A Common Catholic Dilemma: finding a spiritual read that helps you grow but doesn’t take months, or even years to finish.
Even with my formal training, there are times when Augustine and Aquinas are simply too taxing when it comes to reading in my spare time.
In the midst of my own search for an accessible Catholic read, I thought I’d start making my own recommendations for anyone who finds themselves in a similar circumstance.
Here are three books that were a breeze to read yet made an impression on my personal faith formation.
St Patrick’s Summer: A Children’s Adventure Catechism by Marigold Hunt
This book was written by Marigold Hunt in the 1950s. As the title indicates, it is a children’s chapter book. Despite its intended audience, it was also required reading for one of my catechetics courses in college. I was amazed by the simplicity and skill with which Marigold Hunt was able to explain the mysteries of our faith within an action-packed story. St Patrick and many other heavenly visitors appear to Michael and Cecilia, explaining the catechism over the course of the summer as the youth prepare for their First Communion. Though the story was not as “thrilling” for me as an adult, the explanations were absolutely worthwhile. I gained a much deeper–and simpler– understanding of mysteries like the Trinity, the angels and the graces of Baptism. She not only helped me understand my own faith better, but she portrayed a standard of evangelization to which I aspire. I am actually amazed that St. Patrick’s Summer is not super well known among this generation of Catholics. In my opinion, it should be in every Catholic household, especially those with young children.
Between the Savior and the Sea by Bob Rice
Y’all, I loved this book…
If you’re unfamiliar with Bob Rice, you are truly missing out.
This book is a novel adaption of the Gospels told from the perspective of St Peter. Everything within this novel is solid scholarship. Bob Rice does not sway from the truths of the Gospel, but he uses his own prayerful imagination to take us into the places and events that the Gospels do not reveal. This novel is truly a piece of art, leading its readers to the heights of wonder and the depths of prayer. It magnified my love for Christ and St Peter. Most importantly, it helped me to see that my doubts and failings were not powerful enough to keep me from being a true disciple of Christ… since this book highlights the human struggles of the apostles and the transforming power of grace (aka, “the swap”).
A Travel Guide to Heaven by Anthony DeStefano
Anthony DeStefano loves to travel- and he loves reading guide books about what his destination offers before he arrives. He wrote this book as a “guide” for those of us who are considering a trip to heaven. He saw this book as a necessity, since to most of us, the Gospel is not longer “good news”, but more “old news.” He claims that in this case, our familiarity with heaven has not bred contempt, but it has certainly bred boredom and maybe even apathy. He’s a faithful Catholic, true to Church teachings and what’s found in Scripture, but as a layman writes without a formal theological style.
This book was a game changer for me. I read it when I was 18 and about to graduate from high school. Every morning I would wake up and read a chapter before school, and almost everyday, I cried tears of joy. I was just so in awe of God and his generosity. It made me want to go to heaven simply for heaven’s sake… I hope that’s not unholy to say… I also wanted to go to spend eternity with God… but this book made heaven sound freaking amazing.
According to Saints, if you want to make it to Heaven, meditating about heaven is a sure-fire way to get you there… not that the meditation makes you holy. The meditation makes you long for heaven. As a result, your attitude towards God changes, and your actions reflect that.
If you’re someone who has never really pondered heaven from a scholarly perspective, I highly recommend this book.
P.S. There’s a picture book version for children!