Take it from St. Jerome, who said, “Always keep the holy book in your hands, that it may nourish your soul by devout reading.” St. Bernard said that reading instructs us in prayer, and in the practice of virtue. He even said that spiritual reading and prayer are the arms by which hell is conquered and paradise won. So, as saints-in-training what do we need to do to “run as though to win” and keep our minds and hearts on the path to heaven? Just like champion athletes don’t run on junk food, saints-in-training don’t fuel their minds with fantasy football and celebrity gossip.
So where do you start? Well, that is the point of this post. Here is the Cowboy Catholic reading list:
- Theology of the Body for Beginners – Christopher West
The title says it all. If you are new to TOB and interested in learning more about this beautiful teaching shared with the church by Saint John Paul II, then start here. Christopher West takes JPII’s thoughts on tough topics like the meaning of life, why God created us male and female, and how to attain true happiness on Earth and breaks them down in a way that is simple to follow. The TOB teachings have the power to Change. Your. Life. Find out what it’s all about with this book. (Suggested by Brandi Bellard.)
- Introduction to the Devout Life – St. Francis de Sales
This book has been called the most popular Catholic self-help book of all time. Sit at the feet of St. Francis de Sales as he takes you through meditations on creation, sin, death, judgement, hell, paradise… Just google the chapter titles and you’ll see this is book is handbook for saints-in-training. (Suggested by Randall Edwards).
- The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
Our campus minister, Randall Edwards said, “I honestly think this is one of the most genius books ever written. C.S. Lewis takes Christian theology and delivers it from the perspective of demons. The demons hatch a game plan to lead a human soul into hell and draw him away from the “Enemy” (God). And all the while revealing actual advice for living the Christian life. It is not difficult to read and can speak to you on so many levels even as you read and re-read it.” (Also suggested by Reygan Jagneaux)
- Heaven Song: Sexual Love as It Was Meant to Be – Christopher West
John Paul II + Song of Songs, need I say more? As practicing Catholics, we know the truth but with the secular media perverting sexual love and trying to force feed us the lies with every magazine, movie and song it can push at us, it’s nice to detox and refresh your mind. This book does just that and gives a fresh perspective on what sexual love is really all about. Once again, Christopher West does a great job delivering John Paul II’s thoughts, this time from the hidden talks of the Saint that unveil sexual love as it was designed to be. (Suggested by Alyssa Soileau).
- The Story of a Soul– St. Therese of Lisieux
The Little Flower, (aka) St. Therese is one of those giant, rockstar saints that everyone loves because she was so small. She teaches the “little way” to heaven that is practical and simple and so, so holy. Before she died she said she would spend her time in Heaven doing good on Earth and she’s sticking by her word. This little saint has worked BIG things in my life and is the adopted patroness of my marriage (ask me about St. Therese’s novena!) Like athletes study film of other players, this autobiography is a great way to study and learn from the life of an incredible saint.
- Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love– Edward Siri
When I was at LSU I attended a small group study on this book and it changed everything for me. While it seems obvious that this book applies to romantic love, and it does (I recommend everyone read it before they get engaged) it changed the friendships in my life most dramatically. This book shined a big, bright light on the holes of selfishness, shallowness, and tendencies for utilitarianism I didn’t even recognize in my friendships and relationships. How well we love others is everything in the Christian life. If you want to check the pulse on your relationships read this one with an open mind.
- John Paul the Great: His Five Loves– Jason Evert
Discover the five loves of St. John Paul II. Through unpublished stories from bishops, priests, students, Swiss Guards, and many others, Jason Evert presents a beautiful treasure chest filled with gems from the life of this great saint.
- Joy of the Gospel – Pope Francis
In Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, he teaches us about the proclamation of the gospel. He shares his words of encouragement with the Church and calls us to not only live, but thrive in the missionary lifestyle “that is capable of transforming everything.” He offers practical and realistic advice for spreading the Gospel in this culture.
- Socrates meets Jesus – Peter Kreeft
Peter Kreeft brings the Socratic Method to current topics in Socrates Meets Jesus. In this book, Socrates unknowingly stumbles into a modern university setting and meets students studying various topics including Theology. To his surprise he finds some contradictions in relativism among the people teaching and studying the person of Jesus. So he takes the topic of Jesus into his own logical style and it results in a very interesting read. It is short and simple and written as a dialogue, almost as a play.
- Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary – St. Alphonsus Liguori
Going to the gym without a trainer can sometimes leave you feeling a little lost and unproductive and discouraged about going back. Think of this book as your “trainer” for Adoration. It’s a devotional that instructs your time in Adoration. How. Cool! It walks you through thirty-one visits and even provides the opportunity for a Plenary Indulgence.