming, Austria.  He talks about Catholic History and Theology.  Absolutely excellent.  I have learned so much.  If you love history, this guy is for you.
  3. Into the Deep  is a wonderful podcast from three Catholic laymen.  They have great discussions on how to have a personal relationship with Christ.  I suggest you start from their first podcast and work your through them.  I get more impressed every time I listen.  This would be excellent to listen to during Lent.
  4. EWTN Podcasts  Listen to your favorite EWTN shows on your iPod whenever it is convenient for you.  You can always go to their Audio Library for all their shows.  I find that EWTN Live & Open Line are fantastic shows where people ask such great questions.  Questions you & I would ask too. 
  5. The Catholics Next Door with Greg & Jennifer Willits.  Greg and Jennifer of Rosary Army fame have a three hour Catholic radio show every weekday morning on Sirius/XM satellite radio.  If you don’t subscribe to satellite radio, then you can have the next best thing by listening to their podcast with excerpts from their show.  I’m so happy to see them on such a big stage because they are great.
  6.  Francis Cardinal Arinze is a Nigerian Cardinal who was last Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. I love Cardinal Arinze because when you listen to him you know you are getting straight-up Catholicism, not watered down drivel. I love him because he makes perfect sense and has a deep compassion for others, but not a compassion that weakens what Christ taught. The Apostolate for Family Consecration has produced the Cardinal Arinze Webcast  which has both audio and video podcasts.  Some are question and answer programs, others discuss church documents.  All are enlightening and worth your time.
  7. Catholic Moments with Lisa Hendey  is an great interview show with Catholics doing extraordinary things to live out their Catholic faith and share it with others.  Lisa Hendey is an author and founder of CatholicMom.com. This podcast is a joy to listen to.
  8. Rosary Cast at Rosary Army.com, an apostolate of Greg & Jennifer Willets.  This is a very simple podcast of the Rosary, but I find it invaluable.  I like to listen to it in the car.  Simple scriptural readings really help in meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary.  This is one you will keep on your iPod permanently.  They also have the Stations of the Cross and other helpful prayers.
  9. In Between Sundays is a podcast for young adults to learn how to live their Catholic faith and deepen it.  Don’t let the “young adult” label fool you.  This is a great podcast for everyone.
  10. Catholic in a Small Town is such a nice podcast of a Catholic couple raising kids in a small town.  Listen to their joys and challenges of parenthood from a Catholic perspective.  They have a side podcast, Catholic Book Club that I really like as well.

This is just the top 10.  I’ll have another post soon with more Catholic podcasts worthy of your time.  Remember too, you don’t need to have an iPod to listen to podcasts, you can listen on any mp3 player, or on your computer.  So turn off the radio and the TV, and discover the joy of podcasts.  

    The Mass Changes

    I love listening to replays of EWTN Live with Fr. Mitch Pacwa.  I learn so much in every episode, and he is such a pleasure to listen to. I was particularly interested in one episode about the new Mass changes coming next year.  If you want to know why the liturgy was changed, both after Vatican II and now, or if you want to get a taste of what some of the changes will be, be sure to listen to this great episode.  Go to the EWTN Audio Library,  EWTN Live with Fr. Mitch Pacwa  Click on “The New Missal” 2/3/2010.  The guest is Helen Hull Hitchcock, editor of the Adoremus Bulletin and founding director of Women For Faith & Family.  Also, be sure to also read all the changes coming at the USCCB’s Roman Missal Site

    You can listen to EWTN’s programs on your computer.  Many of them are on iTunes, or you can download, save them to your computer and put them on your mp3 player.  You will not regret it, they are fantastic.

    Gearing Up For Lent

    Lent begins in a couple of days with Ash Wednesday.  How will you be trying to get closer to Christ this Lent?  Here are some resources to help get you started:

    EWTN’s Lenten & Easter Meditations 2010

    Pope Benedict XVI’s Lenten Message for 2010

    You need to go to confession. Here is a fantastic website from the Archdiocese of Boston about The Sacrament of Reconciliation (aka: Confession) TheLightIsOnForYou.org   It has lots of resources and examinations of conscience. 

    I have discovered a fantastic podcast called Into the Deep.  Three married lay men discuss how to get closer to Christ through prayer and learn about what the Catholic faith teaches.  They are so enthusiastic and it is great to listen to them.  Here is one set of podcasts to get you started: How Lent Makes You Holy: Part 1 and Part 2.

