Seeking Saintly Guidance: A Reading List
BOOKS PICKS for All Saints’ Day and Beyond
A Guide to Understanding Key Church Teachings
By Father Wade L.J. Menezes, CPM
EWTN Publishing, 2022
288 pages; $18.95
To order: EWTNReligiousCatalogue.com or (800) 854-6316; Item: 82538
Catholic Essentials: A Guide to Understanding Key Church Teachings is a spiritual primer of Father of Mercy Wade Menezes’ to-the-point presentations on such topics as “Morals,” “Dogma,” “Ecclesiology,” “Sacraments” and “Liturgy.”
Father Menezes, familiar to Eternal Word Television Network viewers, offers clear-cut and uncomplicated explanations. Each chapter is brief — the average being two pages long.
Take, for instance, this tidbit on God’s mercy: “Mercy is who God is. It is ‘love’s second name.’ And this love does not falter or disappoint; the mercy and love of God are constant and ever-present for the asking. Regardless of one’s sinful past, it is there to constantly guide and lead one on the road to sanctity. This is because God is more interested in our future than in our past. He is more interested in the kind of person we can yet become than in the kind of person we used to be.” The next chapter continues with another facet of God’s mercy and brings in quotes from St. Faustina’s diary.
Each chapter begins with a quote from Scripture plus a quote from a saint or Church Father, such as Sts. Thérèse of Lisieux, Bernard of Clairvaux, Augustine, John Vianney, Ambrose, Alphonsus Ligouri, Paul VI and John Paul II, and many more. Additional insights come from Servant of God Father John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary and several other sources.
Father Menezes helps readers understand why Mass is obligatory on Sundays and holy days.
His beautiful explanation on the “Most Blessed Sacrament” will help deepen readers’ love for Jesus in the Eucharist.
Father Menezes also expounds on the benefits of frequent confession:
“For example, apart from the obvious effect of being forgiven ones sins, frequent Confession brings with it a purifying of conscience; in the soul, grace is increased; the human will is strengthened to do better in daily life and yearns to advance in virtue; self-knowledge is increased to know one’s strengths and weaknesses better; more rapid growth in virtue takes place overall; the virtue of humility grows; assistance is given to overcome bad habits and any spirit of mediocrity in spiritual life; and greater self-control is achieved in daily living. Frequent confession also helps us to advance in the spiritual life and to be more faithful to our daily duty, regardless of our vocation …”
So much is included in this book, from explaining the “Sacrificial Lamb and the Eucharist” and its symbolic meanings to God’s plan for marriage and the precepts of the Church. Well worth reading.
Consecration to St. Joseph for Children and Families
By Scott L. Smith Jr. and Father Donald Calloway
Marian Press, 2022
160 pages; $ 16.95
To order: ShopMercy.org or (800) 462-7426
Since Marian Father Donald Calloway’s book Consecration to St. Joseph came out in 2020, it has inspired people around the world to greater love and devotion to St. Joseph. Now, Father Calloway has co-written Consecration to St. Joseph for Children and Families.
As explained in the opening, “Under St. Joseph’s protection, the light of the world, Jesus, will shine in our families. And through our families, the light of Jesus will illuminate the whole world.”
Like its predecessor, this book also follows the Litany of St. Joseph, with every chapter looking at one of his virtues or titles from that prayer. The chapters are short, averaging two pages, just right to keep even the youngest children attentive, while simple illustrations appeal to little hearts.
Included analogies come from, among others, The Chronicles of Narnia, A Christmas Carol, Sleeping Beauty, Annie, The Secret Garden and Horton Hears a Who.
For example, to describe St. Joseph’s title “Light of Patriarchs,” the authors reference Olympic torchbearers. In the Old Testament, they explain, the patriarchs were the first torchbearers in the “long relay” to the New Testament. “The last torchbearer was St. Joseph,” who “carried the Blessed Mother across Israel to Bethlehem and then on to Egypt.”
And, when explaining St. Joseph’s “Mirror of Patience” title, the authors explain, “St. Joseph had nothing at his fingertips to see if there would be storms on the way to Bethlehem. St. Joseph couldn’t check GPS to find his way to Egypt. There was no internet for him to find a room at the inn. St. Joseph’s mission required a lot of waiting.”
This leads to the lesson for young readers: “Ask God for the grace to love your neighbor. Be kind, peaceful, merciful. When your family is testing your patience, be pleasant and merciful. … Patience and mercy always lead to victory.”
Youngsters will also discover that St. Joseph the “Christian knight” will teach “you to be chivalrous. St. Joseph will teach you how to dedicate yourself to his true loves, Mary and Jesus, and how to fight for them.”
Other saints are also included, from short quotes of what they said about St. Joseph to stories such as how St. Thérèse of Lisieux was healed as a baby through St. Joseph’s intercession. Her mother, St. Zélie, wrote of this miraculous recovery.
Most of all, children and parents alike with be assured, as the authors write, that “St. Joseph will teach your family to place God front and center and above all things.”
How They Love Mary
28 Life-Changing Stories of Devotion to Our Lady
By Father Edward Looney
Sophia Institute Press, 2022
240 pages; $18.95
To order: EWTNReligiousCatalogue.com or (800) 854-6316; Item: 35808
De Maria, numquam satis — “About Mary, there is never enough,” wrote doctor of the Church St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who is credited with composing the Memorare. This beloved Marian prayer is among the many highlights of Father Edward Looney’s new book, How They Love Mary: 28 Life-Changing Stories of Devotion to Our Lady.
