Ancient and Future Catholic Reading List
|We have decided to list the books and resources that have deeply shaped our Catholic faith, including our journeys from evangelical to Catholic. We have teamed up with our favorite bookstores, Amazon.Com and Christian Book Distributors. Whenever you order books through our pages, you help support our ministries. We do not endorse any book in its entirety. We have included Orthodox and Protestant books when they are helpful in a particular category, although be aware that they are written from a non-Catholic perspective, and should be read with this in mind.
The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition (Catholic)
New Jerusalem Bible by ed. Henry Wansborough (Catholic)
Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English by Lancelot Brenton (Protestant)
The Holy Bible: Douay Rheims Version (Catholic)
The Compact History of the Catholic Church by Alan Schreck
This is probably the best concise introduction to Catholic history on the market. It is written for beginners, but since many Catholics are unfamiliar with basic Church History, this book serves a very important purpose!
Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1 by William Jurgens (Catholic)
The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 2 by William Jurgens (Catholic)
The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 3 by William Jurgens (Catholic)
William Jurgens has compiled sayings of the Church Fathers from the Didache (1st century) until John of Damascus (8th century) in three handy volumes, showing the faith of early Christians. Each topic is arranged by author, but there is a handy index in the back showing where the Fathers spoke of various Catholic beliefs. East and West are both represented liberally.
The Early Church Fathers, 38 Volumes – Donaldson, et. al. (eds) (Eds + Notes are Protestant)
This 36 volume set contains virtually all of the early Christian writings from 100-325 AD, and many of the writings of the Church Fathers from 325-600 AD. The first 10 volumes cover the early period, including Justin, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Origen, and others. 14 volumes are dedicated to Augustine and John Chrysostom, two great Western and Eastern Churchmen. The last 14 volumes have a variety of other Fathers, including Jerome, Basil, Leo, Athanasius, and Eusebius, and an entire 675 page volume on the Seven Ecumenical Councils!. This set is extremely affordable. All 36 volumes now are very affordable (only on christianbook.com). The English is a little stilted, as the set was translated in the late 1800s. The only major drawback is that the notes often show a strong anti-Catholic (and often anti-Orthodox) bias, which often tries to turn the Fathers into proto-Protestants. Read the Fathers; be careful about the notes.
Early Christian Doctrines by J.N.D. Kelly (Protestant)
Kelly, an Anglican scholar, has produced a nice one-volume church history book. He covers nearly every pertinent topic including Scripture, Tradition, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Church, the Sacraments, etc. in a way that is both academic and easy to read, making it perfect for the theology student and the interested layperson. While Kelly is not Catholic, he writes from a scholarly point-of-view, sympathetic to Catholic Teaching.
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church by F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone (eds.) (Various)
If you have the money, this book is perhaps the most useful book for those studying Christian history. Its 1824 pages include concise entries on just about every topic relevant to the Church: the Bible, liturgy, theologians, movements, and denominations. Priests, pastors, and scholars could all make good use of this book. This book is primarily a work of Catholics, Anglicans, and Orthodox. Site editor David Bennett has written a longer review, which can be reached by following the above link.
The Early Church by Sir Henry Chadwick (Protestant)
Chadwick’s book is perfect for beginners and covers enough material to give even casual readers a basic knowledge of the early Church. His genius is in his ability to make Church history readable, understandable, and even exciting. Our only complaint is that his book lacks some cohesion and he jumps around frequently. However, this is a problem for any book on Church history, theology, etc. so it’s a minor complaint. Nonetheless, this book got many interested in Church History, leading them to explore the Catholic Church. Site editor David Bennett has written an in-depth review that can be reached by clicking the above link.
The Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours (Catholic)
The Liturgy of the Hours is the traditional daily worship of Christians, based on the different times Christians would pray throughout the day (traditionally 9 times). This prayer book takes 4 of the offices, Morning Prayer (Lauds), Daytime Prayer (a combination of Terce, Sext, None), Evening Prayer (Vespers), and Night Prayer (Compline), and makes them available to all. The layout can be a bit difficult to understand at first, but once you get it, the setup provides a rich and varied cycle of prayer tied to the Church Year.
