Monday, June 4, 2012

Two Years of Spiritual Life Lessons ... in Books

Ah, pure bliss.
Some people associate certain memories with smells or particular foods. I associate books with different time periods in my life. High school senior year was Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky. The book that rose above all other books when I lived in Miami was Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, (incidentally, not the best book to read during hurricane season).

I am currently on vacation from the convent. My first phase of nun training is wrapping up. I have been thinking nostalgically of my time in the convent over the past two years. I have learned a lot in prayer, in community, in life experiences and through my usual method of learning - reading.

I think the best way to sum up the past two years of learning is to list the best books I have read in no particular order. I recommend them wholeheartedly to anyone in any walk of life:

1. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene - This novel is a great introduction to a dark moment in Mexican history - the suppression of the Catholic Church and the violence against clergy that ensued in the 1930s. But more than a history lesson, this book is a probing search into the complicated psyche of a mediocre, alcoholic priest who becomes a surprising lesson for the reader in humility, grace and holiness.

2. Interior Freedom by Jacques Phillipe- Every single book by this French priest is destined to be a spiritual classic. Whenever someone asks me for a book recommendation, I always point to this author. But this particular book is a Hope diamond among diamonds, a gorgeous work of art full of practical advice on the vital role that attaining inner freedom plays in the spiritual life.

3. How to Be an Adult by David Richo - Ok, some might think it would be embarrassing to admit reading this book, let alone really liking it. But I am not embarrassed to say that I have learned a lot about acting more maturely over the past two years through reading this book, living in community and going to a counselor. This book is at times corny and did not always sit right. But most of his advice is sound and extremely helpful. I felt more adult after just reading a few chapters...

4. Mother Teresa's Secret Fire  by Joseph Langford - Best book about Mother Teresa, hands down. This is the book she wanted to be shared with the world. It is written by the man chosen by Mother Teresa to found the male order of the Missionaries of Charity. It is clear that this man has a special insight into the core teaching of Mother Teresa around the words of Jesus on the cross: "I thirst." It is surprising, simple and profound. After reading this book I am convinced that Mother Teresa should be named a Doctor of the Church.

5. Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week by Pope Benedict XVI - Anything written by Pope Benedict is amazing. I have read a lot written by him this year, including his excellent autobiography Milestones. But this book takes the cake. Pope Benedict is a brilliant Biblical scholar. He looks at Scripture with a perfect blend of faith and reason, a quality that is missing in much of modern Biblical scholarship. Pope Benedict presents a Jesus who is historically reasonable, but also a Jesus who is consistent with our faith. I learned so much about Scripture, and Jesus by reading this book. And I learned to love our brilliant but shockingly humble pope. The Holy Spirit knows what He is doing.

I would love if any readers would like to share their best book from the past couple years in the comments.

Peace to everyone, and happy reading!

3 comments:

Jason Pannone said...

Hmmmmm.... I'd say Charles Williams' The Figure of Beatrice, which I read in conjunction with Dante's Divine Comedy. It really opened up not only the Divine Comedy, but also my heart as to the interpenetration of God's love with those who love Him. Williams' notion of co-inherence, how the love and joy of one in Heaven is the love and joy of all was -- I can't really describe it...

tagnes said...

Co-inherence - I had to look that one up! Williams ideas sound fascinating. I think quite a bit about the changed relationship between humanity and God due to the incarnation and resurrection of Christ. Sounds like stuff I would be interested in! Thanks for sharing Jason.

Anonymous said...

Hi. Was glad to come across this blog as recently become a Catholic "convert", myself, and been searching the internet for Catholic blogs to read.
Been reading loads of books, recently. Can't recommend highly enough: Scott Hahn's books on Mary and the Mass, and especially, David Torkington's "The Hermit" on prayer and Fulton Sheen's Life of Christ. Altogether, these books radically helped to set me alight in love for Jesus / The Trinity, the Mass and Mary (and to discover more about the Catholic faith)
God bless,
Ed (UK)