As we enter back to school season, replete with school supplies (ahhh, fresh notebooks! Colorful pens!) and promises of new creative and educational pursuits, books are on my brain.
Who am I kidding? Books are always on my brain!
As someone who basically has one hobby, and one hobby only — reading — I spend a lot of time not only with my nose in a book, but also thinking about what I should read next, gathering suggestions from family members, friends, podcasts and blogs, and maintaining an ever-populated hold list on my Libby App. I also spend a not insignificant number of hours each week reading to my children and helping them to cultivate a love of literature by facilitating library trips and encouraging quiet reading time.
In our house, we read all kinds of books at every age spectrum, from picture book biographies, to poetry collections, to a variety of fiction options (I’m currently on a thriller kick, and my three- and four-year-old daughters love stories about anything magical).
One category of books that I always try to keep updated in our home are books related to faith and spirituality. These kinds of books help me deepen my knowledge of Catholicism, my relationship with God and my prayer life, and I hope for them to do the same for the rest of my family as well.
If you are interested in doing the same, here are some ideas of Catholic books for the whole family:
In a board book for a baby, the illustrations matter as much as the text, and the Chosen Baptism Board Book nails them both. Written in perfect rhyme, each page includes colorful drawings and important lessons about the sacrament of Baptism. “In Jesus’ Name, baptized priest, prophet and king, and now in Christ you can do anything!” — I can’t read it aloud without choking up!
You Were Born to Be a Saint is jam packed with thoughtful content, beautiful images and inspiring messages. An ABC book, it tells the story of over 35 saints, and it also provides an easy explanation of the process of canonization (how Saints are declared in the Catholic Church). As it does so, it encourages children to consider what kind of saint they might become.
I Was Born to Be a Saint, Too is an excellent sequel, telling in equally charming rhyme and illustration how we are called to help others on their journey to sainthood.
Designed and written for children ages 8-12, the Rise Up: Shining with Virtue devotional offers reflections, Scripture, and prayers focusing on the fifteen virtues detailed in Saint Thomas Aquinas’s theological masterpiece, the Summa Theologiae. I love this little book, so much so that I admittedly purchased it long before I had children, let alone pre-teen children! The book is a devotional, so not meant to be read cover to cover, but rather in small increments over the course of many weeks. I think that the book would work well as a read-alone for an adolescent, or as a conversation starter between parents and their children.
As a teen, I can remember looking everywhere for guidance on how to live the good life. I found such direction from my parents and teachers, sure, but I also recall gravitating especially towards poems, songs, and quotations for memorable and beautifully articulated words of wisdom. Quotations on the Spiritual Life by St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina offers a rich collection of quotes and short sayings about the virtues and other spiritual topics. The book would be a boon to any teen — or adult’s — religious formation and development. Likewise, St. Maria Fasutina Kowalska, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, and St. John Paul II’s collections of quotations would offer the same.
For any parent hoping to build their domestic church, the Catholic All Year Compendium is a phenomenal resource. Walking chronologically through the liturgical year, it provides historical and contextual information about the various seasons and feast days of our Catholic year, as well as a wealth of ideas on how to honor and celebrate these important moments.
While Catholic All Year is more outward facing — it helps parents know how to build and nurture the faith lives of their littlest family members — Practical Meditations provides a more interior-focused walk through the liturgical year. Originally printed in 1868 by an anonymous Jesuit priest, this book includes spiritual reading and daily meditations for the liturgical year, perfect for helping moms nourish their own prayer life so that they are fully equipped to do the same for their children.
As for children, teens and moms, there is no shortage of excellent options of Catholic books for Dads. One great choice is St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life. Since its first publication in 1609, this book — which offers a practical approach to the spiritual life, with step by step wisdom for growing in holiness — has never gone out of print.
Or, if a dad in your life is looking for a broader mix of spiritual thinkers and saints, Nunc Copei, Latin for Now I Begin, offers insights and Scripture lessons from a wide range of writers from the evangelists to the desert fathers and mothers to saints like Philip Neri.
Happy Catholic reading, this school year and beyond!