Okay, so I just returned from a little trip with my husband, and found that my friends Joyce at the Little Way and Karin at Daughter of the King had each tagged me for the meme of my dreams: to name my three favorite religious books – and I think it’s supposed to be especially “meme compliant,” if they happen to be available on kindle – and then to choose five friends to do the same.
Back to the bookshelves. My three favorites? Are you kidding? Are we all kidding? The bloggers I know all read a staggering number of books….and that doesn’t even count the ones we’ve bought but haven’t yet had time to read….years later! But we dream of a future when life will be simple and quiet and peaceful and we’ll have time to read all the books we own. Yeah, right!
Well, with dusty fingers, I now commit to the keyboard my three chosen favorites, although there really are at least three dozen!
From my cherished Therese collection, I chose the acclaimed biography by Guy Gaucher, OCD: The Story of a Life: St. Therese of Lisieux, (HarperSanFrancisco)
A Carmelite priest, and auxiliary bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux during the time he wrote The Story of a Life, Bishop Gaucher has written several books about Therese, and knows and loves her deeply.
This particular biography is masterfully written with interesting details of her life in the convent and of her extended family. It includes many pictures of Therese at various stages of her life, and each chapter is sub-titled with a quotation from Therese: Chapter 6, Novice, “He was humbled so that His face was hidden and no one recognized Him; and I too want to hide my face.”
I remember thumbing through this book at the book store and coming across a quotation from one of Therese’s blood sisters, who was also a nun in the same convent. It was 1939, and she could see from her convent, the huge basilica which had been erected to honor her little sister, and she remarked how their mother used to visit the cemetery near the hill where the great white basilica housing an interior of pink and blue mosaics was now standing, and that if someone had told her mother then what had happened, she would surely have said, “You are off your head!” I thought a book with such a delightful comment would be a good read. And I was right. (Currently out of print, but good second-hand editions available for very reasonable prices.)
My second choice is the great spiritual classic, The Ascent of Mt. Carmel by St. John of the Cross. (ICS Publications)
I studied this book while in formation for my final promises as a Secular Discalced Carmelite. In this book, John leads the soul, which has already set out on its quest for union with God, into the night of faith. He instructs the soul to travel by this darkness of faith because it is the safest and surest way to remain on the right path, not being distracted by consolations or asking for signs from God, but simply seeking God in the “nakedness” of faith. God is far beyond our senses, and His Light is so bright that the closer we come to Him, the deeper the darkness seems.
Reading this book was a great grace for me, and instilled within me a love for this journey without sight…a real preference for this way which is so safe, and demands absolute trust in God which is so pleasing to Him. It is comforting on the dry and desert places of the spiritual journey to simply rest in the promise of faith.
The Ascent of Mt. Carmel is something of a roadmap to holiness by this great mystic and Doctor of the Church.
(Available on kindle)
My final choice is a little jewel called Secrets of the Interior Life by Archbishop Luis M. Martinez (Sophia Institute Press)
This gentle, easy to read book is filled with wisdom for contemplative souls struggling with dryness and desolation on the spiritual journey. It is very much like reading a series of letters from a most kind and wise spiritual director who can see right into your soul. He devotes several chapters to spiritual desolation, and gives great encouragement and advice for those who find themselves in this state…one which he calls, “..the chief difficulty by which most souls are held back..” One interesting chapter is titled: Three stages of sorrow which bring you closer to joy.
Archbishop Martinez (d.1956) of Mexico is described by those who knew him as philosopher, theologian, educator, sacred orator, writer, poet, director of souls, and mystic. All of these qualities are evident in this small but precious book.
“I know the heart of God. It cannot resist love. Even though He might wish to go, He would not do so if His spouses would detain Him, enchain Him, imprison Him with the irresistible bands of love. His justice impels Him to separate Himself from us. But since He loves us, He does not wish to go, and He Himself has enkindled His love in many souls in order that they might detain Him, that they might not let Him go. Oh, the tenderness of His love! Oh, the ingenious devices of His mercy! p. 224
(Available on Kindle)
And now I would like to invite the following five friends to join in the fun, and share with us their three favorite religious books. So, let’s hear from you: Anne at Imprisoned in My Bones, Noreen at Rosary Mom, Lisa at Daily Grace, Rebecca at A Solitary Bird, and Flos Domini, at Flos Domini.