Who says theology and spirituality books aren’t good for beach reading? A well-balanced diet of mysteries, romances, legal thrillers, and Catholic Social Teaching texts is ideal during the summer months.
Here are five favorites:
1. The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser
If someone asked me to explain why I love Catholic spirituality, I’d hand them this book. Rolheiser outlines four pillars of the Christian spiritual life: Private prayer and private morality; social justice; mellowness of heart and spirit; and community as a constitutive element of true worship.
A great passage: “When we make spirituality essentially a privatized thing, cut off from the poor and the demands for justice that are found there, it soon degenerates into mere private therapy, an art form, or worse still, an unhealthy clique.”
2. Jesus Today by Albert Nolan
Nolan surveys the signs of the times and then shows how the spirituality of Jesus the Nazareth can inform our actions today.
A great passage: “In reading the gospels, the general impression we get is that Jesus was very much a man of action: preaching, teaching, healing, and confronting the religious and political leadership. What we do not always notice is that behind, and in support of, all these activities was a life of constant prayer and profound contemplation.”
3. The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day
The autobiography of Dorothy Day, one of the most important and influential Catholics in American history. Co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement with Peter Maurin, Day describes her conversion to Catholicism and her decades of work with and for the poor.
A great passage: “We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know Him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.”
4. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Dillard finds miracles in creation all around her, and her prose matches the beauty of what she describes. Her writing helps renew my sense of wonder and awe, which is a critical in the fight against cynicism and frustration.
A great passage: “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”
5. Compassion by Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill, and Douglas Morrison
A meditation on what it means to live compassionately — a word that literally means “to suffer with.” It’s a powerful blueprint for how we’re called to live as disciples.
A great passage: “Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”
Happy summer, and happy reading!
This post is also featured on the website The Ampersand for the Diocese of Camden Life & Justice Ministries.