Sunday, November 7, 2010

A suggested to-read list for seminary students

Since I've been asked by a couple of students for a 'list' of good (and manageable) books to read, I'm posting a few titles that I've found very helpful in my own journey from seminary formation to ordination. I hope the list helps:

(1) Adrian Van Kaam. "Religion and Personallity". - an excellent read for all beginners (and non-beginners alike) in the journey of formation, not only for those in seminary, but for all those on the "path" to a genuinely religious existence. Very interesting at the beginning, can be a tad dry in the middle, then picks up again towards the end. Any seminarian who struggles to finish this book will not be disappointed. An excellent guide for the rest of our priestly lives.

(2) Thomas Merton. "Meditation and Spiritual Direction". - an excellent guide to the practice of meditation and the "art" of spiritual direction.

(3) Donald Cozzens. "The Spirituality of the Diocesan Priest". - timely, down-to-earth, practical, a collection of writings by those in the "field"; won't disappoint.

(4) Henri Nouwen. "Compassion". "In the Name of Jesus". - excellent and easy reads on the Christian life and the challenges (as well as temptations) of ministry.

(5) Benedict Groeschel. "The Courage to be Chaste". - a really good book for us called to live a celibate life, spiritual, balanced, down-to-earth.

(6) Stanley Hauwerwas. "Resident Aliens". - written by a Protestant theologian (I attended his lectures when he was a guest professor in Louvain); is nonetheless excellent in terms of articulating the perplexities we Christians often experience as we try to "live" our faith in an increasingly secularized and hostile world.

(7) William Barclay. "The Daily Study Bible" (Old and New Testament). - I managed to read the entire bible using Barclay's commentaries. My spiritual director in seminary made me use these commentaries for Bible and Spiritual reading. Excellent set, not only in terms of its scholarship and depth, but also in terms of its spiritual and practical content. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Will prove useful not only for seminary, but later on, for homilies. A MUST-READ.

(8) H. Richard Niebuhr. "Christ and Culture". - an excellent book for those who wish to understand the often difficult relationship of faith and ordinary life. A little heavy content-wise, but still very manageable. A highly recommended read for those who are up to the challenge.

(9) Thomas Massaro, SJ. "Living Justice". - for those who wish to be initiated into a serious study and understanding of the Church's teachings on Social Justice (often called the Church's "best kept secret", because very few Catholics have a true knowledge and appreciation of this body of Catholic doctrine which does not only guide our action in the world, but our valuing of life in all its stages, from conception, to its middle stages, to its natural end). A must read for those who wish to live the "consistent ethic of life" which is a true treasure of our faith community that challenges us to defend life at conception, work for justice, education, poverty-alleviation, health and housing, and at life's natural end.

(10) Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church". - very accessible guide to understanding and appreciating the beauty of this "treasure" of our community of faith.

(11) Congregation for Catholic Education. "Guidelines for the Study and Teaching of the Church's Social Doctrine in the Formation of Priests". - a must read for all of us in formation.

(12) Papal social encyclicals - while there are a good number of these letters of the popes, I highly recommend the following to start one's project of going through as many of them as one is able: Leo XIII. "Rerum Novarum". Paul VI. "Humanae Vitae". "Populourum Progressio" John Paul II, "Redemptor Hominis". "Laborem Exercens". "Centesimus Annus". "Fides et Ratio". "Evangelium Vitae". "Veritatis Splendor".

(13) Avery Dulles. "Models of the Church". - an excellent book (scholarly but very accessible) to help in understanding the different paradigms or ways of understanding the church; helps in becoming aware of our own personal 'ecclesiology' and how it can be brought in line with what is genuinely 'Catholic': holistic, balanced, and moderate.

(14) Avery Dulles. "Models of Revelation". - also an excellent book (scholarly but very accessible) to help in understanding the different ways of understanding revelation and how we Catholics understand the Scriptures.

(15) Joseph Martos. "Doors to the Sacred". - an excellent book for those who wish to have a deeper understanding of the Sacraments, especially how they have evolved throughout the history of the church. (Scholarly but very accessible).

(16) Brian Davies. "The Thought of Thomas Aquinas". - for those who wish to be introduced to the beauty of Thomistic thought. A good companion to reading the "Summa".

(17) Augustine's "Confessions". (I have found the new Chadwick translation to be quite easy to read for students. Oxford edition)

(18) Pope John Paul II. "Pastores Dabo Vobis". - Pope John Paul II's apostolic exhortation concerning priestly life and seminary formation, addressed to both clergy and laity; a must read especially for seminarians.

(19) USCCB. "Program of Priestly Formation". - developed by the Committee on Priestly Formation of the USCCB; discusses the core elements of priestly formation, especially the 'pillars' of formation: human formation, spiritual formation, intellectual formation, pastoral formation, and community life.

[I'll be adding more books to the list. Happy reading. May the Spirit give light to your minds and set fire to your hearts.]

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)