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The Seven Storey Mountain – Thomas Merton
Merton, though not a saint, is a highly influential figure in modern Catholicism. I came across his autobiography and—although at first it started off slow—I couldn’t put it down. I found that my own life shares many parallels to his and could relate to him in a profound way. It was powerful, something that I hadn’t experienced with reading stories of saints. He too, is a convert to Catholicism and that was something that really intrigued me. This book is his story from childhood up until entering a Trappist monastery.
Takeaway: God calls each of us at our own time. He uses us each different ways, but all for His glory. The life of faith needs structure, otherwise it becomes to easy to stray from the “right path”.
Brother Francis of Assisi – Fr. Ignacio Larrañaga
St. Francis is an influential figure for people of all faiths. Any time someone truly lives out the Gospel it brings to life what Jesus said and did. Francis was one of those people who brought Jesus to life for the people he encountered. This is a much different approach to a biography of this beloved saint. Certainly my favorite, this book really takes you into the deeply spiritual journey of Francis and it will change the way you live, guaranteed.
Takeaway: To be a Christian is to live in deep, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ in prayer and service. Anything less is just going through the motions. Francis’ life really inspires you to want to go deeper.
Note: This book is out of print, but you can find it in the original language for Kindle.
The Story of a Soul – St. Thérese of Lisieux
This is first biography I ever read from a saint and all I can say is wow! The Little Flower is a saint that is easy to relate to. Even though her life might be much different than yours, she expresses herself in a simple, humble way that invites you along for the journey. She experiences loss, loneliness, vocation, illness, suffering, and persecution. But she takes it all in faith always firmly grasping the hand of Jesus in every moment. Her and her sister both end up as Carmelite nuns and Therese even becomes a doctor of the Church. Recently her parents were the first married couple to be canonized together.
Takeaway: Holiness does not mean you have to do big, amazing things. In fact, it is the small things done intentionally and with great love that help us to grow in holiness and to share God’s love and presence with others.
Rebuilt – Tom Corcoran & Fr. Michael White
This book is the story of how Tom and Michael transformed their parish from a community of consumers to a community of co-workers for the kingdom. Their story begins with realizing that going through the motions and doing things the same as they’ve always been done does not yield results. They weren’t healthy, they weren’t growing. So they found churches that were growing. In fact, they visited several booming non-Catholic Christian churches to see what they could learn. The implemented some changes and it has completely transformed their parish. This book is their story.
Takeaway: Catholics need to take seriously the mission Jesus has given us and that starts on the parish level. If we fail there, than we fail everywhere. We need evaluate what we’re doing and take practical, strategical steps to make possible the transformational power of God’s grace in the life of our communities.
Evangelical Catholicism – George Weigel
Many times I’ve read through the Acts of the Apostles and each time I am confounded by the disparities between what the Early Church looked like and the modern state of the Church. It is impossible not to see the need for change. Often we go along with the way things are because it seems out of our control, but in fact if nobody speaks up then change will never happen. This book is a perfect example of speaking up on this important issue. It brings to life a vision of what the Catholic Church should look like and backs it up with strong arguments.
Takeaway: The Church is going through change and transformation. If it is to do more than survive, but to thrive, than we need to seriously take stock of what we are doing and make necessary changes. This book is an outline of just that.
Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis
It’s not everyday you find a clear, concise, sound, well-explained, easy-to-read explanation of the Christian doctrines. C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity is the book to read to get a good understanding of what it means to be a Christian. He gets to the heart of the faith in a way that few can. His insights on natural law and morality are amazing!
Takeaway: Being a Christian is more than just going to church on Sunday, it is a life given completely over to God and lived out in every moment of every day.
Jesus Shock – Dr. Peter Kreeft
If you haven’t heard of Peter Kreeft you’re missing out! He is an amazing modern philosopher who has an incredible gift of being able to explain deep philosophical and theological truths in a down-to-earth, accessible way. This tiny book focuses on Jesus. He talks about how the people who encounter Jesus in the Bible were changed. Their reactions are almost always “amazed” or “astonished”. The problem for most of these days is that we’ve become desensitized to what Kreeft calls Jesus Shock.We have heard the stories so many times that they hardly even move us. He helps us to see the life-changing power of encounter with Christ which will renew us in our faith.
Takeaway: If we don’t see Jesus as radical, transformational, shocking, then we haven’t really met the real Jesus. The personal encounter with Jesus is what changes our lives and calls us to faith.
No Greater Love – St. Teresa of Calcutta
Everybody knows Mother Teresa, but not everyone has actually read her writings. This little book is simple, yet profound, just like she was. I honestly could not put this book down. Each chapter is like a little catechesis on a different aspect of the Christian life expressed in the most simple words possible. In this case simple does not mean watered-down. Mother’s words pack a powerful punch. I honestly found this to be one of the most deeply moving books I’ve ever read. If her words, backed up by unbelievable anecdotes don’t move you to a deeper faith, then I just don’t know what would. Read my full review of this book.
Takeaway: Faith is not just what we believe it is how we live, who we are. To be a Christian is to be like Christ, to be His hands and feet in the world. The purpose of our earthly lives is to learn to love as God loves. And “there is no greater love than this, to lay down ones life for ones friends”.
The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic – Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly is an inspiring author and speaker and he is the only person who appears twice on my book list! This book goes into not just what it means to be Catholic, but what it means to be a dynamic Catholic. He did research across the country finding answers to questions like: What do dynamic Catholics do that separate them from the average Sunday Mass-goer? The answers will help you to either go deeper and take seriously your faith, or help you to inspire others to become dynamic Catholics.
Takeaway: The Catholic Church is a sleeping giant that needs to be awakened. If the 7% of dynamic Catholics in this country inspired only another 1% of Catholics each year to boldly live their faith, the world would never be the same!
Rediscover Catholicism – Matthew Kelly
I read this book shortly after becoming Catholic and it had a profound impact on my faith. It is basically an explanation of what it means to be Catholic and how to live out your Catholic faith. What’s great about it is that it isn’t so steeped in theological or philosophical exhortations that it all goes over your head. In fact, this book is very easy to read and I honestly couldn’t put it down!
Takeaway: The most powerful thing I took away from this book is the fact that we are all called to be saints, which Kelly explains is the achieving of God’s potential for us, to become the best-version-of-yourself.
The Great Divorce – C. S. Lewis
I have read this tiny little book almost a dozen times and everytime I do it opens my mind to new insights and understandings of what happens when we die. Lewis was one of the great authors and theologians of the 20th century. He made this list twice! This book is described as a “fanciful journey to Heaven conducted with the wit and wisdom for which the author… is famous”. I couldn’t say it better myself.
Takeaway: Heaven and Hell are real. It is nothing like we can possibly imagine. And once we have chosen that we want to spend our eternity with God than everything in our life must change. For even the smallest of stains on our souls can become a hinderance to the beatific vision.
Lord of the World – Robert Hugh Benson
For a very long time I did not read any fiction. Thank God and Benson that I found this book. It really bridged the gap for me between non-fiction and fiction, study and story. It is basically a story of what happens to the world when people lose faith in God. Hint: not good. It is powerful and prophetic, influential and inspiring.
Takeway: For those who think that our faith should be something we keep to ourselves, this book will prove why our faith, though personal, cannot be privatized and kept in the dark. It also brings to life the Beatitude: “Blessed are you when the persecute you…”
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