QUAERITUR: Books for converts and reverts

I had a question put to me this morning at the blognic in Cleveland.

What are some good books for adult converts and reverts to the Church?

In addition to the Catechism of the Catholic Church or its Compendium, off the top of my head I could think of Fr. John Hardon’s Catholic Catechism.

Since I am on the road, I will ask you to pitch in.

The books you suggest should probably be geared to very readable, fairly short, volumes on history, liturgy, and maybe even some apologetics.

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  1. Brian says:

    Archbishop Sheehan’s Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine. A new printing is
    due out soon, from Baronius Press I think.

  2. Brian Kemple says:

    Triumph (forget the author’s name)
    and Orthodoxy, by Chesterton.

  3. James Whitmans says:

    In my opinion, whilst the full Catechism of the Catholic Church is a dream come true for orthodox Catholics and for Tradition, the Compendium itself (aside from its artistic aspects) is rather a disappointment.

    To provide but one example, there is the spectre of the Answer given to Question 18. *Unlike* the _full_ CCC, the response provided there is easily interpreted to mean the Church were now in favor of some sort of limited or partial inerrancy with respect to Scripture. (Hopefully needless to say, but the Church’s constant and infallible teaching is that each and every proper part of every book of Sacred Scripture, when properly interpreted according to the actual intention of its divinely-inspired human authors, is free from any and all error of WHATEVER SORT _whatsoever_ (cf. Leo XIII’s _Providentissimus Deus_, Pius XII’s _Divino Afflante Spiritu_, JPII’s own speech to the PBC, etc.).

    For my money, if you’re looking for a good Q&A Catechism to serve as an excellent companion piece to your reading of the CCC, look no further than Father Hardon’s own _Question and Answer Catholic Catechism_. So truly excellent it includes a Note from none other than Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. (And, no, I do not believe that Hardon’s own summary of the CCC — _The Faith_ — is an improvement upon the former.)

  4. tihald says:

    I found Catholicism and Fundamentalism by Karl Keating to be very helpful. It answered many of the questions that I, a Southern Baptist at the time, had about the Church before I joined the Tiber River Swim Team.

  5. Penjing says:

    “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization”– Thomas Woods

    Not only must we learn ABOUT the Church, but we also must learn to love the Church and be excited about her past. In addition, it serves as a good historical apologetic and inspires individuals to learn more about Church history and triumph.

  6. Clara says:

    Ronald Knox’s “Belief of Catholics” was a great help to me. That’s mainly apologetics, so perhaps *most* appropriate for the not-yet-convinced, but it can also be very helpful to the convert (or possibly revert too) who has a lot of questions to field from dubious friends and family. Among other things, it presents Newman’s development of doctrine argument against Protestantism (most importantly, that if you accept the Bible as infallible truth, you logically should accept the body that “picked” the canonical books as inspired, in which case you evidently acknowledge something like a Church) in a fairly simple and readable form. But I also found it to be a good one for just making me feel happy/excited about being Catholic, which was a bit hard at first.

  7. LCB says:

    Forgot to remove the name “penjing” from a previous good-humored comment. Taking credit for my own posts now ;-)

  8. Dark Radiance says:

    -Why Do Catholics Do That: A Guide to The Teachings and Practices of the Catholic Church by Kevin Orlin Johnson
    -A Short History of the Mass by Alfred McBride
    -Franciscan Prayer by Ilia Delio
    -For the Visitor at Mass by Angelus Press
    -A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller

    Since I am a bibliovore, I could have put in many more. However I was trying to respect the parameters of “fairly short” and “very readable”.
    For something that is very readable but not short I would suggest Doors to the Sacred:A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church by Joseph Martos.
    For something short but not very readable: Christian Sacraments in a Post-Modern World by Kenan Osborne.

  9. Geoffrey says:

    I would suggest “The Way” by St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer. It has short little “blurbs” on a wide variety of topics… devotions, liturgy, the Church, penance, love of God, etc.

  10. RBrown says:

    I would recommend them getting an apologetic foundation, with the likes of CS Lewis and Chesterton.

    I would also recommend various books by Dom Hubert van Zeller.

  11. Fr. BJ says:

    “A Map of Life” by Frank Sheed

  12. RBrown says:

    The van Zeller books can usually be found at a Catholic library.

  13. This Is The Faith, by Canon Francis Ripley. It’s published by TAN. This book was what cemented in my heart and mind the truth of the Catholic Faith. It argues every possible point of contention from Scripture, Patristics, and reason. I recommend it even for cradle Catholics that want a better appreciation for what we believe.

  14. James Whitmans says:

    _Theology and Sanity_ by Frank Sheed. His absolute best.

  15. I’m glad someone beat me to it, but I will iterate the thought:

    Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton

  16. A Short History of the Catholic Church, Jose Orlandis. I used it as a textbook for an adult ed course once – it’s a great resource. Scepter Press – an Opus Dei author.

  17. Bob Ronau says:

    Another vote for “Theology and Sanity.” Very readable presentation.

  18. TJB says:

    Catholic Christianity – Dr. Peter Kreeft (Very readable with the usual clarity and simplicity of Dr. Kreeft.)

    Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma – Ludwig Ott (Should be read by all Catholics whether cradle Catholic, convert or revert!)

  19. Greg says:

    The Everlasting Man by Chesterton is a must

  20. Sid Cundiff says:

    Hogan, William F., Christ’s Redemptive Sacrifice,Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1963.

    Many converts, especially from Calvinist and Evangelical circles, come to the Catholic Faith with a decided view of the Redemption: that of Penal Substitutional Atonement, a view that is almost THE dogma for Evangelicals, and a view with decided problems. This Evangelical view is the one that the general USA public seems to know about. I find that when dealing with Evangelicals, a Catholic view of the Redemption and its corollary, the Mass as “unbloody” sacrifice, are the two biggest stumbling blocks.

    Hogan’s book is the best short Catholic book that I have found presenting a better, Catholic view, although it has problems, and it assumes a sound knowledge of Thomist theology. I wish I could get a copy of Riviere, Jean, The Doctrine of the Atonement: A Historical Essay, which I’m told is the best survey, yet long out of print; nor do I have access to a Catholic scholarly library.

    I would welcome other suggestions for other or newer books and articles about the Catholic view of the Redemption.

    In passing, the best argued rejection of Penal Substitutional Atonement that I’ve found is from a Protestant: McIntyre, John, The Shape of Soteriology, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1992

    Has anyone read Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon ?

  21. carl says:

    One more vote for “Theology and Sanity”. Also, John Willis’ “The Teachings of the Church Fathers”. It has selections from the Fathers, arranged in a catechism format, demonstrating patristic link in Catholic belief.

  22. Michael says:

    Probably best for those who know next to nothing about the Church:

    “Catholicism for Dummies” by Father John Trigilio & Father Kenneth Brighenti.

    Make sure NOT to recommend “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Catholicism.”

  23. thomas says:

    here\’s my suggestion for converts with a fair amount of evangelical background..maybe a bit too literary but suitable for some folks

    Revised Standard Bible
    Dante\’s Paradise; Tony Esolen
    Compendium of the Catholic Catechism
    The Confessions; Saint Augustine
    What Is Truth; John Rist
    The Adoremus Hymnal

  24. Chris says:

    Timothy Radcliffe OP, ‘Why I am stilla Christian’. Excellent.

  25. Joan says:

    The Faith Explained by Leo Trese.

  26. A Biblical Defense of Catholicism by Dave Armstrong
    He has other great books and some with the foreward by Fr. John Hardon There is a list of his work here

  27. Mr. WAC says:

    I found that Hardon’s Catholic Dictionary was very helpful in my days as a neophyte, and I still make reference to it fairly often.

  28. Jeff Vehige says:

    I always recommend “Theology for Beginners” by Frank Sheed and “The Pocket Catholic Catechism” by Fr. John Hardon. Both are short and very readable.

  29. Hidden One says:

    As a nigh–adult convert myself, I recommend three books: St. Escriva’s The Way [recommended by another commenter already] for too many reasons to list, for the ex-Protestant Sola Scripturist (who may be a bit shaky on the authority of the Church) I recommend the book whose first 7 chapters singlehandedly destroyed the doctrine of Sola Scriptura for me: Where We Got the Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church which fixes and fills in all the history of the bible that Protestants never hear, and for those who are serious in their walk with God (however far they’ve actually managed to get), struggling to draw nearer to Him, and/or desiring to plunge into the heart of the greatest teachings in the Church on holiness and divine union with God, I heartily recommend The Ascent of Mount Carmel by St. John of the Cross.

