My new friend Billy Kangas recently asked, “What’s the best book you’ve ever read?” Since that question is WAY unfair for me (a bookworm kid and B.A. in English/CommArts) to answer, I’m ‘having it my way’ and re-working BK’s question. Here’s a few books that changed my life…
New Picture Book of Saints (St. Joseph Edition) by Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik, SVD: First Communion gift to me, from my parents. Introduced me to the saints and planted a seed in me; I’ve wanted to be a saint since I first loved this book.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis: My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Jennings (who helped me discover my love for poetry and writing), used to sit and read to our class if we were ‘good.’ The especially good kids got the extraordinary privilege of hosting a stuffed Aslan lion on his or her desk. Narnia and its stories captured my imagination…and I think they planted a seed in my heart to long for a Savior.
3. The Bible — especially the Psalms, the Gospels, and Paul’s letters: After my teenaged ‘reversion’ to the faith of my baptism (thanks to rock group P.O.D.) I chose St. Michael as my confirmation saint and highlighted every reference to being a spiritual warrior/spiritual battle in my Bible. Now, that’s one of several Bibles and Biblical study materials on our family bookshelf. The Scriptures have been a constant companion in my faith journey.
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene: Theological Foundations class in college, at the time, seemed to have been the most exciting thing to happen to me, up to that point in my life. (I’m earning academic credits for learning about God and the Church and the Bible and prayer?!? *air guitar*) One of our final assignments was to read and write a paper on this novel, which takes place in Mexico during Catholic persecution. Reading this book helped my faith mature.
The main character, a ‘whiskey priest’ whose failings are clear and numerous, caught my attention. I’d only been aware of a relatively innocent Church prior to reading this book. After experiencing the varying degrees of ‘light’ and ‘dark’ in the novel’s places, characters, and situations, I saw my faith in a more multi-layered, four-dimensional way. I realized that faith is a struggle through the dirt, with a bunch of other dirty people, and we’re all in need of washing by The Lamb’s Blood. The Power and the Glory also piqued my awareness of the very real Mexican struggle that my great-grandmother had participated in as a young girl.
Discovering the Feminine Genius by Katrina Zeno: When I picked up this book, I’d heard plenty about JP2’s Theology of the Body, but this book brought it home. Made it personal. Katrina Zeno helped revolutionize my understanding of my womanhood and my faith journey as a woman. Now, hundreds of hours of my life each year are devoted to planning outreach events for women, introducing them to this radical, life-changing message. I’m truly indebted.
Blood Brothers by Archbishop Elias Chacour: If you read only one book about the Holy Land, let this be it. I don’t ever remember reading — or wanting to read — a book faster than I read this gripping memoir. Before going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, my bosses always recommend their pilgrims read this book. We keep a box handy in our offices.
Just go read it. Please. Really. Seriously.
Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC: I read this book in 2012, during a spiritual dry spell. Can you believe: It jumped out at me while I was browsing through the public library’s stacks? I didn’t really understand how anyone could ‘console’ Jesus, but maybe that’s why I picked it up.
In the end, this book led me to write in my journal, “I, Angela Sealana, on this day, choose as my principle and foundation to console the Heart of Jesus.” This book ignited a devotion to the Sacred Heart within me, and my life hasn’t been the same since.
My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints by Dawn Eden: I’ve already blogged about this gem. My interest in the saints’ lives led me to open its pages; I did not consider myself wounded. In hindsight, I see that this book finally led me to acknowledge the horrible trauma wounds I’d been harboring for years. Thanks be to God, Dawn Eden’s (and the saints’) courageous witness encouraged me to seek counseling. Without a doubt, this book played a key role in my healing.
Shirt of Flame by Heather King + Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux: These books I consider a pair. For many years, I’d found St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s spirituality and writings to be far above my understanding or interest. I’d tried to read her autobiography as a teen, but she seemed too prim and pious for me. I just couldn’t relate.
Then, Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. St. Thérèse of Lisieux entered my life. I ate this book up, because I suddenly felt that I had found a treasury of wisdom on true, gritty, beautiful, mystical, simple, Christian life. Heather King presented Thérèse in ways that put meat on her bones, and gave her a voice, and simply brought Thérèse alive for me…so much so that I began journaling conversations with the ‘Little Doctor’ and knew she was my big sister in Heaven.
I read Story of a Soul immediately after Shirt of Flame. Now, Thérèse is introducing me to all her Carmelite sisters and brothers, and I’m getting schooled in the tender love of God for me. What a priceless gift!