QUAERITUR: Book for a man going to seminary

From a reader:

One of my friends is going to seminary and I want to give him a book as a gift about the priesthood or something thoughtful that will help him. Do you have any suggestions?

Any suggestions?

I wanted to suggest Joseph Ratzinger’s Ministers of Your Joy: Scriptural Meditations on Priestly Spirituality, (UK link) but it has limited availability, out of print, etc.

Otherwise, there is a good book by a very smart priest in Rome Fr. Joseph Carolla, SJ, Conformed to Christ Crucified: Meditations on Priestly Life and Ministry.

I am sure some priest readers here could pitch in a few names.


I will add Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s The Priest In Union With Christ.  Which is in print (UK link).

Also, Fulton Sheen’s The Priest Is Not His Own.  Also in print.  (UK link)

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Tom Esteban says:

    “Priests for the Third Millennium” by (then) Archbishop Timothy Dolan. I hear it’s very good, and at the FSSP Vocational retreat I attended some months ago we read excerpts from it which were all quite good. That’s all I can think of for a seminarian. May God bless him!

  2. ConnerW says:

    Definitely try “The Priest is Not His Own” by Bishop Fulton Sheen.

    It really emphasizes the sacrificial nature of the priesthood.

  3. Andrew says:

    Sancti Hieronymi Opera Omnia

  4. I found Aidan Nichol’s book on the Priesthood very helpful. St. Alphonsous Ligouri’s book on the priesthood is both inspiring and challenging – frightening even! [That’s for sure.]

  5. Fr_Sotelo says:

    My classic all time favorite is “The Priest, The Man of God” by St. Joseph Cafasso. Don Bosco called St. Joseph Cafasso “a great saint” and when a great saint calls another man a great saint, you know you can’t go wrong.

    The greatest sadness is that this book is unknown now to most priests and seminarians, having been compiled sometime in the 1850’s. However, there are passages which seemed as if they were written in 2012. I believe it is back in print, however.

  6. I second Fr_Sotelo on St. Joseph Cafasso’s book – excellent.

  7. AnnAsher says:

    St Joseph Cafaso’s book looks like it’d be a nice gift for priests I know who strive for that same holiness. It is a true and beautiful gift, for which I am aboundingky thankful to all of you here as well. I’m blessed to know such a priest whose presence alone brings peace, renewal and sometimes the needed conviction of my sins. Thanks be to God for all you holy priests!

  8. Ben Yanke says:

    How about the Spirit of the Liturgy?

  9. Charles says:

    Dignity and Duties of the Priest by St. Alphonsus Ligouri.

  10. acardnal says:

    The Priest, The Man of God by Cafasso is still in print – Tan Books and available via Amazon.

    Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote two worthy books on the priesthood both of which are still in print: The Priest is Not His Own as mentioned above and Those Mysterious Priests.

    Meditations on the Catholic Priesthood by Rev. Charles P. Connor, in print, Alba House.

  11. acardnal says:

    Italics functions didn’t work as expected above. Sorry…..But you get the idea.

  12. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Canon Law Society of America, Code of Canon Law: Latin-English Edition, New English Translation (Canon Law Society of America, 1999), ISBN: 0-943616-79-4.

  13. Hieronymus in Canada says:

    Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Chautard–St. Pius X used it as bed-time reading.

  14. acardnal says:

    Fr. Z, I note that Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. wrote another book on the priesthood. I have not read it but the Table of Contents looks very good!
    The Priesthood And Perfection

  15. Connie says:

    Christ-The Ideal of the Priest
    Blessed Columba Marmion

  16. Fr.Estabrook says:

    “Dear Seminarian” by Catherine Doherty is powerful


    Dear Father” by Catherine Doherty is also very good

  17. Priestblock 25487 – an autobiographical book about the sufferings of priests in Nazi concentration camps by one of the priests who survived. Great for both strengthening the resolve/desire of a new priest, as well as preparing him for the sufferings that he may have to endure. Highly recommended for every priest!

  18. stgemma_0411 says:

    Four books:

    The Spiritual Life by Adolphe Tanquerey

    Dignities and Duties of the Priest by Alphonsus Liguori

    Code of Canon Law

    The Bible

  19. James Joseph says:

    I am here suggesting not a book about the priesthood so much as it is a supremely priestly book that about the cause of the priesthood, our Rosa Mystica.