  30. Piers-the-Ploughman says:

    Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott.
    Non polemical presentation of Catholic belief and answers to Protestant objections, with extensive reference to Church fathers on essentially all contested points. Excellent

  31. RichR says:

    Catechism of the Council of Trent (TAN Books)

  32. John Womack says:

    “The Holy Bible” RSV version, Ignatius Press

    “The Catholic Verses: 95 Bible Passages That Confound Protestants” by Dave Armstrong

    “Faith of Our Fathers” by James Cardinal Gibbons

    “Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger: The Untold Story of the Lost Books of the Protestant Bible” by Gary G. Michuta

    “Radio Replies”: Three Volume Set by Leslie Rumble, Charles M. Carty

    “Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church” by Stephen K. Ray

    “Surprised by Truth: 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic” by Patrick Madrid (editor) and Foreword by Scott Hahn

    “Surprised By Truth 2”: 15 Men and Women Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons For Becoming Catholic. by Patrick Madrid

    “Surprised by Truth 3”: 10 More Converts Explain the Biblical and Historical Reason for Becoming Catholic by Patrick Madrid

    “Reasons to Believe: How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith” by Scott Hahn

    “By What Authority?: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition” by Mark P. Shea

  33. “Catholicism for Dummies” was really popular in my RCIA class, although I didn’t get anything out of it. My early Catholic readings were St. John of the Cross, “Orthodoxy”, and “Deus Caritas Est.”

  34. Kimberly says:

    The Heresy of Formlessness by Martin Mosebach

    The blognic was lovely, Father! It was delightful meeting with you and thank you for the generous gift of your time. “An old bottle of microphone…” Very funny story!

  35. Richard T says:

    Be careful – it depends on the background of whoever is to read it.

    Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is a great book, but it is more for the non-believer considering the Church, or those who have left in their youth and have very little real knowledge of Christianity.

    The Catechisn of course, but it hardly fits the test of short and readable.

    I would try Mgr Gilbey’s “We Believe”.

    Alternatively for an educated protestant with a good knowledge of his own faith, try Newman’s Apologia.

  36. Jacque says:

    I’m really suprised that the Four Witnesses, by Rod Bennett hasn’t been mentioned. It’s the best introduction to the Early Church. I loved it, it made me want to read more.

  37. Tomás López says:

    Chris–I believe you are confusing two books. “What is the point of being a Christian?” is by Timothy Radcliffe and “Why I am still a Catholic” is by Peter Stanford. I wouldn’t particularly recommend either for a new Catholic.

    How about “Seven Storey Mountain” by Thomas Merton?

  38. Baron Korf says:

    Triumph is written by H. W. Crocker III, an anglican convert. A lovely pro-Church history survey. I’m working my way through it at the moment.

    Its been mentioned before but Catholicism for Dummies is a very good resource for those who don’t have the time, interest, or stomach for deep theology but still want good, solid, Catholic answers. I use it as an evangelization and teaching tool.

    Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Saints is nice too. The contents are pretty self explanatory.

    And a shameless plug would be to go to stfrancisrelgoods.com for these books. I know the owner, he’s a good catholic man.

  39. joy says:

    Lead Kindly Light by Thomas Howard.

  40. Bruce says:

    “Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is a great book, but it is more for the non-believer considering the Church, or those who have left in their youth and have very little real knowledge of Christianity.”
    I agree Richard , the above describes my situation 4 years ago – I was a non-believer who left the Church in my youth and had very little real knowledge of Christianity. Orthodoxy and the apologetic works of CS Lewis were the key texts that led to my return to the Church. However once I returned to the Catholic Church I found Hans Urs Von Balthasar’s – The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church & Henri De Lubac’s -Catholicism Christ and the Common Destiny of Man very influential. Another useful book I found in a used book store that probably no one has heard of was Meditations on the Gospels by Ottokar Prohaszka. I also reccomend Peter Kreeft’s books Heaven, the Heart’s Deepest Longing & Making Sense Out of Suffering.

