It depends upon the country but I notice that Catholics are always reading the wrong types of books. In America books on explaining the faith, known as apologetics, is very popular. Lots of theologians are raking in the money profiting from these books and I can see why.
Americans are perhaps one of the most argumentative cultures I have ever come across. I was surprised how when I went there for the first time people had no problem arguing with you about your Catholic faith. They just come out and say, “Catholics believe this and I think it’s stupid” as if they’re talking about the weather or something.
It’s rare to come across that here and apologetics is not popular at all in Ireland except among the intellectual few who have been influenced by American culture. The Church needs everyone including apologists to explain the faith. Everyone has their calling so I don’t disagree with the approach only that there’s a danger of imbalance where too much focus is given over to the intellectual and that definitely happens in America.
There’s a popular saying here that you can always tell a man by the shoes he wears. I argue that you can always tell what a Catholic has in him by the books he is reading. What we need to be reading are books that inspire us to have a spiritual revolution of the mind. Books like “Awareness” by Anthony De Mello or older writings by Lorenzo Scupoli titled Spiritual combat also known as Spiritual warfare.
I came across a guy who had been in the Church for years as a convert and never read any of these books. There’s the intellectually converted and then there’s the converted. Lots of people have come to the Catholic faith via some intellectual route where they’ve been hammered in debate and invited to think a different way. For example an ex protestant pastor is now Catholic because he read the Church fathers and saw the Church was always Catholic. It was an intellectual conversion which is great, but where’s the conversion of the heart?
The conversion of the heart can take a lifetime to achieve. In truth, some (even Bishops) go throughout their lives and never get it. All the sages who dwelled in their caves praying day and night for it never got it. It can’t be described because it is of supernatural origin and it is not necessary for salvation yet very helpful on the path towards it. St.Paul tried to explain it as a supernatural revolution of the mind in scriptures. Even he could not quite describe it to his audience. Why? Because it’s supernatural but he really desired they get it.
Have you ever tried to describe the fragrance of a Rose to someone? Sometimes you don’t even try, you simply push it up to their noses and say, “Here take a sniff of that” because you know they’ll only ever know what it smells like through experience. Same with an honest conversion.
But like with all destinations none of us have ever been to there are people who have been there who give us signage that point us in the right direction. These signposts are all over the place in the books of those who have been there. Catherine of Siena, Theresa of Avila, Lorenzo Scupoli, Thomas A Kempis, Anthony De Mello, St.John of the Cross and all the Fathers in the Philokalia, the cave dwellers of the first thousand years and beyond.
These are the books you should be reading, not Scot Hahns exploration of the scriptures and systematic theology. Read books that will help you get saved. Once you’ve had your conversion then all those books written by theologians will make sense to you. Right now these books are your sponge, when they should simply be the icing on the cake.
Look, sometimes it’s not always that way even though I’d like it to be that way. There is always a mixture of the two and perhaps an intellectual conversion can act as a prelude to the real one of the heart and vice versa. Conversion is a mixed bag of tricks but some tricks work better than others and I’m here to tell you now to put down that theology book or scriptural studies and get yourself one that will help you repent and change. If you can’t do that, at least meet me half way and make time for the two.
It is better because once you repent then nobody can pull the wool over your eyes. While you’ll still be subject to sin, you make the devils job at pulling you towards hell much harder. The armour of the intellect where you’ve armed yourself with all the knowledge of the Catholic faith and how to answer peoples questions is weak. The devil laughs at people like this and swats them like summer flies gathered on a bowl of fruit. That is the type of armour that is supposed to go over the first impenetrable one of conversion of the heart. It’s like a soldier who goes over the trench with a pistol instead of the much stronger weapon like the machine gun.
Read books that will blow your mind like the book reviewed by the young man I posted earlier in the week. It’s called, “Awareness” by Anthony de mello. The young mans review is titled, “This book F#%*ed me up”. I like how he said, “This book really messed with my mind, it also didn’t help that I’d just seen the Matrix.” HAHAHAHAAH. That made me laugh so hard. I love that movie. . . Watch it. The best reflection of the Catholic spiritual warfare I’ve ever seen.
The book awareness is designed to inspire people to wake up. By reading the book you won’t wake up. You will still be the same person as you always were and subject to falling away from the faith. What the book does is get you interested in waking up and conversion which can only be obtained through the Sacraments of the Church and lots of “Proshohi” meaning work and prayer. It’s a grace freely given by God.
There is a repentance where we change our lives and become new people that go to war on our old bad habits, but then there is a different kind of repentence that is of supernatural origin and it is a Grace given by the Lord. How do we get there? By those who know the way and I’ve given you all the people to research and read.
Don’t be worried too much about spiritual direction when reading the books. Just read them with an open mind ready to be challenged. The top books I highly recommend are awareness by Anthony de mello, Imitations of Christ by Thomas A Kempis and Spiritual combat by Lorenzo Scupoli. Three very simple books and I invite you to read them in whatever order you like but I definitely think you should start with Awareness then spiritual combat. Books by all the rest I mentioned are usually placed in a monastic setting and for those who wish to attain the life of spiritual perfection. Therefore it may confuse you a bit.
Put down those dumb books on how to be a Catholic housewife written by these silly wives of American theologians looking to make a few dollars out of you trying to cash in on their husbands fame. Stay away from that absolute garbage. What you need is a thump and told to wake up. Stop reading material you want to read, and start reading material you NEED to read. From the day I’ve come back to the Church I’ve spent my whole waking hours telling anyone who came to me enquiring about the faith to start with confession and Mass and then read some great material on waking up and I’ve never taken any money from anyone looking for any kind of advice.
I’m not a spiritual director but anyone who asks you for money for giving them advice, unless they be a Catholic priest or deacon then avoid them. Even if they do be a Catholic priest be wary of anyone asking for money for spiritual advice. The ones who are called ask for money, but those like St.Paul who have been chosen ask for nothing and try to give it for free. The priest who gives a suggested donation does well for himself, but the man who asks for nothing does much better.
WAKE UP….WAKE UP….WAKE UP
Wherefore he saith: Rise thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead: and Christ shall enlighten thee.Ephesians:5:14
Wake up from your secular tomb, from all you’ve ever known and walk into the unfamiliar. Give the Holy Spirit the chance to breath upon you a new breath of life. That advice is for the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Religious and laity and all of us who spend most of our waking hours asleep.