    CatholicMom.com brings us a Woman’s Stations of the Cross

    One of the most fruitful things you can do during Lent is read some good, solid Catholic books.  Try one of these four Lenten Reading Plans to get you started.  This is very well done! 

    Eric Sammons at his Divine Life blog has some great tips for bringing silence and peace in your life this Lent  Snow & The Beautiful Sound of Silence

    You must go to this site, they have a great comprehensive Lenten post.  If you want to know something about Lent, it’s here: Aggie Catholics Annual Lenten Mega-Post

    Finally, A little Lenten humor – There’s a little black spot on your head today 

    May God bless you this Lent and my you grow closer to him every day.

    Nourish Your Soul

    Ever since I came back to the Church 14 years ago, I have been interested in learning how to pray well.  I always seemed to be grasping at straws though.  At first, prayer was a quick spontaneous message to God or short written prayers.  I recently found a piece of paper with those little Morning and Evening Prayers that I had stuck in a book. They were nice little prayers and a good place to start.

    Next, I had to relearn the “Our Father” since I could only remember part of it, and I needed a booklet to learn the Rosary, with a little refresher course on the “Hail Mary.”   For a long time however, I was pretty dissatisfied with my prayer.  If I had been more disciplined that would have helped, but I knew there was something more – I just did not grasp what it was.  Some people said that that was all there was.  You talked to God, maybe listened for some sort of feeling, and that was it.  You were not to expect anything that awe inspiring.  Oh…maybe there were some people who did, but they were extraordinary.

    I wasn’t really comfortable with this answer.  I generally felt that there had to be more.  That there was a relationship with God there, but I needed to find it.  I just did not know how.  What did you do to get closer to God?  Oh, you followed the Commandments as best you could and you went to Church but….there was something else…but what?

    I read lots of books on prayer and they were all very nice.  I had some lay spiritual directors, but they were not very well trained and I was left disappointed.  The books said to just talk to God and I did this.  I talked to him in the car, and when I did stuff at home. I tried to find a consistent prayer time to spend with Him. I went to Eucharistic adoration and daily Mass at times.  I read the bible and tried to get “lights” from it, which is reading a passage and seeing what strikes you and what it says to you in your heart.  And yet something was still missing.  I knew there was more.

    Then, one woman I saw a couple of times for spiritual direction was actually pretty helpful and suggested that I read Fr. Thomas Dubay’s book Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel-On Prayer.  I had thought that this was a book that was going to be too difficult.  That it was for someone who was advanced spiritually.  St. Teresa of Avila would be hard.  She would be so lofty and and above my head that I would just be wasting my time.  The spiritual director though, told me that that was not the case.  And while someone who was just beginning might not want to delve into it, it would be a good idea for me to read.  She was right.

    The basis of this book is that these two saints, especially St. Teresa, really think it is necessary to learn what you are striving for in prayer, where you want to go.  Kind of like a road map or a picture of where you want to travel to.  If you have no idea, how will you get there?  It is VERY helpful.  It is not the kind of book you read in an afternoon.  You take it in small bits and think about it.  St. Teresa and St. John explain about what you are aiming for – and that is Contemplation, which is a true gift from God. It is not a technique – it is something God gives you.  This is not an Eastern form of prayer, this is true Christian prayer and it is what I knew there had to be.

    While I am reading this book – and I’m still reading it – albeit slowly , I discovered a few weeks ago that Fr. Dubay has some audio series on EWTN about prayer.  The two I’ll mention to you are Contemplation and Prayer Quest.  You can listen to these free MP3 series (13 half-hour shows each) either online, save them on your computer to listen to later, or save and transfer them to an MP3 player.

    Fr. Dubay’s series on Contemplation is just excellent.  I listened to it while I was in the car, and you can’t get any better explanation on this form of prayer than here.  He really goes in depth about what it is, and how to recognize when Christ is calling you to a deeper form of union with him, and how to foster this in your life.  It is a pretty complete package.

    Prayer Quest discusses our thirst for God, what are the impediments to growth in prayer, mediation, and time pressures among other topics.  I have just started to listen to them and they have already helped me a great deal.

    Karen over at CatholiciCast has Fr. Dubay’s series laid out for you to see easily here and here.

    You might also find helpful,  Prayer Primer : Igniting a Fire Within by Fr. Dubay.  This book is simple,  especially for beginners, but everyone would benefit from it.

