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
If you’ve been reading along and following the 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge, then you know that I’ve been sharing what I’m reading for each category throughout the year. It helps keep me on track, and I hope it helps inspire you toward your reading goals for 2017!
Category: A Catholic Memoir or Autobiography
I’m going to tell you from the get-go that this might be the most impactful book on my spiritual life that I read this year, perhaps in the last few years. So, here’s the plug that made me want to read it in the first place: Elisabeth was the devoted wife of Felix Leseur, who was an adamant aetheist for their entire marriage. After her death, he discovered all of her journals (the contents of this book). In reading them, not only did he convert to Catholicism, but he became a Catholic priest! After his conversion, he compiled Elisabeth’s journals and various correspondence into this book, travelled around sharing her story, and had her cause opened for canonization.
I read this book with a group of ladies from my parish this summer, and I think we would all say that we were profoundly impacted by Elisabeth’s humble spirituality, profound love, and immense wisdom. There is so much that I could say about her writings, but I am just going to highlight for you some of the major themes along with corresponding quotes from her journals. Continue reading
I hope you have been able to join me for the 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge. I’ve been sharing what I’m reading for each category throughout the year. But even if you aren’t doing the reading challenge, these posts might provide you with recommendations that need to be on your TBR list.
Category: A Book by a Female Saint
I chose to read St. Catherine’s Dialogue for a few reasons. First, she was my Confirmation saint when my husband and I entered the Catholic Church four years ago, and I have really be meaning to read her book since then. I think most people can relate to having a book on their list for years and finally getting around to reading it, and I’m so glad that I finally did (better late than never).
Second, I read Sigrid Undset’s biography of St. Catherine earier this year, and I was deeply moved by it. Not only did it provide an intimate connection for me to St. Catherine, but it seriously raised the bar for me on saint biographies. This is hands-down the biography to read on St. Catherine. Reading about her life and her life’s work compelled me to spend time with her spiritual writing.
Third, St. Catherine is a saint who experienced profound and regular mystical encounters with our Lord. However, the majority of her life was not lived solitarily. She was an servant of the Church who lived an active and vibrant life of ministry very connected to others in the world. I believe that someone who could move so easily between mystical encounters and practical service is a saint to learn from and study. Continue reading