We are down to the last three categories for the 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge. I’ve been sharing what I’m reading throughout the year for each one.
Category: A Book by a Doctor of the Church
Of all the hundreds of saints in the Church, we only have 36 that hold of title of “Doctor of the Church.” So basically anything that you pick from these folks will deliver profound insights — guarenteed. The hard part is picking one. It wasn’t too hard for me, because I had been meaning to read An Introduction to the Devout Life for quite some time (which is why these reading challenges can be just the motivating force we need).
This book has been described as a prime manual for spiritual direction and St. Francis the ultimate spiritual director. (In fact, he wrote it as such, addressing one woman, Philothea, in her pursuit of the devout Christian life.) I certainly agree with that sentiment; moreover, I found the work to be both essentially practical and timelessly inspired. Every topic, and he covers quite a range of them, applies to pretty much every Christian’s life.
One of the most impactful topics for me personally was his step-by-step description of the process of mental prayer. I have been trying to develop this practice in my own life, but I struggled in finding helpful resources to guide a novice. St. Francis’s advice and methodical approach are exactly what a beginner needs, and I have found myself able to immediately apply his method in my prayer time.
Another great aspect of this book is that the 118 “chapters” are generally very short — most are 1-2 pages. So you could take this book in small daily chapter nuggets — kind of like a daily devotional — and spend a longer time meditating on each topic and host of insights. Here is a short list of some of the other topics covered in the book:
- The definition of true devotion
- Meditations for mental prayer
- An entire section on various forms of prayer
- Descriptions of the virtues and how to practice them
- Edifying friendships
- Marriage advice
- The proper place for amusements and pleasures
- Assertaining the state of your soul: consolation and desolation
- How to conduct spiritual examinations of ourselves
There are more topics than these, as well as a variety of helpful sub-topics within each of the above. Basically, everyone would come away from this book with something significant that is immediately applicable to daily life. Some books of spiritual direction are not for everyone, especially given particular tastes and vocations; but this is one that I believe should be read by every person who is striving to live a devout Christian life.
What Book by a Doctor of the Church did you read for the #2017catholicreadingchallenge? If you are posting your pick on social media, remember to use the hashtag!
Copyright 2017 Jessica Ptomey
I’ve been sharing what I’m reading throughout the year for the 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge, and I’m very excited to talk about this one…
Category: A Book by C. S. Lewis or G. K. Chesterton
If I was forced to pick my top five favorite authors, C. S. Lewis would have to be among them. His wisdom is inspired; his insights are timeless; his tone is, ahhh, so compelling. For the Reading Challenge I decided to re-read Mere Christianity. The first time I read it I was 18, and I still have that copy. It’s funny to see what passages I underlined and noted this time that were not marked before, but I disagreed with none of my previous markings of years ago. They would have all been underlined again (although without the unsteady, florescent highlighter pen).
Lewis must be the most-quoted Christian author of recent decades, and many of his famous passages that you have heard recited probably came from this book. Just for fun, here are a few examples: Continue reading “My Reading Challenge Pick for “A Book by C. S. Lewis or G. K. Chesterton””
I’ve been sharing what I’m reading throughout the year for the 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge, and I’m chipping away at my list. There’s only three months left! This was a shorter one, but a powerful one…
Category: Writings of an Early Church Father
Before reading St. Polycarp of Smyrna’s epistle and the account of his martyrdom, I had been semi-familiar with his story and when he lived. But I gained some important insights on his impact as a Father of the Church after doing this reading. The book I have linked to above includes both his epistle and the account of his martyrdom by Evarestus (along with several other early Christian writings). It also provides brief biographical information on the saint, which we have due to various other early Church writings.
Polycarp’s Connection to Christ
The first thing that I found fascinating was his direct connection to the original 12 Apostles, specifically the Apostle John. We know from Irenaeus’ writings that Polycarp (who wasn’t martyred until the age of 86) was a disciple of the Apostle John and handed down the teachings of the Apostles to several generations throughout his long life. In fact, St. John the Apostle himself appointed Polycarp to his position as Bishop of Smyrna. Think about that: Jesus –> John –> Polycarp — he’s one person removed from direct communication and relationship with Christ on earth!
Polycarp’s Pastoral Words
His epistle reminds me of many of the letters of the New Testament with its pastoral style and apostolic exhortations. He clearly lived his life ready to give it up for Christ, and he encouraged his flock of believers in the same mindset. After all, early Christians basically lived their daily lives with the realization that they would most likely die at any time for their faith. Polycarp’s epistle describes St. Ignatius and other Christian prisoners on their way to be martyred in Rome: “For those chains they were wearing were the badges of saints; the diadems of men truely chosen by God and our Lord.” Continue reading “My Reading Challenge Pick for “Writings of an Early Church Father””