Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Recommended Summer Readings for Seminarians


Since I've been asked by a couple of students before the start of the summer break for a 'list' of good (and manageable) books to read, I'm posting a few titles that I've found very helpful. I hope the list helps:

(1) Timothy Gallagher. "The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living". - A substantial yet extremely accessible presentation of the fourteen Ignatian rules. Leads the reader to a deep level of understanding of difficult spiritual issues. Gallagher's discussion of the phases of consolation and desolation and how to live with and live through them can be of great help. Not a technical read at all, but highly informative and practical.

(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) Timothy Gallagher. "Discerning the Will of God: An Ignatian Guide to Christian Decision-Making". - Practical advice for those of us seeking to align our will with God's.

(5) Joyce Rupp. "Praying our Goodbyes". - For those going through a period of transition, whether from college seminary to the theologate, from discernment in seminary to discernment in another setting, or those of who seek to slowly detach themselves from old ways or habits that are no longer compatible with their present calling, but are still struggling to do so. A highly recommended read.

(6) 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.

(7) G. Tyrell and Henri Joly. "The Psychology of the Saints". - An older text (originally published in 1898), yet still relevant today in terms of its grappling with profound issues of the uniqueness of one's humanity and the action of God's grace.

(8) Sergio Rubin. "Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio". - Recently published. - The result of a series of interviews conducted over the course of two years. The text is a great introduction to the life and thought of Pope Francis when he was still the cardinal of Buenos Aires. In it, he discusses a wide-range of subjects, including some uncomfortable ones such as the decline in the number of priests and religious, celibacy, and the sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the church in recent decades.

(9) Thomas Bokenkotter. "Dynamic Catholicism: A Historical Catechism". - Blessed John XXIII once said that "the deposit of faith is one thing, the manner by which it is presented to men and women of every age is another". Bokenkotter's text shows how the dynamic and evolving nature of the church's faith represents a true embodiment of the Spirit's continuing work of guiding the community of believers towards a fuller understanding and appreciation of the most important elements of its belief-system.

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

(11) 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.

(12) 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 definite must-read.

(13) 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.

(14) 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.

(15) 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.

(16) 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.

(17) 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". "Populorum Progressio" John Paul II, "Redemptor Hominis". "Laborem Exercens". "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis". "Centesimus Annus". "Fides et Ratio". "Evangelium Vitae". "Veritatis Splendor".

(18) 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.

(19) 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.

(20) 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).

(21) 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".

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

(23) 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.

(24) 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.

(25) Jaroslav Pelikan. "Mary Through the Centuries: Her Place in the History of Culture". - A scholarly yet extremely accessible text for those who wish to deepen their understanding, love, and devotion to the Mother of God.

(26) Roberto S. Goizueta. "Christ our Companion". An excellent reflection on how a twenty-first century Christian can genuinely embody and incarnate his faith in Christ amidst the complex challenges of contemporary society. Especially relevant to those who wish to deepen their sensitivity to Christ's presence in the poor and needy of the world - a challenge posed by Pope Francis especially to priests and religious.

(27) Donald Cozzens. "The Changing Face of the Priesthood". - A very challenging text to read; delves into some very serious issues and challenges presently confronting the priesthood as well as those in seminary formation.

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