Since summer reading lists are always a popular feature with Liguorian readers, we asked the employees of Liguori Publications to submit titles that have had a spiritual impact on their lives. The list includes fact and fiction. Perhaps you’ll find one or two you’ve already read, though we’re confident you will discover one or two that appeals to your reading pleasure. If so, you might want to make your own list and head out to your local bookstore or library. Then read and enjoy.
Father Mathew Kessler says the singular book that has influenced him more than any other (apart from the Bible) is Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation. “In chapters as short as five pages and as long as fifteen, the monk from Gethsemani Abbey invites the reader to drop any pretension of self-knowledge and move to a place where faith must take over if a person is to grow spiritually. In prose that at times haunts and at other times sparkles with joy, New Seeds of Contemplation has established itself as a core book in the canon of Catholic books on prayer and contemplation.
“A word of caution: Anyone with a desire to undertake a spiritual journey can benefit from this book. However, for those just beginning, it might best be used in conversation with a spiritual director due to some technical language.”
Lauri recommended two of the titles on our list: The Shack by William P. Young and Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza. The Shack is a fictional account of one man’s encounter with the Trinity. Lauri says, “My faith has always been alive and strong, but this book brought a totally different outlook on life in general.”
Left to Tell, Lauri says, is the story of an “amazing woman and others who lived through a terrible atrocity in Rwanda. Talk about faith—this woman has a profound sense of faith.”
Marjorie also recommended Left to Tell, calling it “one of the most inspiring books I’ve read lately. The author is a survivor of the 1994 attack on the Tutsi tribes of Rwanda. She describes how she and six other women hid in a bathroom for three months while Hutu gangs killed their families and friends.
“The outstanding feature of this story,” Marjorie says, “is the telling of it from a spiritual perspective. While the scenes are horrendous, the author’s message is one of belief that God is present and will sustain them whatever happens. She attributes her survival to prayer, particularly the rosary.
“Through the words of this author, God showed me his steadfast presence even in the midst of something as horrible as genocide. This story brought me to a new awareness of the importance of meditation and prayer in my life,” Marjorie said.
The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage by Paul Elie is a “perfectly orchestrated combination of literary criticism, biography, and social history,” says Phoebe. “Elie examines the lives and work of Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Walker Percy, and Flannery O’Connor (from whose short story he took the title). O’Connor’s work and life is considered within the active context of the other three, collectively known as the ‘School of the Holy Ghost.’ They corresponded, read one another’s books, and separately came to terms, through literature, with the dilemma of being both a Catholic and a writer in post–World War II America.
“With in-depth analyses of their origins, temperaments, lives, and literary works, Elie discerns the common ground of four very individual ‘American pilgrimages’ occurring within a specific historic era when the American Catholic Church was outgrowing its lower-class immigrant identity.
“Elie penetrates the stereotyped images of his subjects, revealing the human beings behind the icons and neatly debunking the reverential myths that have grown up around each one. As a Catholic himself, Elie meaningfully articulates the religious issues experienced by each writer, all the while maintaining the detachment necessary to analyze their works within the context of personal, ecclesial, and world history.”