I recently decluttered the religion section of my bookshelf. It was about time. No point in having things around weighing you down.
I thought I’d give you a list of what I have left.
Here’s what stayed:
- Bible, Revised Standard Version
- Navarre Bible, New Testament
- Catechism of the Catholic Church
- Documents of Vatican II
- Liturgy of the Hours
I’ve also got these, though I must say that many were gifts to me, and have remained unread:
- 2 books by Pope John XXIII
- 7 books by Karol Wojtyla = Pope John Paul II plus 4 encyclicals and an apostolic letter and Meditations on the Mystery of the Rosary
- 17 books by Cardinal Ratzinger = Pope Benedict XVI plus a little booklet called the Way of the Cross with Pope Benedict.
- 2 books by Pope Francis plus a Way of the Cross with Pope Francis
I’ve got the writings of saints. (These are not biographies.) I think I’ve read most of these, but I’d say that the collection accumulated in a rather haphazard way. Where I have more than one, I’ve noted the quantity:
- St. Thomas Aquinas (4)
- St. John of the Cross (4)
- St. Teresa of Avila (5)
- St. Francis de Sales (3)
- St. Margaret Mary
- St. Therese of Liseux
- St. Bridget
- St. Catherine of Genoa
- St. Alphonsus Liguori (2)
- St. Ignatius of Loyola (2)
- St. Leonard
- St. Eudes
- St. Augustine
- St. Benedict
- St. Francis
- St. Louis de Montford (3)
- St. Josemaria Escriva (5)
- St. Faustina
- St. Joan of Arc
- St. Theresa of Calcutta
I’ve got the writings of others who haven’t been declared saints by the Catholic Church (as far as I know) but whose work I’ve enjoyed:
- Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen (I have Divine Intimacy)
- Francis Fernandez (the volumes of In Conversation with God)
- Jacques Philippe (Interior Freedom, Called to Life, Time for God, Searching for and Maintaining Peace)
- John Henry Newman (Selected Prayers Sermons and Devotions, Grammar of Assent, Apologia Pro Vita Sua)
- Thomas a Kempis (Imitation of Christ, of course)
- Anne Catherine Emmerich (The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ)
- Salvatore Canals (Jesus as Friend)
- Jean-Pierre de Caussade (I have Abandonment to Divine Providence)
- M. Eugene Boylan (I have This Tremendous Lover)
- Fulton Sheen (Way to Happiness)
- Joseph Pieper (I have Faith Hope Love)
- Leo J. Trese (The Faith Explained)
- C.S. Lewis (I have Mere Christianity, but I put distance between myself and the Chronicles of Narnia – the man went too far)
- Paul O’Sullivan (St. Philomena the Wonder-Worker, The Holy Ghost Our Greatest Friend)
I’ve got biographies on only three people: John Paul II (George Weigel’s, of course), St. Josemaria Escriva (by Andres Vazquez de Prada) and St. Philomena.
I dislike biographies in general, and I dislike biographies of saints in particular. The problem with biographies is that they are so full of guesses and speculation and they really wind up being quite unfair and unrepresentative of the person. Sometimes they make the saint sound totally unearthly and impossibly and unnaturally ‘holy’ and sometimes they add details that are verging on sin. I remember one account of St. Faustina which said that she burned her own writing because a false angel told her to, in direct contradiction to the express instructions of her spiritual director. She never would have done that. Every saint knows that obedience to one’s spiritual director supercedes instructions given in visions of any kind.
So those are the books that survived.
And of course, I kept every book written by Chesterton that I have.
As for the books that I didn’t keep, well, there were quite a few.
I’ve forgotten the names of most of the books that went out the door, but I remember being absolutely appalled at that book called Catholicism for Dummies. Wow, was that ever pathetic! Don’t know how it got into my hands.
I also don’t read anything produced by members of the charismatic movement, led by characters such as Bob Canton. Out of sympathy, I went with someone battling cancer who wanted him to heal her. The event was confusing but also highly entertaining. I was on high alert watching the reactions of everyone and I even quizzed a woman who felt she’d been healed. The whole thing felt wild and unreal somehow.
You won’t be surprised to hear that I really disliked the part where Bob Canton told the fairly small audience about how, once, there were so many people eager to hear him speak, and how the parking lot was filled with tents and vehicles of All Kinds.
I should have walked out at that point.
However, I didn’t know better. As a matter of fact, I really didn’t understand much of anything about the charismatic movement at all. I was on guard, and yet I felt guilty that I felt so Entirely Wary. Did I doubt the ability of the Holy Spirit to heal? Did I doubt the Good Intentions of the Holy Spirit Team (those people in red t-shirts)? I just didn’t know what to make of it all.
I stayed, and I even lined up. I saw the people Slain in the Spirit (= lying on the floor, on their backs) and I thought, “Well, I guess maybe it’s real, but I don’t want to End Up Like That.” On the other hand, healing, well, if he’s as holy as it sounds, how can it hurt?
But when it came to my turn, I whispered to Mr. Canton himself: “I don’t want to Fall Down.” I thought that perhaps he and the Holy Spirit might want to Topple Me Over, and it didn’t seem, well, entirely kosher. At minimum, let’s say I wasn’t comfortable with the Concept.
He agreed – of course and of course you didn’t need do anything like that.
So he put his hand on my shoulder.
And he started his prayers.
And I stood there.
And then he gave the gentlest push.
And I pushed back, in the gentlest way.
And he pushed a little harder.
I didn’t sway.
I dug in my heels, and
I pushed back
A little bit harder.
The prayer was done.
I walked away.
A little bit weird.
What was with the pushing?
