As it begins to look a lot like Christmas, books can be the perfect gift. If you know someone interested in learning more about their Catholic heritage, this list is for you. So I’ve created this list of books that are in print, accessible to the general reader, and enjoyable. I hope you’ll find it helpful!
- Charles R. Morris, American Catholic: The Saints and Sinners Who Built America’s Most Powerful Church. Morris recounts Catholicism’s rise from a despised minority to the country’s largest religious denomination. Yet he doesn’t shy away from the dark side of the picture, and many of his conclusions still hold up today.
- John J. Fialka, Sisters: Catholic Nuns and the Making of America. If you were taught by Sisters, you will definitely enjoy this book! These were the women who created Catholic education, healthcare and social services, to name a few.
- Douglas Brinkley and Julie M. Fenster, Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism. The Knights of Columbus are the world’s largest Catholic men’s organization. How much do you know about them and their founder, Father Michael McGivney (1852-1890), who is being considered for canonization?
- Timothy Matovina, Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America’s Largest Church. A history spanning the 1500’s to the present, Matovina asks an important question: ““How are we handing on the Catholic faith to the large number of young Latino Catholics, who are the present and the future of the Church in this country?”
- Cyprian Davis, The History of Black Catholics in the United States. This story of tragedy and triumph book, more than any other book, taught me the true meaning of the word “Catholic”: “universal.”
- Kate Hennessy, Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved By Beauty; An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother. Founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, Dorothy Day (1897-1980) created a program of evangelical poverty unprecedented in America. Her granddaughter paints a fully rounded portrait of a future saint and her ministry.
- Jim Forest, Living With Wisdom: A Life of Thomas Merton. A Catholic convert and Trappist monk, Merton’s books on the spiritual life continue to influence seekers Catholic and non-Catholic. Forest’s beautifully illustrated work introduces Merton to reader who aren’t sure where to begin.
- Eileen Markey, A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sister Maura. In November 1980, Maryknoll Sister Maura Clarke and three colleagues were murdered in El Salvador for their commitment to social justice. Markey traces her life from Queens to Central America.
- Paul Horgan, Lamy of Santa Fe: His Life and Times. Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop was based on the life of Jean Baptiste Lamy, a French-born bishop in 1800’s New Mexico. The only book on American Catholic history to win a Pulitzer Prize, it’s been called “history as art.”
- John Loughery, Dagger John: Archbishop John Hughes and the Making of Irish America. A new balanced and fair biography of the Irish immigrant who became New York’s first Archbishop, and the challenges he faced creating New York Catholicism as we know it today.
(*The above drawing of Blessed John Henry Newman reading is by Pat McNamara.)