  41. Charles Silesia says:

    Karl Adam’s “Spirit of Catholicism” for a good overview of the faith.
    3 good conversion stories from different periods I read during my RCIA:
    St. Augustine’s “Confessions”;
    Cardinal Newman’s “Apologia pro Vita Sua”; and
    Thomas Merton’s “Seven Storey Mountain”.

  42. Rosie says:

    Merton??? He is New Age. No Catholic should have his books on their shelf.
    Toss the newest Catechism and give them the Trent Catechism.
    Don’t let any convert or revert get near a New American Bible. Give them the Douay-Rheims instead.

  43. Howard says:

    I am a convert from the Southern Baptists, and some of the writings of St. Augustine (The Confessions, City of God, and, due to my own background, Two Books on Genesis Against the Manichees) really helped, as did Peter Kreeft’s A SHORTER SUMMA and SUMMA OF THE SUMMA, which are his presentations of St. Thomas Aquinas. These had a LOT to do with my conversion, but they would not be good starting materials for everybody. (I am a physics professor, and anyone who says Catholicism is irrational has clearly never met St. Thomas!)

    Another book I would strongly recommend is MARY AND THE FATHERS OF THE CHURCH by Luigi Gambero and Thomas Buffer. It helps to show how ancient the veneration of Mary is, how the forms of Marian devotions developed, and how careful the Church was to distinguish between hyperdulia and latria.

    By the time I’d gotten through those, (1) I was already thinking very much like a Catholic, and knew that I had passed an “event horizon” and would inevitably be pulled into the Church, and (2) I realized that I had been essentially Catholic in my thinking for a long time without knowing it. (The last comment takes too much room to explain here.)

    I would also recommend just about ANYTHING by Chesterton. Anyone who has gone THROUGH conversion might particularly appreciate CONVERSION AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. “The first phase is that of the young philosopher who feels that he
    ought to be fair to the Church of Rome. … The second stage is that in
    which the convert begins to be conscious not only of the falsehood
    but the truth and is enormously excited to find that there is far
    more of it than he would ever have expected. … And the third stage is
    perhaps the truest and the most terrible. It is that in which the
    man is trying not to be converted. … The man has exactly the same sense of having committed or compromised himself; of having been in a sense entrapped, even
    if he is glad to be entrapped. But for a considerable time he is not
    so much glad as simply terrified.” I know I went through those stages! It might help a new convert to realize that many others have had the same experience.

    I’d also throw in CROSSING THE TIBER and UPON THIS ROCK by Stephen K. Ray. Different people have different tastes, but I found his approach to be more substantial than some others.

    Another good resource for new Catholics is the CATHOLIC SOURCE BOOK, in no small part because it contains a lot of information about culture and traditions, which, though not as important as doctrine, are important nonetheless.

    The last thing I’ll recommend is a good source of news about the Catholic Church, like CATHOLIC WORLD REPORT. I subscribed to the WANDERER for a few years before converting, so I already knew there was a potential for the sex abuse scandal that erupted a year or two after my conversion (though many aspects of it surprised me as much as anyone). Being forewarned helped me avoid being scandalized, as many seem to have been. That said, the Wanderer is not for everyone, and something with a more level tone might be better for most.

  44. Jenny Z says:

    I think I’m chiming in late, I was out of town, but the book that really got my attention was Four Witnesses: The Early Church In Her Own Words.

  45. “Merton??? He is New Age. No Catholic should have his books on their shelf.”

    Have you actually read any Merton? He wrote a lot and it is of varied quality, but Seven Storey Mountain is quite an exceptional book. You’re probably safe with anything he published in book form before 1960. (Much of it under the imprimatur of Francis Cardinal Spellman).

  46. Wendy says:

    I noticed a few of the suggestions at this link and I thought I’d pass it on. Since they sell books I assume these books that they post in its entirety, including Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, are not under copyright.


  47. Former Altar Boy says:

    “Theology for Beginners” by Sheed (haven’t read “Theology & Sanity” that received miltiple endorsements above) and any tapes by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen,

  48. Felix says:

    There’s a whole library of great old books (Chesterton, Garrigou Lagrange,etc). And Peter Kreeft and (in moderation) Scott Hahn.

