Recommended Reading

Logo of St Mary's Catholic Church

Suggested reading for July - August 2022

How many saints have, by reading a spiritual book, been induced to forsake the world and to give themselves to God! It is known to all that St. Augustine, when miserably chained by his passions and vices, was, by reading one of the epistles of St. Paul, enlightened with divine light, went forth from his darkness, and began to lead a life of holiness. Thus also St. Ignatius, while a soldier, by reading a volume of the lives of the saints which he accidentally took up, in order to get rid of the tediousness of the bed to which he was confined by sickness, was led to begin a life of sanctity.

St Alphonsus Ligouri

Book cover of From the depths of Our Hearts

The Catholic Church faces a major crisis and the turmoil in priestly ministry is at the heart of it. “The priesthood is going through a dark time,” write Pope Emeritus Benedict and Cardinal Robert Sarah. “Wounded by the revelation of so many scandals, disconcerted by the constant questioning of their consecrated celibacy, many priests are tempted by the thought of giving up and abandoning everything.”

In this book, Pope Emeritus Benedict and Cardinal Robert Sarah give their brother priests and the whole Church a message of hope. They honestly address the spiritual challenges faced by priests today, including struggles of celibacy. They point to deeper conversion to Jesus Christ as the key to faithful and fruitful priestly ministry and church reform. 

A truly wonderful exploration of the importance of celibacy to the Priesthood by the greatest theologian of the 20th Century and one of Africa’s bravest prelates. Pope Benedict and Cardinal Sarah speak from the depths of their love of the priesthood of Jesus Christ and cut through so much of the confusion and arguments around priestly celibacy to present something profound in its simplicity.

To be a Priest is to have the Lord for your inheritance, to be a Priest is to model yourself on and be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. A wonderful and highly relevant read.

Fr Luke

Book cover of Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary

Are Catholic teachings on Mary really biblical? Or are they the "traditions of men"? Should she be called the "Mother of God," or just the mother of Jesus? Did she actually remain a virgin her whole life or do the "brothers of Jesus" refer to her other children? By praying to Mary, are Catholics worshipping her? And what does Mary have to do with the quest to understand Jesus?

In Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary, Dr. Pitre takes readers step-by-step from the Garden of Eden to the Book of Revelation to reveal how deeply biblical Catholic beliefs about Mary really are. Dr. Pitre uses the Old Testament and Ancient Judaism to unlock how the Bible itself teaches that Mary is in fact the new Eve, the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, and the new Ark of the Covenant.

Brant Pitre is one of my favourite authors. He writes with a highly accessible style and yet truly explores the depths of the Scriptures in an authentically Catholic way. The Second Vatican Council called upon Scripture scholars to integrate the methods of modern biblical study with the faith filled recognition that the Bible is a revealed text that has the Holy Spirit for its author (Dei Verbum §12). Dr Pitre is, to my mind, one of the best scholars working to realise this conciliar hope.

His book on Mary is a rich exploration of many Catholic doctrines and practices, tracing them back to their Scriptural and Historical roots.

Fr Luke

Book cover of Introduction to the Devout Life

This masterpiece of Christian literature by a 16th-century priest explains how to live a holy life in the secular world. Drawn from the letters of St. Francis de Sales, it presents clear and direct advice about praying, resisting temptation, and maintaining devotion to God.

As no sensible person would make a long road trip without first consulting a map, so the person intent upon gaining Heaven should first resort to a competent guide to reach that Goal of all goals. And no better guide to Heaven exists than An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), Doctor of the Church. It is at once easy to read, being laid out in short chapters, yet thorough, authoritative, reliable, kind and gentle a mirror of its author. It is a book, moreover, for all, because all are called to the devout life. True devotion to God, the author points out, adorns every vocation. The devout life, moreover, is a lovely, a pleasant, and a happy life.

If someone were to ask me, “Father, which book should I read to become a Saint”, I would say the Bible, if they asked me for a second book, I would say An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. To my mind, no writer before or since has written with greater clarity on the universal call to holiness.

Holiness is not a thing reserved to Priests and Nuns; it is the duty of every Baptised person to strive to become a saint; they could do far worse than to take St. Francis’ book as a guide.

Fr Luke

Book cover of Pratical Theology

Here are 359 pieces of wisdom from St. Thomas's masterpiece, the Summa Theologiae, which Kreeft says "are literally more valuable than all the kingdoms of this world because they will help you to attain 'the one thing needful, ' or 'the greatest good'," the ultimate end and purpose and meaning of life. Three of its names are "being a saint," "beatitude" ("supreme happiness") and "union with God." That was the principle for Kreeft in choosing which passages to use: do they help you to attain your ultimate end - sanctity, happiness, union with God? St. Thomas would have agreed with writer Leon Bloy, who often wrote that in the end "there is only one tragedy in life: not to have been a saint."

These 359 gold nuggets have helped Kreeft in the struggles of real life, to live in the real world, to grow closer to the Lord, and he hopes they will do the same for his readers. After each passage directly from Aquinas, Kreeft provides brief spiritual commentary to help explain it and apply it - practical, personal, existential, "livable" thoughts.

He has framed these readings as answers to questions that people actually ask their spiritual directors. Each answer is taken word for word from Aquinas.

Among the many topics Aquinas and Kreeft cover here include:

  • The problem of evil
  • Interpreting the Bible
  • Love vs. knowledge
  • Reconciling justice and mercy
  • Human freedom and divine grace
  • Angels and demons
  • The need for theology
  • Predestination and free will
  • Three kinds of goods

My ‘go to’ Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas book, it’s accessible, relevant, and fascinating. Highly, highly recommended. If you’ve ever wanted to know why he’s the Church’s greatest theologian, here’s where to start.

Fr Luke


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