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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Books of Faith

Hugh Hewitt's OneTrueGodBlog recently requested a recommended reading list for young Christian college students, for the purpose of deepening their faith. Continuing on the reading theme from my last post, here are my five favorite faith-based books:

The Seven Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton. I first read this book at age twelve (I was always a precocious reader). It was summer vacation, I was bored and out of reading material, and my parents had a first edition hard cover on the den bookshelf. Merton's story was immediately fascinating to me, and I swallowed it whole. How could one so misguided in his early life end up such a spiritual success? In addition to reading Merton's other works, I have referred back to this book many times over the years. It shows that any soul can rise to greatness through faith. For me, it was a life-changing read.

Crossing The Threshold of Hope, by Pope John Paul II. You don't have to be Catholic to enjoy and learn from this book. God is explained as very close to and very involved in our modern world. Written in an open, welcoming, question-and-answer style, the expansive and ecumenical themes of this book are easily embraced by any person of faith. The profound wisdom and experience of this elder giant of the Church is simply communicated in an engaging way that young people will appreciate.

Blue Like Jazz: Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, by Donald Miller. Recommended to me by a fellow blogger, Alan Riley of In the meantime, this book is breathtaking in its simplicity. It's written in a heartfelt, conversational style that is both touching and humorous. If you have ever felt far away from God, out of step with your faith, or too worldly to be religious, this is a book that will show you how your misgivings and second thoughts are all part of your spiritual journey.

Great Lion of God, by Taylor Caldwell. An excellent historical novel about St. Paul, his life and times. This was another vacation read, this time during my college years. Taylor Caldwell was one of the most prolific and popular fiction authors of the 20th century, and my aunt read all her books. She loaned me "Great Lion" for the train commute to my summer job. It was the first time I had ever read a fictionalized account of a Biblical person, and it was impossible for me to put down. It brought the New Testament to life in a way I hadn't imagined before. Saints were drawn as real-life, flesh-and-blood people, complete with serious flaws and problems. It made me hungry for more, so shortly after I finished it, I read the fifth book on my list:

Dear and Glorious Physician, by Taylor Caldwell. Another fine historical novel by the same author, this time recounting the life and times of St. Luke, the evangelist. It was the first time I had ever seen Mary, Mother of Our Lord, appear as a character in the pages of a novel. Again, great saints of mythical proportions were portrayed vividly as real people. I seek out this type of novel to this day. It helps me to remember that each of us in our turn must walk the road set before us by God, striving to do the best we can in our human circumstances.

It's always helpful to know that we're not alone in our inner spiritual struggles. Perhaps at no time is this knowledge so important as in late adolescense and early adulthood, when youngsters stand poised at the crossroads of so many momentous decisions. It is my hope that all college students may find something of worth in the above list. As I have learned, reading always makes a journey more enjoyable.