The waning days of the year are always a time for reflection… and, of course, for that most of American of practices, compiling Top Ten lists!
These are the ten best spiritual books that I read in 2012… they aren’t in any particular order. And they weren’t necessarily new in 2012: a lot of them are pretty old, in fact. But as a new Catholic, they helped to shape the year that was in a profound way for me.
Read the list, and let me know what your favorites were this year!
10) “Life Out of Death” by Hans Urs von Balthasar– a wonderful little book by the late friend and co-conspirator of Cardinal Ratzinger’s. This one’s quite readable compared to some Balthasar’s other works, which can be brutal even for the geekiest of theology geeks. Makes for excellent Lenten reading.
9) “The Shadow of His Wings” by Gereon Goldmann– the true story of a young man who persisted towards becoming an ordained priest, despite the enormous obstacles that Nazi Germany and World War II put in his way. A great non-fiction page-turner!
8) “I Believe in Love” by Fr. Jean C.J. d’Elbee– this one was a confirmation gift from my friend, Mary Alice. It’s an incredibly enjoyable introduction to the spirituality of St. Therese of Lisieux, originally given as a series of retreat talks.
7) “Moral Choices: the Moral Theology of St. Alphonsus de Liguori” by Theodule Rey-Mermet
6) “12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation” by St. Alphonsus de Liguori
5) “Visits to the Blessed Sacrament” by St. Alphonsus de Liguori
Readers of this blog know that 2012 for was the Year of St. Alphonsus. I discovered my love for the “Doctor Most Zealous” by chance, really: I stopped in at St. Clement’s parish in Boston for Adoration, and noticed they had a lending library. I randomly grabbed a volume of St. Alphonsus’ collected writings on the Eucharist, and within a few pages was completely enthralled. I particularly recommend his “Visits” as a spiritual exercise, but read anything you can get your hands on by him.
4) “For the Life of the World” by Alexander Schmemann– Schmemann was an Eastern Orthodox priest and seminary professor who passed away about 30 years ago. Despite the differences between the Byzantine and Roman rites, this little book will give you a deeper love for liturgy, and make you stop and seriously think about the way in which we worship God every Sunday.
3) “Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. III: The Infancy Narratives” by Pope Benedict XVI– the only book on this list that actually came out in 2012. All 3 volumes are incredible reads. The Holy Father is gifted with a brilliant mind and an articulate writing style, and his examination of the Gospel writings will teach you a lot and leave you with a deeper love for Jesus.
2) “St. Francis of Assisi” by G.K. Chesterton
1) “St. Thomas Aquinas” by G.K. Chesterton
Chesterton was the first Catholic author I ever really loved– I read “The Man Who Was Thursday” in one breathless gulp and stared at the ceiling for hours afterwards (the quote from which this blog’s name derives is from that book). These two books really have to be considered together: they combine to form Chesterton’s apologetic for the spirituality of the late Middle Ages (and, incidentally, a large chunk of the Catholic faith). Along the way, you’ll come to know and love two of the greatest saints the West has ever produced. On the surface, they look like polar opposites, but Chesterton shows them to be two edges of the same sword… and that sword was the doctrine of the Incarnation of the Second Person the Trinity.