    But the real difficulty with current catechesis is that you have to explain that there’s a war going on in the Church, and that they can”t accept just anything that is said or written by anyone who is a Catholic (or even by a Catholic priest). So I’d say that “The Rome Flows into the Tiber” is extremely useful.

    And I’d make a plug for il Papa’s speech at Regensburg, which is one of the best things that I’ve read for quite a while.

  49. David2 says:

    Richard M Hogan, “Dissent From the Creed; Heresies Past and Present”.

    Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy”, “Heresies”, “Conversion and the Catholic Church”.

    Belloc’s “The Great Heresies” – though it’s now a little dated. His comments on the “second coming” of Islam are prescient, though he treats Protestantism as basically a dead religion – having not foreseen US Evangelicals and Fundies.

    St Robert Bellarmine’s “The Art of Dying Well of How to be a Saint, Now and Forever”, sensible practical advice on the struggle for holiness.

    I’m not usually an apologist for Karl Keating but he did write a volume on 52 myths about the Catholic Church that I found a useful tool in explaining certain Catholic doctrines to the sola scriptura folks.

  50. Delia says:

    An unusual book is Paul Williams, ‘The Unexpected Way’, published a few years ago by Continuum. The author was a practising Tibetan Buddhist for more than 20 years, and is one of the foremost scholars on Buddhism in the West (he is a professor at Bristol University in England). The book is a record of his thoughts and insights during his conversion from Buddhism to orthodox Catholicism. I found it a fascinating and refreshing read, recommended for anyone who has come/is coming from any sort of background in Eastern mysticism. He lays out the differences very clearly and points out the dangers of Christians trying to incorporate elements from Buddhist practice. Also wrote ‘Buddhism’ for the CTS (Catholic Truth Series).

  51. Delia says:

    An unusual book is Paul Williams, ‘The Unexpected Way’, published a few years ago. The author was a practising Tibetan Buddhist for more than 20 years, and is one of the foremost scholars on Buddhism in the West (he is a professor at Bristol University in England). The book is a record of his thoughts and insights during his conversion from Buddhism to orthodox Catholicism. I found it a fascinating and refreshing read, recommended for anyone who has come/is coming from any sort of background in Eastern mysticism. He lays out the differences very clearly and points out the dangers of Christians trying to incorporate elements from Buddhist practice. Also wrote the excellent recent ‘Buddhism’ for the CTS (Catholic Truth Series).

  52. Catnip says:

    Don’t waste your time with C.S. Lewis or Peter Kreeft. Rather, read everything written by Pope Benedict XVI. Also Christopher Dawson and his take on history.

  53. Penitent says:

    ‘The glories of Mary’ by Saint Alphonsus.
    ‘Preparation for death’ by the same author.
    Dr Ott’s fundamentals.

    ‘Cosmas or the love of God.’ by Pierre de Calan

  54. Kreeft’s Catholic Christianity is excellent, and you can download audio podcasts of the chapters at the Knights of Columbus site (www.KofC.org.) I also like Fr. Hardon’s Question and Answer Catholic Catechism, as it includes questions on pastoral matters, e.g., Latin in the liturgy, and not just doctrine per se. Another fantastic resource is Fr. Alfred McBride’s College Catechism. It has a Thomistic format — an objection to the Faith, an authoritative response, and then a reasoned explanation — and is suitable for any questioning would-be Catholic, regardless of age. Although it is out of print, you can find it rather easily via online booksellers.

  55. shadrach says:

    ‘An intelligent person’s guide to Catholicism’ by Alban McCoy. It is excellent and compelling.

    And ‘We Believe’ by ‘A Priest’. The priest author was Alfred Gilbey. It is a tremendous book

  56. Eunice Gertrudis says:

    As a protestant, Scott Hahn’s book – Rome Sweet Home helped a great deal in my conversion to Catholicism.

  57. Alex says:

    For an anglican/episcopalian,

    Benson’s “Confessions of a Convert” will do the trick. Otherwise, a more readable book than “Orthododoxy” by Chesterton would be his “The Catholic Church and Conversion”. Highly recommendable.

