There are far more books about living our Catholic faith and understanding Jesus and the proposition of the Gospel than any one person could ever read in a year. In fact, more books are produced in one year than anyone could read in a lifetime. With this caveat, however, I want to propose five of the best books I came across this year.
Whether you are looking for gift ideas, a way to get through the next several months of social distancing, a good read over Christmas break, or to start a new habit in 2021, I would recommend any of these five books.
Rescued: The Unexpected and Extraordinary News of the Gospel by Fr. John Riccardo
This short book gives a clear account of what we often call the kerygma, the kernel of the Gospel. Taking a series of talks he has honed for years, Fr. Riccardo presents the beautiful truth of the eternal love story between God and the human race through the four stages that divine revelation presents to us: creation, sin and the reign of sin, God’s battle with and victory over sin, and our participation in kingdom. If you want to better understand why the world is so broken, what God did — and continues to do — for us, and how we are called to respond to God’s gift, read Rescued.
Most of us have a copy of the Bible somewhere in our homes. At the very least, we can find the Bible on our phones through any number of easy-to-reach websites. But in reading The Augustine Bible, I found a great resource for my own reappreciation of God’s Word. Because most of us do not read the original languages of the books of the Bible — Greek and ancient Hebrew — we read Scripture through a translation, and there are dozens of these. This Bible offers the English Standard Version, which is a faithful translation but slightly different from the New American Bible (which is the translation read at Mass). In reading a new translation, we have an opportunity to hear the Word with new ears. I purchased the leather edition, and I look forward to using this Bible throughout 2021 for our Archdiocese of Detroit “Run So As to Win the Race” Scripture Year Challenge.
52 Sundays by Archdiocese of Detroit
52 Sundays is back with a second edition for the coming year. This resource from the Archdiocese of Detroit is an extraordinary tool for helping individuals and families respond to the charge of Synod ’16 to reclaim Sunday as a day for the family and for God. When this was released for 2020, we could not have predicted the usefulness of the tool during a time when it was not possible to participate at Mass in person. I heard from people from every corner of Metro Detroit and around the country who found in 52 Sundays an easy-to-use resource for families to share their faith together. This year’s edition highlights a different martyr each week — responding the Synod’s call to see martyrdom as the paradigm of discipleship — in the “meet our extended family” section. It has the Sunday Gospel, a weekly family prayer, family activity, and recipe along with several other sections. Families can purchase a hard copy or use it for free online at www.52Sundays.com.
In Caelo et in Terra: 365 Days with the Saints by the Sisters of St. Paul
Another excellent saint-centric book was just published this November. In Caelo et in Terra: 365 Days with the Saints, by the Sisters of St. Paul, offers the story of a saint for each day in the calendar year. Many of these saints will be new to the reader and will open our eyes to the incredible diversity of the communion of saints throughout various states in life, cultural and geographic backgrounds, and experiences and difficulties. The title refers to the portion of the Our Father in which we pray “on earth as it is in heaven.” This book helps us not simply to know about the saints, but inspires us to imitate them here on earth so we can be united with them in heaven. Beautiful original artwork is provided for each day.
From Christendom to Apostolic Mission by the University of Mary
From Christendom to Apostolic Mission is a short but sobering book. It circulated a few years ago as one person’s discernment about the particular needs of our time. The book clarifies which pastoral strategies were effective during the time of Christendom — when belief in the God of Jesus Christ was understood by many in society — and which pastoral strategies are necessary during an apostolic age — when the Gospel is not central to the ordering of society. Certainly today’s religious trends, as well as the call of the recent popes, remind us that Christendom is either complete gone or very close to it. We need new methods and a new ardor for our work of evangelization. This short book is a great read for those who know and love Jesus Christ and his Church and who want to better understand how we need to share the Gospel in our time.
Fr. Stephen Pullis is director of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Department of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship.