Books to assist when discerning a Vocation

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There are more than 66,000 religious sisters, brothers, and priests in the United States. One of the most daunting tasks for a young adult is answering the call from God to live out your vocation. How do we hear God’s call? How do we know we are doing His will? What if I’m not sure if I’m truly called to this vocation?

Here are a few recommendations for good spiritual books that can assist in preparation and discernment.

The Imitation of Christ

The Imitation of Christ is a cherished treasure of the Christian world and is the most widely read devotional work next to the Bible. Apart from the Bible no book has been translated into more languages than the Imitation of Christ. It was first composed in Latin ca.1418-1427. It is a handbook for spiritual life. The text is divided into four books, which provide detailed spiritual instructions: “Helpful Counsels of the Spiritual Life”, “Directives for the Interior Life”, “On Interior Consolation” and “On the Blessed Sacrament”. The approach taken in the Imitation is characterized by its emphasis on the interior life and withdrawal from the world. The book places a high level of emphasis on the devotion to the Eucharist as key element of spiritual life.

Gift and Ministry

“In Gift and Mystery we read ‘For every priest, in every age, the greatest task is each day to discover his own priestly “today” in the “today” of Christ.’ John Paul II understands that the event of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ in world history continues daily in a special way in the priestly brotherhood of those who have been chosen to follow in his footsteps–and indeed in every man and woman, all called through the gift of faith to a life of holiness. In concluding Gift and Mystery, the pope writes to his brother priests, ‘Learn to see in your priesthood the Gospel treasure for which it is worth giving up everything.’ Surely in the life of this pope we see an extraordinary example of someone who has treasured the gift of his priestly ministry for more than fifty years.”

Introduction to the Devout Life

Francis de Sales’s Introduction to the Devout Life has remained a uniquely accessible and relevant treasure of devotion for nearly four hundred years. As Bishop of Geneva in the first quarter of the sevenjteenth century, Francis de Sales saw to the spiritual needs of everyone from the poorest peasants to court ladies. The desire to be closer to God that he found in people from all levels of society led him to compile these instructions on how to live in Christ. Francis’s compassionate Introduction leads the reader through practical ways of attaining a devout life without renouncing the world and offers prayers and meditations to strengthen devotion in the face of temptation and hardship.

Soul of the Apostolate

In his classic work The Soul of the Apostolate, Dom Chautard demonstrates that the very foundation of all apostolic work must be the Interior Life. The apostle of Christ will grow to become an instrument and true channel of God’s graces to the world only through prayer, meditation and the cultivation of the Interior Life. When one is involved in works of spiritual or corporal charity, his work can only be truly efficacious when he anchors his Interior Life in Christ. Without Christ we can do nothing.

The Way of Salvation and Perfection

In this book, the spiritual master’s meditations focus on the life of the soul, its journey towards God, and the disastrous effects of sin on the soul. In particular, the saint focuses attention on the death of the Christian: “O moment, on which depends eternity!"

Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence

Possibly one of the greatest classics on surrendering our wills to Divine Providence (God’s will). Filled with beautiful, penetrating insights, an incredibly rich store of Catholic wisdom. Shows how sanctity is to be attained amidst our common daily activities when performed to perfection and for the love of God. Written to help those who despair of ever becoming holy.

The Priest is Not His Own

The beloved Archbishop Sheen, whose cause for canonization is open in Rome, presents a profound and deeply spiritual look at the meaning of the priesthood and relationship of the priest with Christ as an “alter Christus.”
Sheen delves deeply into what he considers the main character of the priesthood, and one not often discussed, that of being, like Christ, a “holy victim.” To be like Christ, Sheen emphasizes that the priest must imitate Christ in His example of sacrifice, offering himself as a victim to make His Incarnation continually present in the world.

“Unlike anyone else, Our Lord came on earth, not to live, but to die. Death for our redemption was the goal of His sojourn here, the gold that he was seeking. He was, therefore, not primarily a teacher, but a Savior. Was not Christ the Priest a Victim? He never offered anything except Himself. So we have a mutilated concept of our priesthood, if we envisage it apart from making ourselves victims in the prolongation of His Incarnation.”

St. Therese of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations

Those who attended St. Thérèse of Lisieux during her last illness were living in the company of one of God’s “greatest” saints, one prepared for our times. Fortunately for us they did not simply listen to her conversations, but wrote down what they remembered. This volume brings together their reports of Thérèse’s “final words” during her last months, including some of her most famous sayings, such as “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.”

Truly Our Sister

The first-century Jewish woman Miriam of Nazareth, mother of Jesus, is the most celebrated female religious figure in the Christian tradition. Elizabeth Johnson offers an interpretation of Mary that is theologically sound, spiritually empowering, ethically challenging, socially liberating, and ecumenically fruitful. In particular, she sees the image of Mary as a blessing rather than a blight for women's lives in both religious and political terms.

"If you read only one book on Mary in your lifetime, let this be the one." American Catholic Booksellers'

Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body

Internationally renowned Biblical scholar Michael Waldstein offers a new critical translation of Pope John Paul IIs talks on the Theology of the Body, presenting his magnificent vision of the human person with meticulous scholarship and profound insight. A Preface by Cardinal Schönborn, a Foreword by Christopher West, a comprehensive index of words and phrases, a Scriptural index, and a reference table for other versions of the papal texts are included. Recipient of a CPA Award!

Discerning Religious Life

by Mother Clare Matthiass, CFR

A comprehensive guide to help women discern Religious Life with clarity, confidence, and joy. Foreword by Cardinal Dolan.

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To Save a Thousand Souls

For a man thinking about the priesthood, there are dozens of websites and pamphlets available on the subject. But until recently, there has not been a single, comprehensive guide to answer deeper questions and offer clear-cut guidance.

To Save A Thousand Souls, published in 2009, is a 400-page book that provides the answers commonly asked by men discerning the priesthood. The book, written by Fr. Brett Brannen of the Diocese of Savannah, has been called the most comprehensive guide ever written for men praying through their vocation.

“I always wanted a single resource I could hand to a man—something that answered all his questions about the priesthood—so I started writing a few chapters,” said Fr. Brannen, who until recently served as Vice-Rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. “I love being a priest and I know that Jesus is calling a sufficient number of men to be priests in his Church. I hope this book will help these men overcome their fears and respond to God’s call.”

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