Recommended reading for a deeper faith in the new year

Book lovers in the diocese offer some suggestions for new, uplifting reading material. (AdobeStock)

The beginning of a new year is a great time for people to take a look at their relationship with God and see which areas could use some improvement, whether it’s general knowledge of the faith, prayer life, or the inner life of the spirit. 

Check out these books recommended by leaders around the Diocese of Charleston and make a resolution to deepen your faith: 

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone suggests two very timely works which deal with issues confronting the entire world.

The first is “Let Us Dream: The Path To A Better Future” by Pope Francis (Simon and Schuster, 160 pages), which offers the pope’s perspectives on how people can confront the pandemic and other multiple crises facing the world and, as a result, make the world a better place.

The bishop also suggests “Conquering Coronavirus: How Faith Can Put Your Fears to Rest,” by Teresa Tomeo (Sophia Institute Press, 176 pages). It draws on Scripture, the lives of the saints, and Church tradition to offer ways to deal with the pandemic without giving in to fear. 

Msgr. D. Anthony Droze, vicar general for the Diocese of Charleston, suggests three books to help people broaden their prayer lives and spiritual perspectives: 

“Shorter Christian Prayer” (Catholic Publishing Co.) offers the reader the text of the morning, evening and night prayers of the Church, the same as priests follow in their breviary. “This book shows when to pray, what to pray and how to pray — all those questions are answered by it,” Msgr. Droze said. 

“Saint of the Day: The Definitive Guide” by Franciscan Father Leonard Foley and Franciscan Father Pat McCloskey (Franciscan Media, 394 pages) offers a very practical guide for those who want to increase their devotion to the saints. 

“Come Be My Light – Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta” by Mother Teresa and Brian Kolodiejchuk offers the reader a look at the inner spiritual life of St. Teresa through a collection of her writings to her spiritual director. Readers can gain an idea of how to deal with a variety of spiritual situations, including the season of despair or “dark night of the soul” that St. Teresa experienced for several years. 

Father Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary Church in Greenville, recommends “A Church in Crisis: Pathways Forward” (Emmaus Road Publishing, 536 pages) by Ralph Martin, a lay professor at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. Martin is a longtime leader in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and served as an expert at the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.

“This book is an excellent summary of the current state of life in the Church and offers clear suggestions for moving forward with the ongoing reformation and purification of the Church,” Father Newman said.

Sister Pamela Smith, diocesan director for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, recommends some classic works on spirituality including “Introduction to the Devout Life” by St. Francis de Sales (Ignatius Press, 220 pages) and “Handmaid of the Lord” by Adrienne von Speyr (Ignatius Press, 208 pages). She also recommended “Stars at Night: When Darkness Unfolds as Light” by Paula D’Arcy (Franciscan Media, 192 pages), which includes meditations on grief and gratitude.    

Sister Pam said she also enjoys books about “saints and saintly people” because of the lessons they can teach us about how to live life.

One of her favorites, which is also recommended by Kathleen Merritt, diocesan director of Ethinc Ministries, is “Thea Bowman: Faithful and Free” by Maurice J. Nutt (Liturgical Press, 152 pages), about a religious sister who championed African-American spirituality and racial awareness. 

Sister Thea has been declared a servant of God and is recommended for sainthood.

Susanne Wolfe of Greenville, president of the South Carolina Council of Catholic Women, recommends two books by best-selling Catholic author and speaker Matthew Kelly. The first is, “I Heard God Laugh – A Practical Guide to Life’s Essential Daily Habit.” (Blue Sparrow, 128 pages, $17.50). In it, Kelly notes that we can’t live the lives we have imagined for ourselves until we learn to take time to “tend the soul” and communicate with God. 

“This is a wonderful book because it teaches you how to approach prayer and develop your own personal prayer life,” Wolfe said. 

She also recommends Kelly’s 2018 book “The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity: How Modern Culture is Robbing Billions of People of Happiness.” (Blue Sparrow, 128 pages). 

In this work, Kelly outlines why so many people find themselves unhappy and unfilled when they look to secular culture for fulfillment. He describes how to begin a relationship with God and the fulfillment that can happen when people allow Him into their lives.