Welcome back to “The Laity Speaks”, a recurring feature here at The Catholic Book Blogger. This feature is the companion to “The Clergy Speaks” and takes us to the other side of the pulpit to hear prominent lay people’s answer to the same question. That question is: What five books would you recommend as must-reads for Catholics today? I left the responses open to current or classic books with the only restriction being that the Bible and the Catechism could not be used as they are a given.
This week I welcome Joseph Pearce.
Joseph is the author of numerous acclaimed biographies of major Catholic literary figures. He is the Director of the Center for Faith and Culture and writer in residence at Aquinas College in Nashville (www.aquinascenter.com), instructor at Homeschool Connections (http://www.homeschoolconnections.com/), executive director of Catholic Courses (www.catholiccourses.com), series editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions (www.ignatiuscriticaleditions.com) and co-editor of the St. Austin Review (http://www.staustinreview.com/star).
Here are his five picks for must reads.
Confessions by St. Augustine
The two giants of the Church, straddling the centuries with their wisdom, are St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. As such, every Catholic should read them. The most indispensable of Augustine’s work is his incomparable Confessions. Essentially the first autobiography ever written, it is also the best ever written.
Aquinas by F. C. Copleston
Perhaps the most important work that Christendom has produced, after the Bible itself, is Aquinas’ monumental Summa Theologica. Since the work is so large and extensive, it’s not going to be practical for most Catholics to plough their way through it. This being so, every Catholic should read at least one book that summarizes the essence of Thomas’ teaching. Although I greatly admire Chesterton’s book on Aquinas, the one which I think is the best summary of Thomas’ teaching is the single volume Aquinas by the wonderful Jesuit, F. C. Copleston. This work was very important on my own path to conversion and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine by Archbishop Sheehan
Another work that was very important on my own path to conversion is Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine by Archbishop Michael Sheehan. This superb summary of the Church’s teaching, separated into two sections covering the core of Catholic philosophy and doctrine, should be an integral part of every Catholic’s education in the Faith.
The Spirit of Catholicism by Karl Adam
Many of the problems caused by the heresy of modernism in the Church have been the result of a faulty and deficient understanding of ecclesiology, especially the failure to see the Church as both the Bride of Christ and His Mystical Body. I know of no better introduction to orthodox ecclesiology than Karl Adam’s masterful and highly readable Spirit of Catholicism.
Flowers of Heaven: One Thousand Years of Christian Verse compiled by Joseph Pearce
There is an inextricable and indissoluble connection between poetry and praise, and, for that matter, between poetry and prayer. For this reason, all Catholics should find room in their hearts, minds and lives for the reading and learning of poetry. My own book, Flowers of Heaven: One Thousand Years of Christian Verse, is a compilation of some of the finest Christian poetry of the past millennium. It’s a good way for a newcomer to the world of Christian verse to enter into this wonderland of goodness, truth and beauty.