As the poet said, “Ad hoc, ad loc, and quid pro quo! So little time! So much to know!”
I get lots of books from publishers. They are nearly all, I am sure, sound, since the publishers are sound. I can’t possibly read everything I get. Still, I like to bring the titles to your attention.
For example, before I hopped the hurtling tube of flaming death to the southern climes for a visit to my mother…
BTW… I was finally able to give her the NRA – Law Enforcement challenge coin which one of you readers kindly sent me to bring to her (retired career cop that she is):
Back to books.
I read a post at the NCReg by a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, Fr. John Cush. He lists 10 books that everyone should have on their shelf.
Fr. Cush starts with an all too common and yet all too alarming anecdote about a priest who, after seminary, essentially didn’t read anything else to keep him fresh or up to date in theology. You would think that priests would want to keep delving. Right? All professionals of note are required to stay up to date in their fields. But priests are not just professionals. They ought to love what they are and what they do, for love of God and neighbor. When you love you want to know more about whom you love. Right? Not interested? It’s not love.
Fr. Cush recalls the wise adage: “Beware the priest who has NO BOOKS in his room, because he’s probably not keeping up with his intellectual formation. Beware also the priest who has LOTS OF BOOKS in the room and the binding is not cracked on any of them, because he has allowed himself to become just a book collector.”
I am going to exempt myself from that last part, because I have literally stacks of uncracked books, because they rain down on my like something from the old testament.
Here are Father’s recommendations with links. He comments on them, over there.
1. A good Catholic study Bible in English is a necessity. For me, the Ignatius Bible: Revised Standard Version — Second Catholic Edition (Ignatius Press, 2005) is a jewel to be treasured. [US HERE – UK HERE] This edition was revised according to norms set forth in Liturgiam Authenticam (2002). The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament (Ignatius Press, 2010) has some excellent notes by Dr. Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, and they also publish a large number of study Bibles for the Old Testament with some solid, orthodox notes. [I also like the Navarre series.]
2. Absolutely essential for a theological library is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. [US HERE – UK HERE] Be sure to get the second edition of the Catechism from 1997! The Companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium to the Catechism to the Catholic Church are also very helpful to someone creating a theological library.
3. A great collection of the main texts of the Catholic Church is to be found in Enchiridion Symbolorum: A Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations of the Catholic Church(Ignatius Press, 2012) (Latin and English Edition). [US HERE – UK HERE] This new 2012 edition takes the reader through the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI and has many (but not all) of the Magisterial Documents. All of Pope Francis’ work is not yet collected in this English edition, but hopefully will be soon. You can find the Holy Father’s teachings online at Vatican.va. [It is really important for priests to have this book… not to mention the first two.]
4. The Documents of Vatican II, with Notes and Index: Vatican Translation (Alba House, 2009) [US HERE – UK HERE] offers the sixteen documents of the Council along with a faithful notes and a handy index. A Catholic should know what Vatican II actually states, not just what other people say Vatican II says. [NB: The translations of the Vatican II document are not without their problems. Also, I wonder if it might not be equally if not more useful still to the documents of the Council of Trent and the Roman Catechism. Vatican II? I guess we all have to have that, too.]
5. Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica can be found in a brand-new edition, which brings this massive, but essential work into one volume (824 pages, albeit with small print) in Jake E. Steif’s Summa Theologica: The Only Complete and Unabridged Edition in One Volume (2017). [US HERE – UK HERE] There are, of course, so many different editions one could choose for the Summa, but this is a fairly new and concise one. A good introductory guide might be Peter Kreeft’s A Shorter Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica(Ignatius Press, 1993). [US HERE – UK HERE] Whether you consider yourself to be a Thomist theologically or not, Saint Thomas’ thought is the building block for all Catholic theology. [Anything by Peter Kreeft is great. Read lots of him.]
6. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity: Revised Edition (Ignatius Press, 2004) [US HERE – UK HERE] is a classic, really setting the scene for an understanding of late 20th-century Catholic theology. The product of this young professor’s study and experience after Vatican II and written in 1968, the future Pope’s work can set the reader on a proper path for the study of theology. [Here’s where I must make an intervention. Like so many good priests and bishops, Father falls into the sin of omission. He is strong on the issue of theology. However, when it comes to Ratzinger, he ought perhaps, even more than this fine classic, have pointed the shelf-filler to Spirit of the Liturgy US HERE – UK HERE. Why? Because everything we do and hope to do in the Church must flow from and return to our sacred liturgical worship of God. Time and again we read great speeches and talks and sermons about A and B and C and almost never do they mention liturgy. Remember… WE ARE OUR RITES. We ignore worship at our peril. It is the theology proposed in the other books.]
7. Aidan Nichols’ The Shape of Catholic Theology: An Introduction to Its Sources, Principles, and History [US HERE – UK HERE] (Liturgical Press, 1991) is, in my opinion, the best introduction to the study of theology for any student. It is a book that I have used since I was beginning my own theological studies and it is one that I use today as a professor. It offers a proper understanding of the fonts of Divine Revelation, namely Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, as well as an understanding of the Church’s Magisterium. It is just a clear, easily readable introduction. [Nichols is, indeed, very good and I warmly endorse this book. Get the updated edition. Nichols also wrote a book on Ratzinger’s theology. Worthwhile, especially read in tandem with Tracey Rowland’s Ratzinger’s Faith. US HERE – UK HERE]
8. Boniface Ramsey’s Beginning to Read the Fathers: Revised Edition (Paulist Press, 2012) [US HERE – UK HERE] gives a thematic overview to the great thinkers of the Patristic period, and, as an introduction, might inspire the reader to really study the Fathers of the Church. [His book on Ambrose is really good.]
9. Richard A. Spinello’s The Encyclicals of John Paul II: An Introduction and Commentary(Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2016) [US HERE – UK HERE] is a masterful edition to the thought of this great Saint, whom I pray will one day be a Doctor of the Church. [He could be the Doctor Misericordiae. Indeed every priest should also read Familiaris consortio.]
10. For a great introduction to some great spiritual writers and their theology, check out Jordan Aumann’s Christian Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition (Ignatius Press, 1985). [US HERE – UK HERE] From the early Church to post-Tridentine period to the Twentieth Century, the reader’s appetite will be whetted to want to know more about our great saints.
Of course the list can be increased and multiplied. This is just one priest’s take on the basics. Another might make other good suggestions. It is a good list to work with. He asks for your recommendations over at his post. HERE
Sooooo many to recommend.
Card. Sarah’s books are good.
Perhaps your parish priest might need some or all of these books? How’s his preaching?
It is a sad state of affairs that priests these days can’t give more time to being men of learning… which they can then pass on. Instead they have lots of busy work, much of which has little to do with their priesthood. Augustine suffered mightily from his sarcina that he had to carry. He longed for otium in negotio. As should all priests of every age, size, and background.
When you are in someone’s space, living or work, look for their books. Of course you also, these days, need also to take into consideration their Kindle!
It would be a spiffy gift to load up a Kindle with great books and give it to a priest.