I recently got an email from a reader who wanted book recommendations for two different friends:
FRIEND #1: “[She] is Catholic, but rarely attends Mass and is self-described ‘not very faithful.’ She’s terrified of the world we live in. She’s scared to fly, to travel too far from home, to take her kids outside in the winter, everything…She has a wall up, she’s difficult to talk to and it would take a miracle for her to hand her fears over.”
FRIEND #2: “[She] was brought up Catholic but doesn’t go to church anywhere anymore. In fact she’s very hostile towards the faith. She has a lot of deep-seeded issues…I know one reason for her hostility towards Catholicism is that she thinks her mother just went to church ‘for show’ and then acted however she wanted to outside of church…I truly believe she is searching for meaning in her life, she’s just so confused.”
She has been praying for these two friends but would like to find some inspiring reading to offer them as well.
There is, of course, the possibility that these two friends are in places in their lives where a book wouldn’t help; and, either way, praying for them and showing them the love of Christ is by far the most important thing to do. That said, I think that the issues that these two friends struggle with are common ones, and I love to talk about books anyway, so I thought I’d open it up to see if anyone has any good reads to recommend.
- Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence: The Secret of Peace and Happiness by Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure and St. Claude de la Colombiere: I have not yet read this book myself, but everyone I know who’s read it says it changed their lives. Actually, most people say it changed their lives profoundly, especially in terms of letting go of fears and anxiety.
- He Leadeth Me by Walter Ciszek: It is one thing to opine about trusting God from the ivory tower; it is an entirely different thing, however, to opine about trusting God while wrongfully imprisoned in a Siberian slave labor camp. Fr. Ciszek’s reflections on the decades he spent in Siberia make for a fascinating page-turner of a book, but also provide some life-changing insights into what it means to let go of anxiety and trust God in all things.
- The Catholic Catechism: A Contemporary Catechism of the Teachings of the Catholic Church by John Hardon: I would recommend that she familiarize herself with a) what exactly the Church teaches, and b) the how’s and why’s behind its teachings. As I know from personal experience, when you have bad experiences with people who are members of a specific religion, it’s tempting to conflate their behavior with the tenets of their belief system. Especially when it’s your own childhood religion that you’re considering turning your back on because of a situation like this, I think it’s worth taking some time to really delve into its teachings and understand exactly what you’re leaving before you go on to something new.
- I’m not sure what else she might find helpful in her search to reconcile her negative experiences with religion with her search for meaning. Orthodoxy? Some of C.S. Lewis’ books? Reasons to Believe?
Also, another idea worth throwing out there is that her friends could consider seeing a counselor, preferably one who understands the importance of both psychological and spiritual healing. (I once saw a good pitch for seeking counseling as a path to spiritual healing in the comments here at Simcha’s blog). Catholic Therapists is a good place to start, and I’ve heard rave reviews of the Pastoral Solutions Institute Tele-Counseling Service, which offers reasonably-priced counseling via phone. (Of course my reader would have to discern whether it would be appropriate to recommend it to her to friends; I mainly mention it in case anyone else finds it helpful.)
Anyone else have any thoughts or books to recommend? I looooove talking about books, so I am particularly eager to read the comments on this one.
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