  58. Calleva says:

    I read Frank Sheed’s ‘Theology for Beginners’ after my reversion to the Faith in 1981. Frank Sheed wrote for non-specialists and is very accessible while not dumbing down. ‘Theology and Sanity’ was also good but I preferred the former. I have tried Scott Hahn’s exegetical books but his constant punning was a distraction and not very helpful. My daughter and I found his ‘Rome Sweet Home’ very readable and I’d recommend it to any former evangelicals. Hahn set out to ‘prove the Catholic Church was wrong’ and in reading the early fathers realised it is right. His journey is a fascinating one. Thomas Howard’s ‘Evangelical is not Enough’ is another great read, showing his journey to the Faith from evangelicalism. Neither book is polemical or insulting about Protestantism.

    Someone wisely pointed out that the Catholic church is in a war right now and one had better have some good reading about the errors of liberalism. I haven’t read it but Philip Trower’s book ‘Turmoil and Truth, the Historical Roots of the Modern Crisis in the Catholic Church’ looks excellent and Ignatius publish it, so it’s bound to be heterodox. An earlier wake-up call was Ralph Martin’s ‘Crisis of Truth’ which I have read and is excellent, if you can get hold of it. It outlines the heresy of relativism. There are a number of Catholic answers to Richard Dawkins, but my family likes ‘A Catholic Replies to Professor Dawkins’ (Family Publications) by the Dominican Thomas Crean. My daughter wrote to Fr Crean and received a prompt and friendly reply. He’s a brilliant thinker. I believe that books like this should be more widely read and especially by converts to Catholicism (and the Christian faith generally).

    Bibles are problemmatic. All up to date modern language editions are now infected by inclusive language. Ignatius publishes the old Revised Standard Bible. I managed to find an old edition of the New American recently that has not got the grim phoney language changes. I’ve used the NAB for years alongside others, and it has not made me a heretic. Mother Angelica uses the old Jerusalem Bible and in the UK the Catholic Truth Society has just produced its own version of this which is free from the inclusive gremlins. I gave a copy to my youngest daughter and she is using it.

    If you can get it, a good read is ‘Come on in – it’s Awful’ ed, Joanna Bogle. This out of print book is a selection of testimonies from converts outlining the irritating 60s innovations which annoy most of us, but which you don’t often find mentioned in books. Joanna’s recent book ‘The Pope Benedict Code’ is a wonderful introduction to the writings of Pope Benedict, containing short excerpts under different topics.

    Books on prayer are often best avoided since there is no alternative but to ‘just do it’. I would suggest a copy of ‘A Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer’ which is the bones of the Morning and Evening office. It also has Night Prayer.

  59. avecrux says:

    “Faith and Certitude” by Father Thomas Dubay. When working on my MA at Franciscan, Dr. Hahn had all of us read it in our Theological Foundations course. It is an excellent appologia for objective truth and also has such astounding insights into error that I found it very enlightening, frightening at times and hope that my Confessions have been better as a consequence!
    BTW – I think the Catechism of the Catholic Church IS very easy to read – and the index is very good, so a little can be read at a time on whatever subject matter of choice. It even serves as good spiritual reading!

  60. Mary Rose says:

    This is an amazing list! I have read several books by Dr. Scott Hahn and hope to find some of the books listed here. There were so many, that I compiled a list and placed it on my blog. I will try to update as much as I can. (I’m moving this week, so it may get crazy!)

    Some of these books are from the U.K. and may not be found in the U.S. Still, I will scour the libraries to see if I can unearth some of these treasures.

    Many thanks!

  61. Calleva says:

    oops, my post above says ‘Ignatius books publish it so it’s bound to be heterodox’ – yikes, I meant ORTHODOX.

  62. Cathy Dawson says:

    The one book I wish I had read the day I converted is My Catholic Faith by Bishop Morrow. It’s the best catechism I’ve read so far and it would have helped me to have a much better understanding of the faith had I read it then (13 years ago). I think it was written for high school students (in the 1940’s), but I know priests who use it for adult catechesis. I have been using it as a religion text for my teenaged children, but I’m finding that I’m learning a lot myself.

