The 2018 Catholic Reading Challenge is underway, and I will be sharing my picks for each category about once a month. It’s time for my first pick…
Category: “A Biography of a Prominent Catholic”
My Pick: Love is the Measure: A Biography of Dorothy Day by Jim Forest (love the cover art on this hardcover edition)
I must admit that I knew very little about Dorothy Day’s life and work before reading this captivating biography. Jim Forest, who knew and worked with her the last couple of decades of her life, does a masterful job of introducing you to a tangible person who cannot be boxed into a tidy category or stereotype. This book, especially the first half describing her early life and conversion, was a real page-turner for me. The chapters are not very long, and one propels you into the next.
Aspects of Dorothy’s life that stood out to me: Continue reading “My Reading Challenge Pick for… “A Biography of a Prominent Catholic””
It’s the end of the year and the end of the 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge! I’ve been sharing what I’m reading throughout the year for each one, and here are my last two picks…
Category: A Book on Catholic Spirituality Written More Than 100 Years Ago
Category: A Book by Bishop Robert Barron
Little did I know when I picked these two books how well they paired together, and I just happened to read them back to back. St. John of the Cross was a devoted student of St. Thomas Aquinas’ writings, and The Spiritual Canticle (a work of verse similar to the Song of Solomon) is steeped in Thomist philosophy. You initially become aware of this from reading the introduction to St. John’s work, but this Thomist theme became even more apparent when I subsequently read Barron’s book.
I want to mentioned a couple of themes from each book, but I would first stress that both share the characteristic of being works that deeply nourish the spiritual life and offer much in the way of spiritual direction and insights for extensive meditation, though written centuries apart and in much different styles. Continue reading “My Last 2 Picks for the 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge”
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