Filed under: Books, Husband, Prayers, Rosary, Saints | Tags: books, Catholicism, church fathers, conversion, faith
Ok, so it’s not that big and it’s definitely not in the ballpark of comprehensive (would that even be possible?). But, in response to a reader’s request for resources on Catholic teaching, Catholic motherhood, Catholic blogs, and books that influenced our decision to convert, here’s…well, something. It’s off the top of my head with a couple suggestions and notes from Daniel. I would LOVE your suggestions and recommendations for additions!
CATHOLIC TEACHING/CATHOLIC THOUGHT:
(Daniel’s note regarding recommended reading for Catholic thought that also influenced our conversion:
“Read the Church Fathers, beginning with Ignatius of Antioch. Before I was Catholic, I thought that the Protestant Reformation was necessary because of a steady decline that had taken place in the Church from its very beginning. I thought that everything would be great if we could just get back to the Early Church. But I figured we just didn’t have a record of that time. Turns out, we do. Ignatius of Antioch lived in the first century and was martyred in the beginning of the second so his writing held a lot of weight with me. When I read his letters, I was quite surprised by what I found. Over and over again, he emphasizes loyalty to the bishops; an idea that was totally foreign to me. He spoke of the Church as a single organization with a hierarchy and chain of command. He also spoke of the Eucharist with great reverence and called it the ‘medicine of immortality.’
Continuing through the centuries… St. Augustine, St. Maximus the Confessor, St. Anselm. With these guys, it wasn’t so much a particular argument they made that drew me to the church. Instead, it was the continuity that exists over the centuries in their writings. This flew in the face of my idea that there was a ‘falling away’ from the truth. Quite the opposite, their was unbroken consistency of thought and teaching that existed from the early church all the way up to the contemporary Catholic Church. Maximus emphasizes this continuity (albeit in the 7th century).”)
A good place to start is with The Epistles of St. Clement of Rome and St. Ignatius of Antioch. There’s a good Paulist Press edition. Also worth reading are: The Prayers and Meditations of St. Anselm, Confessions or the Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love of St. Augustine, and Selected Writings of Maximus Confessor.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church—doesn’t get much better than this. Confession: I haven’t read the whole thing. Maybe remedying that should (obviously?) be one of my Lenten devotions.
Signs of Life by Scott Hahn—Daniel and I read this together during Lent two years ago. There are 40 chapters so it’s perfect for lenten reading. Dr. Hahn is also a convert and this book is a beautiful introduction to Catholic sacraments, sacramentals, and practices. Hahn includes many, many Scripture references in his chapters which is always helpful to those of us coming from a Protestant background.
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton—Just awesome. Everything Chesterton writes is delightfully funny and painfully true.
On Being Catholic by Thomas Howard: Written by a convert, this book explains facets of the Catholic faith and Catholic worldview and dispells minunderstandings of the Catholic faith that might arise coming from a Protestant worldview.
On Loving God by St. Bernard of Clairvaux—Following in the footsteps of St. Augustine, this medieval saint writes beautifully. I am a medievalist at heart and I just love St. Bernard. Here’s an example: “Faith certainly bids me love him all the more whom I regard as that much greater than I, for he not only gives me myself, he also gives me himself.”
Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday?: The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything by Michael P. Foley—Written by one of our Baylor profs, this is a delightful read.
And if you’re up for something dense but amazing—any of the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Return to Rome by Francis Beckwith—Dr. Beckwith’s story of his reversion to Catholicism after becoming Protestant and being President of the Evangelical Theological Society.
Crossing the Tiber by Stephen Ray—Part I is his conversion story from Protestantism and Parts II and III are on Baptism and the Holy Eucharist.
Confessions by St. Augustine—the ultimate conversion story.
The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton—Another good conversion story highlighting the working of God’s grace guiding us, even when we are unaware.
Apologia Pro Vita Sua by the Blessed John Henry Newman—The spiritual autobiography of a former Anglican. Confession: I haven’t read this one, but Daniel really liked it.
CATHOLIC PRAYER AND DEVOTION:
St. Benedict’s Prayer Book—We love using this for morning and evening prayer for our family.
An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales—Exhortations to holiness through prayer and examination of conscience by a wonderful saint of the Church.
The Rosary: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary by Karen Edmisten—Fantastic introduction to praying the Rosary. I’ve read it twice and it has helped me make the Rosary a frequent and familiar devotion in my spiritual life.
Familiaris Consortio, Encyclical by the Blessed Pope John Paul II: This one definitely falls into the category of Catholic teaching but has much to say on motherhood and the family in modern life. I’m more than halfway through and loving it.
Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset—Well-researched and beautifully written biography of St. Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset, another fellow convert to Catholicism.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, “The Dumb Ox” by G.K. Chesterton—Nobody writes biography as delightfully as Chesterton. A wonderful introduction to this great saint.
ANYTHING written by Flannery O’Connor. My favorite is The Violent Bear It Away.