    You can find it at http://store.fraternitypublications.com/mycafa.html

  63. Tomás López says:

    Rosie, you are confused. Although Thomas Merton’s later works were crazy, as you pointed out, he started off fine—excellent, actually! Try reading the Seven Storey Mountain (1948), the Waters of Siloe (1949), and the Sign of Jonas (1953) — all perfectly orthodox. (Anyway, I don’t think he could have gotten them past the censors of the Order if they had not been). Merton also wrote a fascinating history of early Trappistines in Japan, Exile Ends in Glory(1948).

    That his later works were New Age-y, fine. Dismissing him out of hand? I could not disagree with you more, friend. And saying that no Catholic should have Merton on his shelf? Shame on you! Many vocations to the contemplative life in the 40’s and 50’s were attributed to young people having been influenced by the Seven Storey Mountain.

  64. Calleva says:

    Seven Storey Mountain is wonderful. I did hear that Merton was dismissive of it later in life, which is a pity.

    The Life of Blessed Margaret of Castello by Fr William Bonniwell is a really good read. I have lent my copy to many people and everyone cries and says how edifying it is. It’s short and extremely moving. TAN books sell it though it was originally published in the 1950s. Blessed Margaret’s body is incorrupt. She was born wealthy but unwanted on account of her disabilities, and I think a very good saint for the unborn. It has deeply influenced my eldest daughter.

    Another good read is ‘Left to Tell’ by Immaculee Ilibagiza, who was a victim of the genocide in Rwanda. Parts of it are dark but she is such a ray of light, and her faith is incredible. The introduction to the book is written by some new age type, but the text is not, and there is a great deal about the power of the rosary. Immaculee was interviewed by Fr Groeschel on EWTN.

  65. BCatholic says:

    Jesus of Nazareth by our Holy Father.

  66. SARK says:

    I may have missed it but I don’t think anyone has mentioned “This tremendous lover – Dom Eugene Boylan”.

    Many of the books people have identified are pre-VII. Therefore I think some books on the current crisis in the Church are needed to provide the budding convert with some explanation of why what they will see and hear and experience when they visit most modern parishes bares little or no resemblance to what is portrayed in the books. Michael Davies provides a good first point of entry to those debates.


  67. BelovedFool says:

    Saint Worship and The Worship of Mary by Orestes Brownson. Falls a bit short on the ‘easy to understand’ front, but the best answer I’ve found to what is THE obstacle for most who have a protestant background.

  68. Another vote for “This is the Faith” and for Abp. Fulton Sheen recordings– they’re available in MP3 on the internets.

  69. Todd says:

    I noticed nobody has yet mentioned “Born Fundamentalist Born Again Catholic” by David B. Currie. That book, along with Mark Shea’s “By What Authority?” should be essential reading for anyone coming from a convert’s perspective. They explain the historical and scriptural Truth of the Catholic faith that is simple enough for even laymen to grasp. They do an excellent job of peeling back hundreds of years of misinformation spouted from evangelical Christianity that obscures the Truth! A must read for anyone who seriously seeks the Church established by our risen Lord!

  70. Nick Hawkins says:

    The True Devotion To The Blessed Virgin by Saint Louis De Montfort
    The Little Office Of The Blessed Virgin Mary
    Both of these will help foster a true devotion to Our Lady and have been daily reading for
    me since my reception 20 years ago.

  71. Back when I was going through the RCIA process I asked this same question to my readers, and then put together a PDF summary of some basic books to get people started who were in the conversion (or reversion) process. I included summaries of all the books I listed so that readers could get a feel for the titles they weren’t familiar with. Here’s the PDF if you have any interest!

  72. supertradmom says:

    Book suggestions for new Catholics:

    Anything by Hilaire Belloc to help think like a Catholic, for excellent writing and for amusement, as well as a little frustration, as he usually does not give footnotes!

    Anything by Christopher Dawson to help think like a Catholic and for perspective on education, society, history, government, etc. Even the “dated” books are excellent.

    Warren Carroll’s The Founding of Christendom, the Building of Christendom, The Glory of Christendom and the Cleaving of Christendom, for very Catholic perspectives on history.

    The Lives of the Saints by Butler, which, if one has the entire, several volume set, will take awhile to read.

    Books by St. Bede, St. Theresa the Little Flower, St. Alphonsus (several books), Christopher Hollis on St. Ignatius and Evelyn Waugh on Edmund Campion, as well as newer biographies of Edith Stein and Mother Theresa…… and so much more!!!!!!!!!

