My 10 Favorite Catholic Books of All Time

My 10 Favorite Catholic Books of All Time

[#1] Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

Not necessarily Catholic but Christian nonetheless. Plus, hardly a grand epic which you might expect, this is rather a murder mystery with the protagonist committing the murder[s] in chapter one. Dostoyevsky presents a psychological thriller with ongoing diatribes of the then contemporary emerging philosophies of the day. Replete with Christian themes, Dostoevsky maintains that perseverance and persistence, commitment and hard work is our calling for true success in life. A message all from St. Petersburg to Siberia. And that adherence to God’s commandments is what is required of us regardless of socio-economic circumstances. No excuses. But what really fascinated me was that I was there. I was there in Russia itself in 1861, in that small hidden neighborhood, in those streets, in Raskolnikov’s mind. Dostoevsky had that ability, and he has been copied ever since. Genius. And it was fun reading all those long Russian names. I felt so sophisticated.

[#2] Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Well, this was an epic. It spanned generations and Hugo’s research impressive. He wrote of European politics, French politics, the French Revolution, political ideologies, the Catholic church and religious history. He further researched military history and the Battle of Waterloo, cultural descriptions of both rich and poor, the penal system, the banking system, the police system, even the Parisian sewer system and its history. He said baboons lived down there; how in the world did that happen? The major theme was protagonist’s Jean Valjean’s struggle for redemption. Certainly a more difficult struggle than ours. A romanticist for sure, Victor Hugo captured my heart as well as my mind and interest. My conclusion was, no college education is complete without reading the 1032 page masterpiece, ‘Les Miserables’. Forget those silly musicals.  

[#3] Fr. Walter Ciszek, He Leadeth Me

Talk about inspiration and spirituality, Father Walter Ciszek offers an accounting of his experiences in the Gulags of the Soviet Union as a testament to God’s providence and graces of God through devotion and perseverance, endurance. He strove to do the will of God regardless of the circumstances as he was forced to live in the Soviet Union for 39 years. Fr. Ciszek states, “And the greatest grace God can give such a man is to send him a trial he cannot bear with his own powers—and then sustain him with his grace so he may endure to the end and be saved.”  Yes, quite inspiring and spiritual!

[#4] Fr. Walter Ciszek, With God in Russia

Wheras the content in the above book by Father Ciszek is about 75% spiritual and 25% describing his daily life, this accounting is 75% daily life and 25% spiritual. Same story with a different emphasis. The earthly reality of life in the Gulags and Russia proper is fascinating. And although Fr. Ciszek was an unfortunate visiting alien so to speak, he still was able to win awards as best worker both in jail and in Russian society. Why? Because God was with him. He followed Jesuit founder St. Ignatius: “Work like everything depends on  you and pray like everything depends on God.” President Kennedy finally fenagled some political miracles to free him and Fr. Ciszek returned to the United States in 1963. Great stuff!

[#5] Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Abridged

Again, not so Catholic but Christian nonetheless. Thank God there is an abridged version. As appearing on the back cover, “It is impossible to name a book that had a greater effect on the political and moral consciousness of the late 20th century.” And what do you do? For us today it is pray, hold on to your families, support your churches and communities. For him it was being caught between serving a  repressive state or a life in the Siberian Gulags. Well, through the insights and knowledge of Solzhenitsyn, we can witness the progression of the deep/administrative state at the hands of the lies from the Democrat Party of the United States and worldwide Marxism. “Live not by lies”, says Solzhenitsyn because it can happen here. It’s happening.

[#6] St. Louis de Montefort, True Devotion to Mary

This is considered one of the greatest books ever written on Marian spirituality. St. Pope John Paul the Great himself says it had a great effect on his own personal walk and devotive life. It was his life’s decisive turning point. This is a book guiding one’s journey toward holiness and as stated at the outset “The more we honor the Blessed Virgin, the more we honor Jesus Christ.” De Montefort includes guides to preparation, practice and consecration toward devotion.

Here is a lucky 7, though I never actually read it. Rather I took an on-line course from Hillsdale College.  

[#7] Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy:  Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso. If you can read it, God Bless. But it was a fascinating course. The first people he saw in hell were politicians. Written 1306-1321.

The following  I read recently and probably replaces other Catholic classics out there. Yes, I still read but believe the relevance of these three contemporary Catholic authors a blessing. Besides, they’re easier to read.

[#8] Carvajal, Francis Fernandez. Overcoming Lukewarmness: Healing Your Soul’s Sadness.

Read it twice. The first time is a pick me up. The second is when you fall back. Rev. Carvajal calls it a rejuvenation from the sleepiness of the soul. He says lukewarmness is a tired illness and a general negligence that loves the wide road. Prepare to be taught how to defeat that ‘noonday devil’ and rekindle the joy of following Christ. We all have a duty to live a full life, not necessarily a comfortable life, but a full life of joy with Christ in front of us.  

[#9] Chaput, Charles J. Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post Christian World 

Since I have always essentially been a social science teacher, to me this book by the Archbishop of Philadelphia is sociologically based. Our culture and our faith are at odds and it is a challenging experience. To Archbishop Chaput we are resident aliens who are called to resist the new priestly class of psychologists and sociologists; resist the growing administrative state; resist the secularization of our culture especially emanating from our universities who are all wrapped up in malice and spite; and resist the momentum of consumerism and materialism. Finally, we are aliens who are being confronted with the creation of an alternate religion and moral system, ideological in nature.

[#10] Eason, Deacon Richard. Spiritual Lightning: Answering Your Call from Jesus to Master His Values. 

    The most recent book I’ve read and an EWTN 2024  gem, Deacon Richard Eason certainly covers it all in capturing the spiritual transformation to which we all aspire. Spiritual Lightning discusses attaining peace and spiritual maturity, maintaining grace, and following saintly examples in our strivings toward Heaven. So I guess you can call this a primer on how to get to Heaven. And as the author says, “Jesus entered earthly life for the purpose of leading all souls to Heaven with no soul left behind.” Each chapter includes a summary of reflection that allows the reader to keep the fire burning. 


    Related Source

    Baglino, Michael J. More From a Florida Catholic: Vignettes Plus on Psychology and Culture. New York: Penguin Writers, 2022.

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    Michael Baglino