Thursday, May 1, 2008

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Books

Last week, there was a request for us to list our favorite apologetics books. I haven't forgotten, and I thought I would try to get around to that now. Most of my books are still in boxes from my recent move, so I might do a follow-up post when I unpack and see what I missed.

First, you really can't begin to have a good basis for Catholic doctrine without a copy of the Catechism. When I was in late high school and early college, I really began searching for what I believed, and part of that was finding what Catholicism was really about. I read through the Catechism during one summer, and I was really amazed by what I read there. My faith formation was really very poor, so I really learned an amazing amount by reading the Catechism.

On the other hand, if you are a mother with a limited amount of time, and often lacking in brain cells due to sleep deprivation, you might not be quite up for a cover to cover read of the Catechism. We now have the Compendium of the Catholic Catechism available, but I actually haven't read it, so I don't know if it would fit the bill or not.

What I have read, and can easily recommend, is getting a copy of the old Baltimore Catechism. A few points are outdated, but I found it very easy to understand, and with clear explanations of points of faith. For example, on the saints, it says:

Q. 1195. What do we mean by praying to the saints?

A. By praying to the saints we mean the asking of their help and prayers.

Q. 1196. Do we not slight God Himself by addressing our prayers to saints?

A. We do not slight God Himself by addressing our prayers to saints, but, on the contrary, show a greater respect for His majesty and sanctity, acknowledging, by our prayers to the saints, that we are unworthy to address Him for ourselves, and that we, therefore, ask His holy friends to obtain for us what we ourselves are not worthy to ask.

Q. 1197. How do we know that the saints hear us?

A. We know that the saints hear us, because they are with God, who makes our prayers known to them.

Q. 1198. Why do we believe that the saints will help us?

A. We believe that the saints will help us because both they and we are members of the same Church, and they love us as their brethren.

After I read that, I moved on to every Catholic's favorite apologetics book, Rome Sweet Home, by Scott and Kimberly Hahn. What can I say, it's quick and easy read, it's funny and touching, and it hits all the main topics everyone has questions about. You can read Scott's conversion story online, but the addition of Kimberly story makes getting the book worthwhile. This is the book I loan to all of my moderately Catholic friends and family.

As I began to wade into apologetics, I often reach for Dave Armstrong's A Biblical Defense of Catholicism. This book is really excellent for understanding the Biblical basis to various Catholic doctrines. It is written in an easy to understand manner, and while it is longer than Rome Sweet Home, I still think it would pass the new Mom sleep deprivation test. Many of the points he made were in agreement with what I learned at a state University, so I felt I could trust his research. For example, he gives a timeline for when various books were considered canonical for the New Testament, and even lists the source for the information (i.e., Eusebius).

Along similar lines, is The Catholic Controversy by St. Francis de Sales. St. Francis was sent as a missionary to the Chablais region of France, which had been converted to Calvinism. However, the Calvinist ministers had warned the people not to listen to his preaching. Instead, he printed pamphlets, which he slid under doors at night. After four years, 72,000 had converted back to Catholicism! Because of the date these were written, the language is at a higher level. I really enjoyed reading them, though, and his arguments were very simple and logical. Because of the audience, he relied heavily on Scripture based arguments, but also appealed to the Fathers of the Church at times. Some parts are outdated, such as the section on why Mass can only be said in Latin! I especially enjoyed his defense of the primacy of Peter.

I also bought The Essential Catholic Survival Guide, which is basically the Catholic Answers website in book form. It includes the essays about Catholic doctrine, but also the entire section of the Anti-Catholicism essays. Hunting the Whore of Babylon, Is Catholicism Pagan?, it's all there. I love the internet, but I like being able to read from a book, too. Especially when my husband is on the computer, or if I want to be able to loan the Catholic Answers website to someone.

Finally, I LOVE my Navarre Bible, Reader's Edition. The three volume New Testament is the perfect size. It isn't too intimidating to read, but I get paragraphs of Catholic exegesis for almost every verse. The notes are often quotations from the Fathers of the Church. I love reading sections from homilies that were given hundreds of years ago. It's like the Greatest Hits Bible. I recently received the final volume, which includes Revelation, as an early birthday gift, so you can look forward to more tidbits from there in the future. Especially if the Whore of Babylon comes up again. (And it will!)

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Sal said...

Thank you, Kelly- I see a couple I may have to buy.

Two of my favorites:
The Spirit of Catholicism by Karl Adam. This is a classic introductory explanation of Catholic doctrine. It's especially good for those who question the necessity of the Church in Christian life. Scholarly, but not pedantic. I have the 1954 Image Book version- it was re-printed in 2007.

How the Reformation Happened by Hillaire Belloc. Even though this was published in 1928, I think it is still the best general popular history of the Reformation. Straightforward and non-polemic. Belloc explains the social and historical background of the times and puts the events in the perspective of a man's ordinary lifetime. This is a very useful device for those whose knowlege of the progression of the movement might be sketchy. Any history buffs you're talking with would find it very interesting and challenging. I really can't recommend this too highly.

Both are available from Amazon.

Kelly said...

I haven't read any Hillaire Belloc yet, so I may have to get that one to remedy my deficiency. Having been public schooled the whole way, I've been slowly reading through the "Catholic Classics."

My current favorite is the Kristin Lavransdatter series by Sigrid Undset.

kritterc said...
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kritterc said...
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kritterc said...

Kelly - I have been looking at that series. I am a bit confused, though. I think there must be a couple of different translations. Which one are you reading? Thanks.

Kelly said...

kritterc, here is the publisher's website:

Click on Navarre Bibles, then "New Testament Combined Volumes." The one to the left has all of the New Testament in one volume, and that is NOT what I have.

The three on the right are Gospels and Acts, Letters of St. Paul, and Revelation with Hebrews and Catholic Letters. These three volumes are what I have.

You can find them cheaper, elsewhere, though, and Amazon carries them. The three volume edition is known as the Reader's Edition. The full set is runs to 12 volumes, I believe.

erewhom said...

I read the answers to Qs 1196 and 1197 as contradicting each other. "We ask His holy friends to obtain for us what we ourselves are not worthy to ask" but "know that the saints hear us, because they are with God, who makes our prayers known to them." Can you explain how appealing to saints because we’re not worthy to address God directly, but then God forwarding our appeals to them so they can submit them to him, is not contradictory? (Honest, non-rhetorical, non-sarcastic question.)

Elena said...

Erewhom, it's in Catholic shorthand.

The saints are there by the grace of God, and therefore able to receive our prayers because they are in his presence. But the saints add their prayers to ours and knowing "The prayers of the righteous avails much" they help bring us closer to God.

I'd do an e-mail analogy but you know how analogies are...

Sal said...

I'm a long-time Catholic and even I thought that was worded oddly. It sounds rather as if we never pray to God on our own, which is of course, incorrect.

Sal said...

Are you reading the new translation? I'd forgotten about the new version- also a must read.

If I wouldn't be a hissing and a by-word, I'd admit that I'm fonder of Belloc than Chesterton (though I admire him a lot, too).

Enjoy your break!

Kelly said...

I guess it wasn't so clear after all. Perhaps I should have picked a different section. ;)