It probably goes without saying that at Franciscan Media, we love Catholic books! The priests who work alongside us love books too, so we asked a few of them what books they would recommend to Catholics and why. Here are some of their recommendations.
Fr. Frank Jasper, OFM, vicar emeritus, St. John the Baptist Province
I really like Richard Rohr's Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi. Richard really captures the basics of a Franciscan approach to spirituality. He identifies themes that are helpful for all Catholics and approaches them from a Franciscan perspective. The incarnational underlies his theological approach, and I think that approach is very appealing to today's Catholics.
Another book that I found fascinating and educational is Norman Doidge's The Brain's Way of Healing. Doidge approaches the newest developments in neuroscience in a way that is interesting and engaging. He offers hope to people who are frustrated with the traditional approach to medical treatment. His approach reinforces the incarnational theme that is so dear to the hearts of Franciscans. Even though this is not a "religious" book, Doidge presents issues in a way that generates hope for the future.
Fr. Dan Kroger, OFM, publisher, Franciscan Media
I would recommend Murray Bodo’s Francis: The Journey and the Dream. This book has amazing appeal because each stage in the life of Saint Francis may be used to challenge the reader to grow spiritually. That is why this book has been translated into so many languages since its publication more than 40 years ago. I once made a very helpful, directed retreat, in which selected chapters of The Journey and the Dream were recommended by the retreat director. Which chapter depended on the personal reflections that I had just shared with the experienced retreat director. My spiritual life was deepened and I discovered some new paths to follow by relating my personal situation to the chapter recommended and discussed with the retreat director.
Another book that reaches way beyond the Franciscan and Catholic audience is Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps. Just a few weeks ago I was talking with a highly successful business man who admitted that he was a recovering alcoholic. I asked if he had read Breathing Under Water and he told me that he kept a couple copies around to give to people who were doing the 12 Step program because the book really opens the door to the transcendental (or God-dimension) of recovery from any form of addition. There are lots of people dealing with addictions of all sorts; that is why this book has been translated and published in a number of languages and countries.
My first recommendation is Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace, by Brian Doyle. The author, who died in 2017, is a master essayist. The title chapter begins, “This won’t hurt a bit,” and goes on from there. Doyle edited the alumni magazine for the University of Portland (sponsored by the Holy Cross priests and brothers) for many years and still found time and energy to write four novels, a collection of short stories, and two nonfiction books. His style is conversational and very insightful.
I also recommend Journal of a Soul, by Angelo Roncalli/Saint John XXIII. This journal begins during his years as a seminarian and extends through his years as pope. Roncalli writes as he talks, chronicling his spiritual journey. The entry on January 16, 1903 (two months after he turned 21) includes the best description of a saint that I have ever read. The entries become shorter as he grew older, but each is useful.
A second would be Englebert’s biography of St. Francis. It’s an older book written in an older style, but I read it a couple of times as I went through formation. I think that it captures Saint Francis and remains true to his vision.
I would recommend these books to readers who are looking for something to challenge and enrich their faith lives.