Hey, wait a minute.
Is this really According to Plan? Is this really in Accord with God’s Plan?
(I wondered many months later.)
The entire thing doesn’t sit well, somehow. Is God really wanting to see all of these people (mostly women) being caught
as they fall
into the arms
who proceed to lay them face up on the floor?
Hair spread out, all relaxed and content
on whatever floor surface
happens to be there?
Is that REALLY what God wants?
I just have an Issue
with that particular scene.
Doesn’t seem quite right, if you ask me.
I mean, I don’t doubt the good-will of everyone attending. I think that God’s grace does come upon them, to a large degree.
Nevertheless, I question.
For starters, I question these ‘teams.’ Do the gifts of the Holy Spirit come upon you just because you join the local charismatic Nuts and Bolts group?
I suppose if your motives are entirely straight, you’ll see some results, but how many of those people who join are joining for the sake of giving glory to God? Is that what it’s about, or are some of the people motivated by a desire for (spiritual) power or fame? A person might wonder.
A person like me might wonder.
Of course, I can’t conclusively say, but the way I see it, if God wants to shower a person with gifts from the Holy Spirit, then God already Knows Where You Live. You don’t need to join an extra Group on Weeknights. Stay home with your wife; stay home with your kids. Do normal things. Wish your neighbour no harm, seek no fame for your life. Do your duty, be good to your spouse. You don’t need to go looking for the unusual things – the speaking in tongues, the kneel-a-thons up to the tabernacle, the jazzy rock and roll Holy Spirit band.
I just don’t know.
I’d rather if you just got up off the floor.
Dust yourself off.
Just stick with the ordinary. The Ordinary Mass, the regular liturgical prayers and the tried-and-true devotions. There’s enough here in the Catholic Church to keep any well-intentioned person well-equipped for life’s journey. I worry for those who go out of their way looking for Something Unusual. Why would you? Are you out to prove Something About You?
But anyway, a lot of books have passed through my hands over the years, as a matter of fact. Someone once tried to get me interested in The Healing of Families by Yozefu B. Ssemakula, a train-wreck of a book. You can’t be too careful about what you read. Some books will send you to very weird places.
And outside the charismatic movement, I will say that I won’t be bringing in anything by Mr. Peter Kreeft or Fr. Robert Barron.
My issue with Peter Kreeft? I don’t think he gets things entirely right, and the one year that I saw him talk and answer questions at a conference, he was quite shaky and unclear on the answers to the questions. In particular, he wobbled a lot on the issue of lying. Was it okay some of the time? He wasn’t quite sure. (It’s not.) And he seemed downright confused when asked about whether it was okay for pro-lifers to barge into an abortion-in-progress in order to save the lives being lost. (No, it’s not.) I was surprised and disappointed that he couldn’t deliver. I wasn’t impressed. His approach wasn’t direct and it didn’t make sense. I walked away shaking my head.
My issue with Fr Robert Barron? I don’t like his approach. I don’t think it’s right for a priest to use Hollywood movies to evangelize quite the way he does. I don’t think it’s right for a priest to sit around watching movies when – everyone knows – so much of the stuff produced is so disgraceful and smutty. How can it be right for a priest to throw a DVD into his machine when he really doesn’t know what he’s in for? How can a priest guard his eyes when he doesn’t know what’s around the corner? Too risky. What is barely okay for the layperson isn’t always suited to the role of a priest. The standards of purity, for example, are significantly higher. Do they not make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience? Watching a movie which may have nudity or highly suggestive scenes is just not advisable.
Now, to be clear, I am speaking in general terms, and I am not being critical of any specific individual watching any specific television show or movie. I just don’t think the end (evangelization) justifies the means (watching flicks chosen according to some unknown and perhaps random or absent standard).
And I don’t agree with the modern evangelical trick of saying that Mr. Gross and Gory Producer actually meant this, when Mr. Gross and Gory Producer may have in fact meant that. It kind of reminds me of those Christians who go around saying that the candy cane was Always Intended as a Symbol of Jesus. Look, they say, if you turn it upside down, it is the Letter J! The letter J! It stands for Jesus! Case closed!
No, um, I think you’re getting Carried Away.
It’s called a candy cane because it’s um, SHAPED LIKE A CANE.
Don’t turn it upside down, stupid-head.
Distorting history, or saying that Some Great Evangelical Message was buried in Some Non-Evangelical movie does a disservice to the writer, director and producers who were aiming for something entirely different, and does a disservice to those who buy the New Christian Spin and it can do a disservice to Truth itself.
I don’t think priests need to go looking for Nuggets of Gold inside the trash heaps churned out by Hollywood. It’s a waste of time at best and a source of temptation at worst. Priests really don’t need to be seeing those kinds of images and those kinds of messages.
That’s my take anyway.
I don’t go to the movies myself. Why would I? Sure, some movies are supposedly wholesome but please – tell me the ratio!
How many sorry flicks does a person have to suffer through before finding something anywhere close to decent?
And what exactly are you supposed to do once you’ve gotten those images and notions seared into your brain? Do you have an Erase button? It can take days, weeks or even months to clean your memory banks after seeing certain movies, reading certain books or seeing certain plays and reading certain scripts. Days. Weeks. Months.
So I figure, why take the chance?
I won’t play Russian roulette with my brain. Play it safe and keep it clean is my theory. Keep the crap out from the beginning, so you don’t have to waste any time afterwards, hitting Delete Delete Delete.
Prudent people don’t take stupid chances. They stay away not only from temptation, but also from the occasions of temptation.
So yeah, that’s my take.
And those are some of the books on my shelves.