Welcome back to “The Clergy Speaks”, a recurring feature here at The Catholic Book Blogger. “The Clergy Speaks” is a column focusing on one question I have asked various members of the clergy. 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 we welcome Father Scott Hurd.
Reverend R. Scott Hurd is a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. Fr. Scott began his ordained ministry as an Episcopal priest and entered the Catholic Church in 1996. He holds degrees from Oxford University and the University of Richmond.
Drawn from his pastoral ministry and personal experience, When Faith Feels Fragile is Fr. Scott’s third book. He has also penned the award-winning, best-seller Forgiveness: A Catholic Approach (Pauline Books and Media, 2011) and Daily Devotions for Lent 2013 (Ave Maria Press, 2012).
He has served as Executive Director of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of the Permanent Diaconate and as Vicar General of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter.
Here are his picks for 5 must reads for Catholics today:
Pete, I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in “The Clergy Speaks.” God bless you for your efforts in promoting good Catholic books through your fine blog. Here are five books that have touched my life, and that I would happily recommend to your readers:
- The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. It sounds clichéd to say that a book “blew me away,” and odd to call a work of spirituality a “page turner,” but that was my experience in reading this work. Through meditating on Rembrandt’s famous painting at the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, Nouwen offers personal commentary on the three characters in Jesus’ parable: the wayward but humbled prodigal, the dutiful and resentful older brother, and the patient, welcoming, and forgiving father. With compassion, empathy, and deep insight, Nouwen reveals his personal journey while challenging the reader to see a bit of both sons in themselves as they seek, through grace, to emulate the father.
- How Much is Enough? by Art Simon. Written by the founder of Bread for the World, a Christian organization which seeks to end world hunger, this clear and compelling work challenged me to do the hard work of truly distinguishing my needs from my wants, cultivate radical gratitude, live in solidarity with the world’s poor, give and not count the cost, live simply so others may simply live, and be a faithful steward of God’s bounty- all in imitation of Jesus.
- Good News for Married Lovers: A Scriptural Path for Marriage Renewal, Revised Edition by Charles Gallagher, SJ and Mary Angelee Seitz. This gentle but bracing exposition of the fullest expression of Catholic married life, co-written by a founder of Worldwide Marriage Encounter, issues a call to serve one’s spouse in the marriage covenant through an expression of love as characterized by Saint Paul’s famous definition in I Corinthians 13:4-7: Love is patient and kind, selfless and even-tempered, and does not nurse grudges or hurts while it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
- A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. I’d always admired Lewis’ intelligence, rhetorical gifts, and creative imagination. However, I gained immense respect for him after encountering his final and perhaps most poignant work, A Grief Observed, which was originally penned under a pseudonym. With unfiltered honesty, Lewis reflects on the shattering experience of losing his wife, Joy, to cancer, and shares how this suffering challenged, but ultimately confirmed, his faith and how pain, which in an earlier work he tried to solve as a “problem,” is also a mystery which confronts us with the suffering of Jesus, which is a doorway to hope and healing.
- The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, edited by Keiran Kavanaugh, OCD, and Otilio Rodruigez, OCD. For my first year in seminary, this compendium was a constant companion, and it’s had a profound and lasting impact on me. His spiritual theology explores intimacy with God, the role of feelings (“consolation”) in one’s faith life, dryness and darkness, and the blessings of simplicity and perseverance. His tender poetry- allegories on the love between God and a soul- are considered masterpieces of the Spanish language, was written at times in circumstances of extreme hardship, such as when he was harshly imprisoned by members of his own Carmelite order for seeking to institute reforms. To modern sensibilities, elements of Saint John of the Cross’s worldview may seem archaic and obsolete, but his work is essential reading for any serious student of the spiritual life.