    Remember, prayer is a journey that you are on until you meet the Lord face to Face.  You will have missteps, fall-backs, confusion and the occasional frustration, but if you keep at it you will progress.  You need to have a willing heart, more silence in your life and helpful reading such as the Bible.  Don’t give up, just keep trying and God will provide.

    Photo: www.grkat.net

    Me – Behind A Mask

    Since I last posted, I have been really sick. No, it is not the regular flu, thank heaven, or even the Piggie kind, but JUST bronchitis. I laid in bed for days, almost passed out at the doctor’s office, and forced my hubby into “mommy mode.” It has not been fun. It started as a little cold and I tried for days, even with a high fever, to just try to tough it out without the antibiotics, but as usual I succumbed and found myself miserably suffering at the doctor’s trying to get a prescription for the miracle drug that would make me feel better. It is a good thing antibiotics were invented or I would probably be dead 20 times over.

    One interesting thing happened, however. The doctor comes in after what seemed like an eternity, but was probably 30 minutes. I was lying on the exam table trying to make sure I did not succeed in fainting. She examines me, listens to my woes and my chest, and tells me she is going to fill out the chart and paperwork outside because I’m contagious, what with the 102 degree fever I have even after taking the ibuprofen. She comes back, very sympathetic to the fact I almost fainted waiting for her before, “You look so pale…” Then she tells me I have to wear a mask at home because I reek of contagions. I thought to myself, “Well, it’s a little late for that. I’ve been sick for almost a week.”

    She then kindly tells me she will call in the prescription so I don’t have to walk from the car to the supermarket pharmacy, and escorts me out the back door which is closest to my car. I’m sure it was to prevent my walking far, but perhaps to avoid exposing her staff to my contagiousness? Nah.

    So, I get home and dutifully dig out the box of masks I bought on a whim from WalMart. You know, just in case society stops because of the Piggie Flu – we should be prepared. I put one on. It’s hot. Well, it’s only hot when you exhale. My husband, who has been trying to keep far away from me for a week, thinks this is an excellent idea. All I can say is he better keep to his side of the bed, and get no where near my pillow. My 6 year old kept reminding me, “Mommy, put on your mask.” I tell him, “Well, I have to eat!” So, until my fever breaks I wear the mask.

    Now, one of the joys of being really sick – besides losing 5 pounds – is having to lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, in a sort of semi-coma. Well, perhaps fog/sleep would be a better word. I spent two days and part of two more, “resting.” I say “resting” because how much can a mother really rest? My husband did take care of dinner – “McDonald’s.” And he wonderfully took the kids to their two schools and picked them up. What more could I ask?

    As, I lay in bed I did get to enjoy lots of podcasts I thought I would tell you about. Since, I now have an iPod I can peruse iTunes to my heart’s content. I downloaded lots of podcasts awhile back and am going through them one by one. Here are some that I think you might be interested in. Remember you don’t need an iPod to listen to them. You can use an mp3 player or listen on the computer.

    First, check out SQPN, the Star Quest Production Network. If you like podcasts this is the way to go. Try out the Daily Breakfast. Which is the #1 Catholic Podcast. Fr. Roderick Vonhogen is wonderful. When I first got the iPod I think I listened to dozens of his old Catholic Insider podcasts where he took us all over Europe in great audio tours, including the events surrounding the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

    Also, check out at SQPN Catholic in a Small Town. You can also find this entertaining podcast of a young couple raising kids in a small town here. Catholic Foodie was quite interesting and I’m looking forward to listening to Grace Before Meals.

    My absolute favorite podcast though is the Cardinal Arinze webcast. Francis Cardinal Arinze is my absolute favorite cardinal! He is succinct, accurate and very humorous. It is a joy to listen to him. You can also find his podcasts here and at the Familyland website. Some of these are only audio and others are video. One of these links should give you what you want.

    One of the surprises within the Cardinal Arinze webcasts are the musical breaks. I have to admit, I don’t always enjoy this part in webcasts and sometimes skip over them, but I was simply blown away by the music of Olwen Ringrose that I found in
    the webcasts discussing Deus Caritas Est. Several of the songs from Ringrose’s album “The Daughter of the King” were featured and they are simply beautiful. If angels could sing, this is what they sound like.

    I hope you enjoy these podcasts and if you have any to recommend, please let me know.
    I think I’m now going to go rest, well after I start the laundry.