Readers encounter well-known friends like Sts. Francis, Padre Pio and Thérèse of Lisieux; Blessed Solanus Casey and Servant of God Patrick Peyton; and Mother Angelica and Adele Brise of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.
Father Looney also shares stories of how he came to know each of these people and how their Marian devotion influenced his own, bringing everything together with simple recommendations on particular Marian practices.
For example, we can strive to have the childlike love for Mary that St. Thérèse had. “Thérèse used quite a familiar way, calling her Mama,” writes Father Looney, suggesting to readers, “Try addressing Mary in less formal ways just as you are bringing to her petitions like St. Thérèse.”
Or, inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola, Father Looney encourages readers to “pray the Rosary using your imagination. This might be the easiest way to integrate this style of prayer into your life.”
Visual aids can help, too. “Do you have a statue of Mary in your home?” Father Looney asks. “Gather the family sometime soon and pray the Rosary; afterwards, sing a Marian hymn, in imitation of Sister Adele, who would sing songs to the Madonna. Serenade the Madonna with hymns like Immaculate Mary; Hail, Holy Queen; Sing of Mary; Hail Mary, Gentle Woman; or any other Marian song you might know.”
Sprinkled throughout are stories of Marian devotees and how their devotion received heavenly answers, including a wonderful little story about how Bishop Fulton Sheen always relied on our Blessed Mother for help and how, one time, that help came through in a very surprising way while he was in Lourdes.
And Father Looney illuminates about the Rosary-praying Father Peyton, “One of Father Peyton’s favorite prayers was the Memorare. He prayed it often and had recourse to it when he needed direction. Pray the Memorare today.”
Throughout, Father Looney offers profound depth in simplicity — such as in these words: “I began to live my life daily with the reminder to take Mary into my home. Such a notion makes Mary more personal. We will want to talk to our Mother about our day and asked her motherly advice. We will want to please our Mother by our actions. External devotion is not enough. Our devotion to Mary must be internal and make a difference in our life by word and action.”
The Catholic Guide to Miracles
By Adam Blai
Sophia Institute Press, 2021
176 pages; $18.95
To order: EWTNReligiousCatalogue.com or (800) 854-6316; Item: 2968
Accounts of miracles fascinate most people. They strengthen the faith of many. Yet scores of people remain skeptics at best or unbelievers are worst. But, always, there is one question that must be asked and answered: Is what happened a real miracle or a counterfeit?
In The Catholic Guide to Miracles, author Adam Blai explains what constitutes the genuine and separates it from the seemingly so.
Blai brings his expertise to the forefront. He is a peritus (a certified expert consultant) for exorcists in the Diocese of Pittsburgh and an auxiliary member of the International Association of Exorcists, with extensive studies, experiences and observations in and with the supernatural.
The author begins with the genuine, Church-approved miracles leading to the beatification and canonization of saints such as Fatima’s Francisco and Jacinta, Cardinal John Henry Newman, Kateri Tekakwitha, Padre Pio and Thérèse of Lisieux.
While the more recent canonization processes rely heavily on expert medical yeas for approval because, as Blai says, miraculous physical healings are the easiest to prove for a valid miracle, he also brings up Lourdes and the numerous reported healings over the years. “These stories may not pass rigorous scientific muster, but God is not limited by science, and not everything ‘explainable’ by science happened through purely natural means. I think that God’s healings are numerous, but most are never heard of. Millions may have been healed in a quiet way.”
Importantly, there is a chapter on the Blessed Mother that recounts some of her apparitions and miracles associated with them, including the “Miracle of the Sun” at Fatima.
Another fascinating topic that is explored: stigmata.
In addition, the author highlights miracles brought about by the application of relics of different saints and even rocks from the cave of St. Michael in Gargano, Italy. In the case of the Prince of Angels, “St. Michael plays a significant role in the spiritual world. … It is no wonder however that exorcists have recourse to him in exorcisms, given his role in the war in heaven.” St. Michael was directly associated with exorcism by Pope Leo XIII, readers will learn.
Overall, much of the book is spent identifying, defining and exemplifying legitimate miraculous phenomena, including levitation (readers will discover that St. Teresa of Ávila experienced this) and incorruptibility. The story of the first saint found to be incorrupt — St. Cecilia — is fascinating.
Throughout, Blai presents everything in a clear, understandable way.
Readers will appreciate the section on Eucharistic miracles, such as at Lanciano and in Buenos Aires (under then-Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio).
The final chapters deal with distinguishing between real miraculous supernatural events, mental illness and demonic counterfeits, all important parts of Blai’s specialty. “If the Church too quickly believed claims of miracles or demons [in the case of the mentally ill], people would not be served well but could be reinforced in delusional beliefs that do harm to them,” he writes. With just enough detail, he gives clear examples of what constitutes the frauds, including New Age beliefs, trying to contact the dead, demonic counterfeit apparitions and “parlor tricks,” false faith healers, and more, also explaining why the Church forbids the faithful in engaging in hypnosis.
“Real miracles are proofs of God, but we cannot build a faith based only on them,” he writes. “We need a living relationship with God through his Church. The main vehicles of grace are the Word of God and the sacraments, instituted by Christ. The center and goal of Christian faith is a living relationship with the Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
“God has continued to give miracles to the world since the time of Christ; they have not stopped, and we may confidently believe they will never stop. Many are quiet miracles that nobody hears about; others are prominent and shared the world over. Let us hope that these stories inspire the world — beginning with you — to seek God, and to seek that miracle that is beyond all others: Salvation.”
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