Ten years ago last month, I had a conversion that led me back to the Catholic Church of my youth. I was filled with the Holy Spirit in a powerful, palpable way. It was intense.
I hungered for knowledge and read some amazing books to self-catechize.
Here are the Top Ten books that inspired me at the beginning of my spiritual journey. Some of the links included are for updated editions.
10. Finding God’s Will for You by St. Francis de Sales.
This book is actually an excerpt from the saint’s work Treatise on the Love of God. The patron saint of writers, de Sales’ beautiful words inspired the laity by teaching that holiness is for everyone, not just those in religious life.
9.The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton.
This bestselling autobiography is the number one title in Christian Monasticism and Asceticism on Amazon. Merton’s life is a testament to God’s ability to use everything, even our sins, to work for the good.
Merton later wrote a famous prayer that encapsulates our innate longing to please God on our blind journeys of faith.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
7.Confessions by St. Augustine, translated by Garry Wills. When choosing a translated book, it is important to compare various editions. This translation is easy for the modern reader to understand. Confessions is St. Augustine’s autobiography and conversion story. As a new and enthusiastic convert, this well-known passage spoke to my heart.
“Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you.”
7.Interior Castle – St. Teresa of Avila translated and edited by E. Allison Peers.
Another excellent translation, this book was my introduction to mystical theology. St Teresa outlines the spiritual journey using the castle as a metaphor for the soul. In the innermost mansion of the castle, the soul is granted perfection and union with God.
6.The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur: The Woman Whose Goodness Changed Her Husband from Atheist to Priest.
The pastoral associate at my parish recommended this book because it mirrored my own experience. My husband was very resistant to my new-found faith. This book gave me courage to be faithful to God and my husband, despite the obstacles.
5.The Untapped Power of the Sacrament of Penance, A Priest’s View by Fr. Christopher J. Walsh.
Penance or reconciliation is the first step that a “fallen-away” Catholic must take to return to the Church. It’s frightening and humbling to reveal sins and secrets, but hearing the words of absolution allows me to experience God’s mercy. One surprising revelation is that hearing confessions is also humbling for the priest.
4.The Sacrament of the Present Moment by Jean-P De Caussade, translated by Kitty Muggeridge from the original text of Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence.
From the first moments that I encountered the reality of God, I began to notice coincidences and the ways that God weaves everything (even our mistakes) into a perfect plan. The author reveals the joy found in total surrender and how God is revealed in the ordinary moments of each day.
3.Waiting for God – Simone Weil
Intriguing essays and letters of an agnostic Jew turned Christian philosopher. The highlight is her line-by-line insights on the Our Father.
2.The New Catholic Answer Bible: The New American Bible, Paul Thigpen & Dave Armstrong (contributors). This Bible links Catholic teaching to its biblical roots. It is an excellent resource for anyone with questions. Articles explaining various aspects of the faith are interspersed throughout the text.
1.The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth by Scott Hahn. I read this first book on my spiritual/literary journey in a weekend. It helped me to understand and appreciate the beauty of the Catholic mass.
I missed so much by not paying attention in religion class, but I wasn’t ready for it then. I thank God for the wealth of wisdom in the written word where the Holy Spirit speaks throughout the ages in the words of saints and sinners, all seeking truth.