By Carolyn Shields
I've always been someone who loves to read, but when it comes to literature or works on the faith, I have pretty personal opinions. I struggle with books that are too theologically heavy that only make me frustrated, and I hate the glossy, too-stripped-down books about topics like the feminine genius. And though scripture should always come first, there are books out there on the faith that can enrich, deepen, and transform our faith lives. The following three works have truly changed my life.
St. Faustina's Diary
Yes, it can be intimidating to tackle this literary Catholic classic, but there's no rush to get through it. In fact, it took nearly my entire college career to turn each page, and some of them you just know you can skim. I read multiple books in between, would forget about it, but undoubtedly, this sweet diary oftentimes spoke to me with the exact words that I needed to hear. The proof is in the little notes scribbled in the margins.
St. Faustina recorded her conversations with Jesus, and the way she archives Him speaking so tenderly to her feminine heart is how I imagine Christ talking to every woman. And St. Faustina didn't fret, tinker, meditate...she wasn't just a cloistered nun, but she is truly a saint for our times, facing the devil and stuff. Literally. There's some pages where her faith is tested in supernatural ways that I shuddered my way through her descriptions, but her resolve for our Holy never wavered.
This simple language of your heart is more pleasing to me than the hymns composed in my honor. Know, my daughter, that the simpler your speech is, the more you attract me to yourself. And now, be at peace close to my heart. Lay your pen aside and get ready to leave….See, you are not alone. My heart watches over you.
The cover is about as boring as you can get, and I remember when a friend gave it to me in college. "Gee, thanks...looks great," I probably said. But holy SMOKES did this book rock my world. I refer to it at least twice a week, and sometimes I often check myself, concerned that so much of my faith have been fruits of Fr. Philippe's writings and for some reason, this makes me nervous. Fr. Philippe is currently a priest in the Community of the Beatitudes, and his writings are spreading like wildfire in Catholic communities. He has several works, all simply worded and all brief, that speak volumes of truth to our faith.
It's one of those little books (it's only 134 pages) that carries a healthy punch every other page, causing you to constantly put it down and let those words sink in. From addressing the present moment, to the intense necessity for interior peace, you will revisit this powerful little book again and again.
Usually, if we seek God’s will with a sincere heart, we will receive the light to understand it…If we were always sure we were doing God’s will and walking in the truth, we would soon become dangerously presumptuous and at risk of spiritual pride. Not always being absolutely sure we are doing God’s will is humbling and painful, but it protects us.
Salvifici Doloris: On The Christian Meaning Of Human Suffering
Saint Pope John Paul II
Ok, it's not a book, but it's a fifty-ish page apostolic letter that changed everything for me. And I'm incredibly serious. We always hear those grandmas of ours imploring us to "Offer it up," but this document goes into detail about how doing precisely that, offering our suffering, can literally save souls. The Crucifixion, why we must suffer, and redemptive love are explained in a straightforward, life-altering way. Instead of curling and cringing, it encourages us to open our hearts to the invitation of partaking in the Lord's Passion. It makes walking with Christ and bearing our Crosses real and something to accept, not avoid.
You can read plenty of our favorite excerpts here.
Suffering, more than anything else, makes present in the history of humanity the powers of the Redemption. In that "cosmic" struggle between the spiritual powers of good and evil, spoken of in the Letter to the Ephesians, human sufferings, united to the redemptive suffering of Christ, constitute a special support for the powers of good, and open the way to the victory of these salvific powers.