People’s Prayer Book: New Saint Joseph (Catholic)
This is a Catholic collection of prayers that is extremely thorough. It includes Novenas, prayers of famous saints, prayers for the concerns of the laity, prayers of differing Christian traditions, prayers from the Mass, etc. How many prayer books have “a prayer before you drive” or “a prayer before going on a date?” Be aware that there are prayers from other faith traditions contained in this book. While the Church recognizes the good things contained in other faiths, it is important that this does not lead to a relativism or indifferentism, where all faiths are viewed as equal to Christianity.
Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton (Catholic)
Merton, a Trappist monk, provides a guide for contemplative prayer, using the ancient mystics and fathers as his inspiration. While the book is written for monks, it is a good book for everyone seeking to deepen his or her spirituality.
Marriage Is for Keeps: Foundations for Christian Marriage by John F. Kippley (Catholic)
This is probably one of the best marriage prep books available. It explains the Catholic Teaching about marriage, including the duties the couple owe to God and each other. The “wedding edition” is particularly helpful for planning a wedding, as it lays out the readings, prayers, etc, available for you to choose.
Good News About Sex and Marriage: About Catholic Teaching by Christopher West (Catholic)
West details the traditional Christian teachings on marriage, sex, love, and other related topics. Essentially we have a summary of Catholic teaching on the matter. Non-Catholics might find some of the information (such as what constitutes a valid marriage) foreign, but nonetheless all Christians should find this an excellent summary of classical Christian sexual ethics.
The Art of Natural Family Planning by John and Sheila Kippley (Catholic)
This is a scientific guide to using Natural Family planning, an alternative for those opposed to contraception. Contraception was virtually universally opposed by Christians of all stripes before the Anglican church paved the way for its use in Protestant denominations in the 1930s. The Catholic Church, following the witness of the Church Fathers, still opposes contraception, but not Natural Family Planning.
The Tide Is Turning Toward Catholicism by David Hartline (Catholic)
Dave Hartline, editor of The Catholic Report, explains why a strong and orthodox Catholicism is emerging after years when it seemed dissent was in control of the Church. He provides various reasons why the tide truly is turning toward Catholicism, including an increase in vocations, the rise of orthodox Catholic colleges, and the popularity of orthodox Catholic blogs and websites (including our own!). This book is highly recommended.
The Postmodern Church by Bishop Jeremiah Newman (Catholic)
The bishop of Limerick, Ireland places the Church in the postmodern context, in terms of its beliefs about pluralism, feminism, and intellectualism. He uses John Paul II as an example as a faithful way forward in the postmodern era (Bp. Newman is not suggesting we mimic secular culture). Learn about the new environment the Church faces, and why enlightenment modernism has been ineffective at dealing with postmodern problems.
The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing… by Colleen Carroll (Catholic)
It is a verifiable trend that young Christians are embracing conservative and orthodox expressions of faith. Young priests have much more in common with elderly priests than baby-boomer priests. Young people are rediscovering worship forms and doctrinal expressions that were abandoned in the 60s and 70s. The radical liberals are getting grayer and grayer and replicating few of their own it seems. These conservative young are not uneducated, and many have graduated from prestigious institutions at the top of their class, perplexing those in charge of academia. Young folks are flocking to the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Church while skipping the mushy mainlines. The only drawback is that this book has very few scientific studies, but is more anecdotal.
Ancient & Postmodern Christianity: Essays In Honor Of Thomas C. Oden (Various)
Does the title sound vaguely familiar? Our name practically comes from Oden’s books. This is a collection of essays by a variety of writers from the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, and Methodist traditions. These include notable Catholic writers David Mills, Richard John Neuhaus, and Thomas Howard. The articles show that even those in non-Catholic Churches seem to be moving in a more Catholic direction. Site editor David Bennett has written an in-depth review that can be reached by clicking the above link.
