Le blog de la Bergerie
Sharing the faith . . . in English . . . et en français!
Formative, Favorite and Crucial Books and Book Reviews...
All the books mentioned below were crucial
in my re-turn to the Church, and, besides feeding me on my journey,
each one of them was like
a sign-post on the road, saying: "Keep Going! Beautiful panoramic view
ahead!" and because of this, I am extremely grateful to them...
- The Lord by Romano Guardini
Each chapter covers a stage of the life of Jesus and a
facet of the economy of salvation. From a very strong base of fidelity, scholarship
and piety, beautifully mixing theology and devotion, the historical and the
supernatural, the result is an extremely rich and profound account of the
life of Our Lord. Easy to read, very well constructed so each chapter is a
little gem on its own and that's why I keep coming back to it. We used it
as a constant reference in one of my NT class and it was very inspiring to
Then-Cardinal Ratzinger himself wrote (for the 2002 re-printing of The Lord)
that "as we are taught by Guardini, the essence of Christianity is not an
idea, not a system of thought, not a plan of action. The essence of Christianity
is a Person: Jesus Christ himself. .. The peril of the Church, indeed of humanity,
consists in bleaching out the image of Jesus Christ in an attempt to shape
a Jesus according to our standards…This book leads us to that which is essential,
to that which is truly real, Jesus Christ himself. That is why today this
book still has a great mission".
- The Thought of St. Paul by Rev. William Most.
A fascinating and rich commentary on each one of the
Pauline Epistles, chapter by chapter, almost verse by verse. Fr. Most is very
good at transmitting his own knowledge of Saint Paul to the reader, at engaging
us to a deeper understanding of the Pauline theology and at helping us articulate
our own faith in the process - or so I felt reading this book.
Fr. John Hardon wrote that "Fr. Most's Thought of St. Paul is a masterful
compendium of the Church's teaching on divine grace, and of our free cooperation
with grace - not only for salvation but for obtaining the highest degree of
- An introduction to the New Testament by Raymond E. Brown.
A very rich exegesis of the NT by a local scholar. It
is a very rich, resourceful and exhaustive commentary on the NT - although
I have to admit upfront that I first found it difficult to enjoy because of
his extended coverage of dissenting views - but that was my own prejudice.
Once I was able to put that aside, I appreciated it better and I keep going
back to it because I have a lot to learn from Raymond Brown's scholarship.
Bruce M. Metzger, Prof. of NT, Emeritus, Princeton Theological Seminary says
that "Once again Raymond Brown has written a magnum opus... a monumental piece
of scholarship that speaks to experts and novices alike."
- Dictionary of the Bible by John L. McKenzie, S.J.
A most wonderful and amazingly complete listing of every
name, term and concept in the Bible, with each explanation written in a clear,
concise and balanced way, with all appropriate verse references. I am forever
indebted to the Jesuit teacher who recommended this book for our OT class.
The Journal of Biblical Literature says: "Simply amazing…every important subject
and person commonly regarded as biblical is treated, and never skimpily. Fr.
McKenzie is an honest and outspoken scholar who has done and excellent job
- Pathways in Scriptures by Damasus Winzen.
A Book-by-Book guide to the Spiritual Riches of the Bible.
Very good at pointing out each "type", at unfolding the story in front of
us, connecting the dots within each Book and from one Book to another one.
A real delight for whoever loves the Word of God. It greatly helped me grow
in the love of the liturgy too, which, to me, is the normal consequence of
a deeper understanding of Scriptures. There is a normal, natural "loop" effect
Scott Hahn wrote in the foreword that "Father Winzen reads the Bible in the
Church's tradition, which acknowledges the moral, allegorical and heavenly
senses of Scriptures but which also say (with St. Thomas Aquinas) that "all
other senses of Sacred Scriptures are based on the literal."
- The Spirit of the Early Christian Thought by Robert Louis
Another wonderful book! A real treasure. Extremely informative
on the early Church, its beginning worship, its early formulation of doctrines,
its struggle and success. The subtitle is "seeking the face of God" which
underlies the spiritual intent of this book.
Jaroslav Pelikan said "By turns scholarly, contemplative, and argumentative,
this is an exposition in which the early Christian writers speak for themselves
- and to us".
- First Comes Love by Scott Hahn
Finding your family in the Church and the Trinity. A
fairly short but very easy to read and very inspiring book on the Christian
life and the Christian world-view. I love Dr. Hahn as a speaker! And he writes
in the same vein, I don't know if it is because he is a convert to the Catholic
faith or because of his energetic personality (or both) but I found his zeal
for the faith and his enthusiasm for the Church to be very contagious. As
a "re-turning Catholic", it resonates very well with my own experience of
Peter Kreeft, Ph. D., Prof. of philosophy, Boston College, said: "First Comes
Love is John Paul's biblical theology of the family in layman's language.
Deceptively simple, this book is both radically orthodox and profoundly revolutionary."
- Spiritual Passages by Fr. Benedict Groeschel.
The subtitle says: The psychology of spiritual development
- For those who seek. Here is another terrific speaker! Or, at least, he certainly
was, before his accident last year. I haven't seen him since and I think he
is still recuperating. But Fr. Groeschel will always be an inspiring figure
to me. And funny too! This specific book goes over the classic stages of maturing
in the life of the faith, from the early steps of turning toward God to the
highest levels of mystical union with God which has been called: seeing the
face of God… Because Fr. Groeschel illustrates the various stages along the
way in the standard manner of psychology with real life cases, this book has
a very practical aspect to it, besides being a spiritual guide.
The back page cover says: "A crossroad bestseller since its first publication
in 1983… this groundbreaking integration of spiritual genius and psychological
training has enjoyed a reputation as a classic in the field of human development."