    ‘The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary”
    ISBN 978-1-905574-40-7

  20. Cincinnati Priest says:

    Federico Suarez, ‘About Being a Priest’ — very practical, still in print

  21. Biedrik says:

    St. John Chrysostom wrote some excellent stuff on the priesthood. After all, he is both a Doctor and Father of the Church.


  22. mrsmontoya says:

    Thank you Father for posting this information and thank you all for your responses. I manage the tiny bookstore at our retreat center, which hosts priests’ retreats for several diocese a year. I will have these books on the shelves when the next [what is the collective noun for a group of priests?] arrives.

    You will also be glad to know that I am running low on brochures from the seminary and male religious orders which I keep in a “Vocations Rack.” We host Catholic High School groups at least 10 weeks/year, and I started this display last summer.

  23. Bea says:

    Excellent choices especially “Soul of the Apostolate” and “A Priest is not his own”
    also, does he already have “Liturgy of the Hours” and “Imitation of Christ”?

    Tom Esteban:
    I’ll keep you in my prayers for your discernment

  24. Jim says:

    The Cure D’Ars : St. Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney by Fr. Francois Trochu based on the St Vianney’s official “Process of Beatification and Canonization”.

    Amazon UK link

  25. Dr Guinness says:

    Some wonderful suggestions already above…

    I might add the Catechism or the Compendium (especially if he’s going to a “normal” seminary, i.e., not of a Traddie group)…

    “Divine Intimacy” (Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalene) is always a good one for those who may not have access to solid spiritual direction, or even if they do…

  26. thepapalbull says:

    “Christ: The Ideal Priest” by Blessed Columba Marmion

  27. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    A Priest Forever: The Life of Eugene Hamilton by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR

    I read this while on a silent retreat, in pretty much one sitting. I could not put it down. I nearly cried at points. A very emotional account of just how important the priesthood can be to a person, and it really spoke to me about my own level of devotion and prayer life as a seminarian.

  28. APX says:


    My classic all time favorite is “The Priest, The Man of God” by St. Joseph Cafasso. […]

    The greatest sadness is that this book is unknown now to most priests and seminarians, having been compiled sometime in the 1850?s.

    Funny you mention that. I went on a little shopping spree for myself on the FSSP’s bookstore. I bought a couple books for a soon-to-be priest friend as well for his ordination , and that was one of them. The other was one for confessors, seeing how he’s quite big on confession.

  29. Johnabest says:

    For those who need strengthing and a challenging
    “A Prophet for the Priesthood” by The Servant of God Father John A Hardon SJ
    It is subtitled A Spiritual Biography of Father Gerald Fitzgerald founder of the
    Handmaids of the Precious Blood
    from what i have seen it is a timely instruction on the Priesthood and what it intales in todays world!! I know of a certain Diocesian Offical who when working in a seminary gave it to all under his care!

  30. Supertradmum says:

    My son wants a Westie for ordination. He already had a complete copy of the Summa in Latin, which is what I would give a priest for ordination now.

  31. Fr William R. Young says:

    Buy him HANS URS VON BALTHASAR, The Christian State of Life, (Ignatius Press) San Francisco 1983.

  32. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Well, of course, Trochu’s biography of John Vianney, but what young man thinking of priesthood has not already read it?

  33. Do seminarians have time for leisurely reading? I recommend G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories. The Penguin edition of the Complete Father Brown is out of print. However, all fifty-three Father Brown stories, including the two that Penguin never published in its “complete” edition, are in volumes 12 and 13 of the Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, from Ignatius Press. The annotations and introductions in both volumes are by John Peterson.

  34. Blaise says:

    I recommend Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest.
    Or Von Balthasar’s Heart of the World.

    Although I think Sean Dailey’s suggestion is an admirable one (but you can get it free as an ebook).
    Dr Peters – I presume that is tongue in cheek. I am sure there are many who go to seminary not having read a life of St John Vianney.

  35. mumstheword says:

    There is a book entitled “Reclaiming Our Priestly Character” by Father David L. Toups, S.T.D. and it was published by The Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha. Father Toups is a young (40), holy, orthodox priest who attended both the Gregorian and Angelicum Universities, has been a seminary professor, a parish pastor and was recently chosen to become Rector/President of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, FL.

  36. carolyn_yvette says:

    Thank you everyone for the responses! Now I just need to choose WHICH one to give him! I think I may have to pick more than one.

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  38. Sofia Guerra says:

    The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described edited by Alcuin Reid ,,, MUST HAVE!

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