(Daniel’s note: “This is hard to explain. Perhaps it was that she was a Southern author writing about the South. I guess she was able to translate her Catholicism into the language of my Southern Protestantism. I can’t really put my finger on it. Obviously, the sacraments are a huge part of her work, even when they are slightly hidden. There is a kind of radicalism in her stories that makes sense to me and I think is a core part of the Gospel message. There is a totality to it that I think is clearly shown in Catholic theology. She also helped me see that some of my objections to the Catholic Church were actually rooted in my modern, materialist perspective and not really in anything biblical.”) Warning: If you’ve never lived in the South…these works will be just about impossible to understand.
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh: THE 20th Century Catholic Novel. Wickedly funny and full of heartbreaking truth, Brideshead follows the working of God’s grace in the aristocratic Flyte family through the eyes of their friend Charles Ryder. I read it every year and the characters have become beloved companions. I can’t explain why, but I think this book influenced me to become Catholic more than any other.
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset: I’ve written about how much I love this saga before—how often do you find good medieval historical fiction? Kristin’s spiritual journey chronicled throughout the books is complex, beautiful, and worth reading.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (Daniel’s note: “I guess this is hard to explain, too. Maybe part of it was that I absolutely loved Tolkien and his worldview. So the fact that he was Catholic made me see Catholicism in a more positive light. There are also a lot of sacraments in his work. The Eucharist shows up all the time.”)
FAVORITE BLOGS BY CATHOLIC MOTHERS:
CATHOLIC FOOD BLOGS:
Catholic Cuisine: Helpful in seeing what’s coming up in the liturgical year and has some wonderful ideas. Warning: most of the recipes are for cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and other desserts made of white flour and sugar. Rarely is there a recipe that isn’t full of processed ingredients and tons of sugar, so there isn’t much that I actually want to cook for my family.
Feast!: Our Seasonal, Real Foods, Christian Year Celebrating (and very neglected) food blog.
What are your suggestions for MUST-READ books and resources on Catholic faith?
(p.s. Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a copy of the clothbound Penguin classic edition of Pride and Prejudice! It ends tomorrow at noon!)
Each month of the year has a special emphasis in the Church Calendar and October is dedicated to the Rosary. Growing up Protestant, I was taught to be concerned by ‘rote’ prayers which lead to spiritual dryness and to instead use my own words in order to be more ‘authentic’ and ‘genuine.’ Yet, as I have been exposed to ancient prayers, I have found them not rote, but rhythmic, and not dry, but life-giving. I find great freedom in praying the words of the saints prayed by the faithful for centuries instead of making up my own words spontaneously. This is partly due to my lack of creativity when praying. If I depend on my own words, they usually are exactly the same as the last time, but they aren’t as rich or beautiful as more ancient prayers like the Rosary.
While praying each decade of the Rosary (a decade is an Our Father, ten Hail Marys, and a Glory Be) you are to meditate on one of the Holy Mysteries, such as the Annunciation or the Visitation. Familiarity with the prayers allows you to move beyond the words you are praying to scenes in the life of Christ and of his Mother, Mary. It becomes like a stained-glass window illuminating a scene from the Gospel as you view it. The more I pray the Rosary, the more layers I see unfolding. It is a rich prayer that never grows dull.
An excellent introduction to the Rosary is by Karen Edmisten, also a Catholic convert, called The Rosary: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary. It discusses theological and devotional aspects as well as practical methods of incorporating the Rosary into busy modern life.
Being unfamiliar with the Hail Mary until a couple of years ago, I was unaware that the first three lines are actually Scripture (the Gospel of Luke). The last two lines are a request for prayer. One of the most beautiful aspects of the Hail Mary is that the name of Our Lord Jesus is at the very center of the prayer:
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”
Pope Benedict XVI has said of the Rosary:
Together we confirm that the Holy Rosary is not a pious practice banished to the past, like prayers of other times thought of with nostalgia. Instead, the Rosary is experiencing a new Springtime. Without a doubt, this is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourish for Jesus and his Mother, Mary. In the current world, so dispersive, this prayer helps to put Christ at the centre, as the Virgin did, who meditated within all that was said about her Son, and also what he did and said. When reciting the Rosary, the important and meaningful moments of salvation history are relived. The various steps of Christ’s mission are traced. With Mary the heart is oriented toward the mystery of Jesus. Christ is put at the centre of our life, of our time, of our city, through the contemplation and meditation of his holy mysteries of joy, light, sorrow and glory. May Mary help us to welcome within ourselves the grace emanating from these mysteries, so that through us we can “water” society, beginning with our daily relationships, and purifying them from so many negative forces, thus opening them to the newness of God. The Rosary, when it is prayed in an authentic way, not mechanical and superficial but profoundly, it brings, in fact, peace and reconciliation. It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and love at the centre of each “Hail Mary”.
I’m trying to make the Rosary part of our daily routine, particularly during this month of October, but am more often than not failing to make it happen. Whenever we do incorporate it into our day (usually evening when Daddy is home) it is centering and a rich blessing.
Benjamin calls it a “reereeree.” I’d like to start praying a decade with him everyday. Right now we pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be just before bed but I think he might be ready to lengthen that prayer time little by little.