- The Mystery of Pentecost by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa.
I love and cherish everything written (or preached) by
Fr. Cantalamessa, who is the official preacher to the papal household. Thank
you, Zenit news, from offering us his preachings on a regular basis. I especially
loved this book, on the Mystery of Pentecost but, since I wrote a commentary
on it (which I will post soon), I will not write anything else about it here.
- Introduction a la vie dévote par Saint François de Sales.
"Introduction to the devout life": this is "ze" classic
guide for growing in the faith while nurturing and developing the love of
God. And Saint Francois lived in my neighborhood! Right there in Haute Savoie,
in the beautiful city of Annecy. He traveled tirelessly the roads from Annecy
to Geneva, from Thorrens to Grenoble. A terrific book to keep by your bed
side. Very practical since it is full of daily details of what one should
do if one is serious about loving God and following Christ. Very spiritual
since it is aiming at purifying our actions and thoughts and emotions and
preparing us for the Kingdom. Very inspiring since it is written from the
heart, since every page is overflowing with the love of God. Very pastoral
since it is all about the daily applications of love of neighbor. And finally,
I found Saint Francois a great model for evangelization since he lived in
the terrible moment of the protestant schism and since he devoted so much
of his energy bringing souls back to the fold of the Church.
Besides reading and re-reading Saint Francois de Sales' writings, I read about
him and his life and his ministry and I highly recommend:
Un sage et un saint : François de Sales, par André Ravier.
La spiritualité de l'amour (de Saint François de Sales), par le Père Jean
- The Confessions of Saint Augustine.
The style of these Confessions is unique and the eloquence
and beauty of their rhythm is pure poetry. The vulnerability revealed in the
sharing of his most intimate thoughts and emotions builds a bond of affection
between him and the reader. The wisdom revealed in his growth in the love
of God and the resulting growth in self-understanding brings forth similar
fruits in the reader. Or so I felt when I first read this book! For me, it
was a crucial and critical book, it was more than a book, it was an experience.
It is just amazing that something written 16 centuries ago could resonate
so truly today. His comments on growing up and peer pressure, on vanity, human
frailty and foolishness, are just as valid today. I found great personal consolation
in Book 3 where he speaks about his mother's tears… And I loved Book 8 where
he is able to describe a spiritual awakening almost as an adventure.
The back cover says: The Confessions constitute perhaps the most moving diary
ever recorded of a soul's journey to grace. Appearing midway in Saint Augustine's
prodigious body of theological writings, they stand among the most persuasive
works of the sinner-turned-priest who was to exercise a greater influence
on Christian thoughts than any of the other Church fathers.
- The Spirit of the Liturgy by then-Cardinal Ratzinger.
A wonderful book on the history and theology of correct
worship, on the development of the Liturgy, on its impact on the culture,
always giving the Eucharist its proper place in the big picture of the salvation
of the world: in the heart of it all! This book has been crucial in shaping
my own understanding of the liturgy and my own participation in this mystery.
I found myself repeating some of the sentences in this book to my friends
and I have since recognized some of the themes in other books by our Pope.
Pope Benedict XVI's speaks from the heart of the Church, from a solid knowledge
of the tradition but he is also very familiar with the recent challenges of
the 20th century in the Liturgy. His truths are very simple truths, very beautiful
because of the clarity and strength with which they are stated: "Peace with
God is the first necessary step before peace in the world"; "We are incorporated
into the great historical process which the world moves toward the fulfillment
of God being all in all"; "Christ is the bridge between time and eternity";
"the cosmic should serve the historical, not the reverse"; "to reduce Christ
to the historical Jesus misses the point of the Incarnation"; "the immense
growth in man's mastery of the material world has left him blind to the questions
of life's meaning that transcends the material world"; "for from the very
nature of the liturgy by an inner necessity comes a culture that becomes the
standard for all secular culture'; "in the Consecration, in God's action,
the world is silent for a moment"; "the people should not only stand up physically
but rise up spiritually"… A short list of quotes cannot do justice to the
importance of this book so I hope I have said enough to entice you to read
it yourself and I highly recommend it to be shared in any prayer group or
in any Liturgy committee.
The inside cover says: In this profound and beautifully written treatment
of the "great prayer of the Church", Ratzinger offers his unique insights
on many areas of the Liturgy to help readers rediscover the hidden spiritual
wealth and transcendent grandeur of the Liturgy as the very center of Christian
- The Collected Works of Flannery O'Connor.
This is a treasure of a book because it contains all
of her writings, her novels and her correspondence, in one volume. And although
her novels are why she is well-known and admired, I found personally the greatest
delight and enjoyment in her correspondence. She was a writer who enjoyed
the recognition of her art in her own life time, she was also a teacher and
a lecturer and she wrote numerous letters to friends, to students, to admirers
or just plain aspiring writers, where she displays the best pastoral and evangelizing
skills. The woman had a clear grasp of what the Catholic Church is! And she
knew how to write about it. I loved the way she knew how to share her faith
with believers and non-believers, in clear admonitions or very subtle hints.
I felt I was befriending her more and more as I read along and I am very grateful
for all these letters where she reveals so much about her own efforts at writing,
her own life, in the South in the 50's, and her Catholic faith.
The back cover says: Flannery O'Connor discovered intimations of divinity
not in the lives of the saints but in wickedly funny tales of human misfits
who, through peculiar and often violent turns of events, run up against the
limit of worldly wisdom. Her essays and letters reveal O'Connor's sharp perceptions
about literature and life, her devotion to her art, her Catholic faith, and
her courage in the face of great physical pain and the anticipation of death.