Most of us are looking for spiritual reading suggestions that will serve us well during the Lenten season. Of course, there are the tried and true recommendations – Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux, Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales and others are amazing choices, and can certainly be read over and over again. But if you’re looking for something a little different this year, I have just the thing. You may not find many of these books on other lists. You may not even have heard of them (with the exception of the top two, which I mention in my book and in just about every interview I’ve ever done:)). Regardless, every book on this list is an absolute classic that is sure to inspire tremendous change in your life!
1 The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur (1866-1914) – Marriages seem to struggle more often than not these days. Elisabeth Leseur had an amazing knack for seeing only light in the souls of those around her. Her goodness resulted in her husband’s conversion from atheism to Catholicism. In fact, upon her death, he even entered the priesthood! Rather than pray that others would change for the better, Elizabeth asked only that she could love more, and that the Holy Spirit would use her as an instrument to share Christ’s light with others – most especially those who mistreated her in any way. Read this book if you want to see your relationships thrive. Not only will you learn to focus your eyes on your spouse’s better traits, but you’ll learn to love and appreciate everyone else that God made as well.
2. Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence: The Secret of Peace and Happiness by Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure (1588-1657) and Saint Claude de la Colombiere (1641-1682) – Anyone who knows me knows that this is one of my all-time favorite books and a life-changing one at that. Having been held at knifepoint in college, I spent years afraid to be alone. Instantly upon reading this book, I was able to hand my life over to God, trusting Him with every moment of my life, and even the hour of my death.Suffice it to say that there is a world of wisdom within the pages of this tiny little companion and it will completely shatter any touchy feely paradigm you may have about God and His Hand in your life.
3. The Twelve Steps to Holiness and Salvation by St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1987) – The title says it all. Step by step, you can walk through Lent in a way that will help you to grow in holiness as you unite yourself to Christ. Liguori’s writings cover the twelve key virtues necessary for salvation, including faith, hope, love of God, love of neighbor, poverty, chastity, obedience, meekness and humility, mortification, recollection, prayer, and love of the cross. For those who appreciate practicality, order and simplicity, this book is a treasure trove of teaching that is concise and yet profound.
4. Way to Inner Peace by Fulton J. Sheen (1955) – If you long to be directed in the way of humility, love and service, Fulton Sheen will lead the way. With 59 specific recommendations for practical steps one can take toward inner peace, Sheen offers inspirational stories, entreaties into psychology, theology and good old common sense to lead you to a place of calm contentment, no matter the storms that threaten your progress as you continue on the path toward heaven.
5. The Hidden Power of Kindness by Father Lawrence Lovasik (1962) – If you’re not quite sure what to do for Lent this year, this book will give you plenty of ideas on how to grow in holiness. No matter how kind you think you are, you’ll find plenty of room for improvement, and you will feel much better for making the effort. Even better, your relationships will flourish and you will wonder why you never read this book before. Be prepared to have highlighter in hand, for every page is filled with practical wisdom and sage advice.
6. Summa of the Christian Life (3 Volumes) – Writings of Venerable Louis of Granada (1504-1588) – Beginning with the existence of God and what that means for our everyday lives, Granada’s words direct readers clearly and succinctly toward holiness. His writing is simple yet beautiful. Venerable Louis of Granada was a favorite spiritual writer of St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Francis de Sales, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Rose of Lima and many others. You can’t go wrong if you allow this great man to guide you on the path to holiness.
7. Guidance to Heaven by Cardinal Giovanni Bona (1658) – Guidance to Heaven begins by making clear the purpose of this life in preparing for eternity. Cardinal Bona will help readers to prepare themselves for death by addressing vices with which many of us struggle, and helping us to bring them under control. The jacket of my book says it all and reads in part,
If the reader derived no other value from this book than the realization we are each one going to die – we know not when – and pass to our real life which will last for all eternity, and that our every waking hour of this one should be a preparation for that one, then a reading of this book would have been for him of ultimate value – the best thing he ever did.
8. Jesus of Nazareth: The Story of His Life Simply Told by Mother Mary of Loyola (1906) – If you are looking for a book on the life of Christ, this one is beautifully told. Jesus of Nazareth was originally written for children, and I did read it to my kids last year. But it was also re-packaged as an adult book because at 300+ pages and with beautiful language and captivating commentary, this book is a must read for anyone ages 10-110. If, like me, you struggle with imperfect contrition, Mother Mary of Loyola will help you to love Christ implicitly for His simple, yet beautiful goodness, for His loving obedience to the Father and for His great sacrifice, made selflessly for the sake of our eternal union with Him.
9.Counsels of Perfection for Christian Mothers by the Very Reverend P. Lejeune (1913) – This is an amazing book for mothers. If you are anything like me, you strive for perfection in so many areas that you sometimes forget to put first things first. Wisely, Fr. Lejeune recognizes this temptation for women, and begins his book with a discussion of the meaning of perfection. Clarifying the only definition that matters – Perfection is accomplishing the will of God in a constant and generous fashion – Lejeune then sets out to direct us on how to actually achieve perfection in that light. Advising mothers on everything from how they spend their time to what they say and how they say it, this book offers a plethora of things to consider in the pursuit of holiness, as well as how to take proper steps to achieve it in our lifetime.
10. A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture by Bishop Frederick Justus Knecht, D.D. (1923) – A great way to read the Bible through in story form with commentary that helps you to understand the Faith, as well as practical applications for daily life. I found it to be a wonderful supplement during my time spent reading Sacred Scripture. According to the back cover of my edition,
This book is a great introductory Bible study all by itself – for it brings out the Catholic teachings that are hidden in Sacred Scripture! A famous book – one which received recommendations from 14 bishops when first published and which went through at least 16 editions – this commentary is not a work for scholars; but rather a very practical book for the ordinary Catholic.