The Heart of Catholicism: Essential Writings of the Church…
This book contains a sampling of Catholic authors from the beginning until the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. It is helpful in providing an introduction to Catholic theological, moral, and magisterial writings.
The Shape of Catholic Theology: An Introduction… Aidan Nichols (Catholic)
Aidan Nichols outlines the way the sources of Catholic theology, basic principles of doing theology, and the various sources of Catholic belief about God.
The Essential Moral Handbook by Kevin O’Neil and Peter Black (Catholic)
This book explains Catholic moral thought: conscience, the Magisterium, sin, and more. This is a one stop, handy guide to Catholic morality.
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church by Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (Catholic)
Catholic Social Teaching is the name given to the Catholic Church’s Teaching on justice, morality, society, economics, and a variety of other issues relevant to today’s world. This is the official compendium of Catholic Social Teaching approved by the Vatican, that is free of the dissent of some books on the matter.
Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Ratzinger (Catholic)
The current Pope Benedict XVI looks at forms of liturgical renewal after Vatican II. He exlplains what it means to celebrate the liturgy the right way, both internally and externally. If you have ever wanted to understand what constitutes good, sacred liturgy, then this is the book for you.
Springtime of the Liturgy by Lucien Deiss (Catholic)
Deiss has compiled various early liturgies, including “The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus,” “The Catecheses of St. Cyril,” “Didache,” and “Sermons of Melito” among other very important early liturgies. Deiss also analyzes various liturgies and doxologies in the Bible. He also provides information on the Jewish background of early Christian worship. This book collects liturgies from the infant, struggling Church, from the days when liturgical forms were similar, but content often varied by region. This makes the book enigmatic and fascinating, and shows that liturgical forms are very similar today as they were in the ancient Church.
Mass Confusion: The Do’s & Don’ts of Catholic Worship by James Akin (Catholic)
There are prescribed ways to celebrate the Catholic Mass. Unfortunately, many liturgists and priests have taken matters into their own hands and have toyed with the Mass, which means some parishes are not following prescribed Catholic liturgical guidelines. This book explains the right way to participate in Mass.
Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A… by Marva Dawn (Protestant)
Dawn is a Lutheran author who argues that much of “contemporary” worship is more sideshow and business than worship. While no fan of dead traditionalism, she argues that true worship must focus on Jesus Christ, and not on how the worshiper feels. How do we reach out and not dumb-down, since today’s Western culture tends to get rid of that which is not immediately easy. In other words, “how do we worship God without mirroring our empty culture?” Well…Let Dawn explain. Site editor David Bennett has written an in-depth review that can be reached by clicking the above link.
Vatican II: Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents by Austin Flannery (Catholic)
The Second Vatican Council has been one of the most controversial Councils of the Catholic Church. Much of this controversy surrounds the either the way in which the Council’s decrees have been implemented, or because of the extreme views of the those who speak in the so-called “spirit” of the Council. The documents themselves are monumental and important for 21st century Catholics.
Compendium: Catechism of the Catholic Church by US Conference of Bishops (Catholic)
This is the regular Catechism of the Catholic Church put into question and answer format, rendering the Catechism easier to understand. This makes it useful for students, new converts, non-Catholics, or anybody who wants a Question and Answer version of the new Catechism.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (Catholic)
The catechism contains the central beliefs of the Catholic Church written in a way that keeps the tradition and beauty of the great Christian Tradition intact, while rendering her beliefs in an understandable manner. This is simply a majestic rendering of the basics of the Western Christian faith. It has no rival.
National Directory for Catechesis by The US Conference of Catholic Bishops
This book serves as a reference point for forming catechists and developing resources, and provides practical tools for doing catechesis well. Recommended for Catechists and Educators.