  73. Jennifer says:

    I’m also a convert(from an Evangelical bent). I recommend David Currie’s Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic, Stephen Ray’s Crossing the Tiber and as many others have mentioned here, Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. And for a very quick read (they’re small booklets)and ones that I haven’t seen mentioned yet, Paul Whitcomb’s two little books, Confession of a Roman Catholic and The Catholic Church has the Answer. It hits all the basics: scripture and tradition, early church, protestant errors of Sola Scripture and Sola Fides.
    And, I second all of Jennifer (Et Tu’s) list as well as recommend referring to her site for potential converts (link from the post above/4:09pm) – it’s wonderful, especially her Conversion Diary and specific post on “Confessing my sins to a Priest”. I have often linked to this for non-catholics who have issues with this.
    Sorry to single you out Jennifer, but you have a great blog, specifically as it pertains to conversion.

    Jennifer from Virginia

  74. An American Mother says:

    Another vote for Canon Ripley’s excellent This is the Faith. Particularly useful for former Anglicans/Episcopalians (like yours truly), since he was head of the Catholic Missionary Society in London and the book evolved out of talks he gave for that group. He is on fire, and he pulls no punches. I forced a copy on our parish Christian Education coordinator – her first response was, “It’s soooo old-fashioned” but then she had to admit that it answered a lot of questions that she herself had!

    Catholicism for Dummies is excellent, clear, and readable, despite the appalling title and the gimmicks inherent in the series.

    And of course I was reading Chesterton and loving him as a kid . . . long before I even realized he was Catholic! His Father Brown stories are yet another link in the long chain of events that pushed and pulled and prodded me into the Church (read “The Power of the Dog” if you read only one, Father Brown’s soliloquy at the end is like a glass of cold water over your head.)

  75. An American Mother says:

    English literature correction — of course “The Oracle of the Dog” is Chesterton’s story. “The Power of the Dog” is a poem by Kipling (he was always very sentimental about dogs).

  76. Baron Korf says:

    I would also add The Manual of Prayers as a solid prayer book. It is from the Pontifical North American College, and while the description says its great for seminarians, I have found it wonderful as a layman as well. It has liturgical prayers, devotionals, litanies, meditations, and other wonderful tools. Many of these prayers are in both English and Latin which is a big plus.

    There is an unattributed quote at the beginning that is perfect for this blog: How shall our thoughts be elevated, if our words never are?

  77. Dale says:

    “Don’t waste your time with C.S. Lewis or Peter Kreeft”
    Do read them and you find your time was not wasted.Catnip was right about one thing however “read everything written by Pope Benedict XVI”

  78. Peter B. Nelson says:

    As a recent convert myself, one of the things that brought me to the Church was its rich treasury of intellectual reading material. And in that treasury are many great works of *FICTION*. Here are my recommendations for recreational and inspirational reading…

    *The Lord of the Rings* by J.R.R. Tolkien, who himself said, “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.” Even if you have read it before, read it again. And if you haven’t read it yet, I’m stupendously jealous – it will be one of the great “firsts” of your life.

    *Brideshead Revisited* by Evelyn Waugh. The popularity of this novel belies its profundity; there are entire websites devoted to analysis of every line. For a special treat, read the book, then rent the 12-hour BBC miniseries with Jeremy Irons (available on Netflix); it is arguably the best screen adaptation of any novel, ever.

  79. Regina says:

    With all due respect, Fr. Zuhlsdorf, you’ve opened up a Pandora’s Box on this one. This is something I’ve been searching for , but the diverse opinions and myriad recommendations are really overwhelming. I believe the person who wrote to you was really searching for your professional opinion. Anybody can blog. No disrespect intended to anyone, but I believe this person wanted your opinion and suggestions.

  80. Angels stole my phonebox says:

    I came across a great series of books called ‘Catholicism on Trial’ by Roger LeBlanc, which would be perfect for those seeking to understand Catholicism, whilst coming from a ‘Bible-only’ protestant background. They are entertaining to read and are written as a courtroom drama in which the Church has to defend against opposition, on issues such as the Mass and Our Lady. I think those in RCIA might find them especially useful and they are very thorough and of course orthodox! The website is http://www.truthinreligion.com/

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