April 29, 2013

Irritating isn't it? The homily the priest gives hits home and he cites the book and author. Or you tune into CBC's Tapestry Sunday afternoon and host Mary Hyne's interview with a spiritual author stops you in your tracks.

You may even write down the author's name and book title. But then reality hits and you say to yourself, "When would I even get the time to read it anyway?"

Summer time, vacation – this is that pocket of days when you can read those books, take time to mull over the words and thoughts, maybe even write salient phrases or sentences down in a journal for further reference.

Many of us too, whether it is the economy or growing dangers in travel, are opting for a staycation – staying at home and enjoying the peace and space to catch up on life.

Trouble is given the plethora of titles on the bookstore shelves, what should one choose?

Not to worry. The following learned souls offer suggestions for just such a time and space.

Pope Francis (as quoted in Catholic News Service): "I adore poetry by (Friedrich) Holderlin," a 19th-century lyric poet; Alessandro Manzoni's The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi), which he said he has read at least four times; Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy and anything by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges."

Archbishop Murray Chatlain of Keewatin-Le Pas: "One of my favourite books is Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird. It is about centering prayer and yet he keeps it very simple and yet deep. He also quotes from many interesting sources and he has good stories. I found it very helpful.

"Another of my favourites is The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. It tells a great story of a wounded healer that becomes a saint. I think it includes good theology.

"Another is The Devil's Advocate by Morris West. Another wounded healer story. It helps to see sainthood can be expressed in so many ways and that it does not demand perfection."

Members of Edmonton's Marian Centre, sitting around the table after their evening meal, offer the following suggestions:

  • Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly.
  • Our Lady of the Lost and Found by Diane Schoemperlen.
  • C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy, vols. 1 & 2 – Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. The third volume is nowhere near the same quality.
  • Man on a Donkey by H.F.M. Prescott.
  • Anything by Michael O'Brien, especially: Theophilos, Kiss of Stone, Island of the World, A Father's Tale. His books are loooong, and sometimes heavy, but deeply spiritual.
  • Kristin Lavransdotter by Sigrid Undset – also long, but a classic.
  • Secret Life of Bees by Susan Monk Kidd.
  • The Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schafer – not overtly spiritual, but beautiful-about real values.
  • The Shack by William P. Young.
  • Chaim Potok's novels, for example, The Chosen, The Promise, My Name is Asher Lev.
  • What Men Live By and Other Tales, a collection of short stories by Leo Tolstoy.
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop, by Willa Cather.
  • Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict's three-volume series.

Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary: The Way of the Shepherd by Dr. Kevin Leman and William Pentak. A philosophy of management, the book says if bosses want the best from their workers, they must first give their own best.

"It was a delight and easy to read," says Henry. "I could easily do a priests' retreat based on it."

Bob McKeon, social justice advocate for the Edmonton Archdiocese: Comrades Stumbling Along: The Friendship of Catherine deHeuck Doherty and Dorothy Day as Revealed through their Letters by Father Robert Wild.

"This is a favourite of mine – real flesh and blood saints who love each other but still struggle with each other."

Father Joselito Cantal, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Edson: Any books or articles about Our Lady of Antipolo, 17th century statue of Mary in his Philippine homeland.

"For true to life stories, I turn to Chicken Soup books, like Chicken Soup for the Soul. The stories are based on reality and let people see God is alive in their lives."

Susan Barylo, responsible for catechesis, faith formation and RCIA in the Edmonton Archdiocese: These books have been "pinnacles of my faith reading, in no particular order:"

  • Two books by Father Richard Rohr: Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, and Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go.
  • The Holy Longing by Father Ronald Rolheiser.
  • Soul Fire: Accessing Your Creativity by Father Thomas Ryan.
  • Surrender!: The Life-Changing Power of Doing God's Will by Father Larry Richards.
  • Mary's Song by Mary Catherine Nolan.
  • The Priesthood of the Heart: Woman's Unique Vocation by Jo Croissant.
  • Spiritual Freedom by Father Dave Pivonka.
  • Wounded Healer and The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen.
  • Midwife for Souls by Kathy Kalina.

"Most books by Dr. Scott Hahn are easy to read and tie our Catholic beliefs to Scripture very well." Here are three: The Lamb's Supper; Hail, Holy Queen; Understanding Our Father: Biblical Reflections on the Lord's Prayer.

"I have not yet read it, but it's on my list to read: Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self by Richard Rohr.

"I also eagerly await Ron Rolheiser's book due later this year (I think), which is a sequel to The Holy Longing. He's been preaching about it in his retreats, and will finally finish the book."