Whether we read fiction or nonfiction books, magazines, news articles, sports stories, or comics, most of us derive joy from reading. Books and articles open a whole new world and enlighten us to things we may not have previously thought about. The stories we read help us gain empathy and understanding. They teach us. And sometimes they make us laugh. These are all important things.
A couple days ago, I read that December is Spiritual Literacy Month. Designated as such in 1996, the purpose of this month is to “deepen our faith by reading books about spirituality, faith, or religion.”
What a perfect time of the year for this special month! As Advent is a time of preparation and of making room in our hearts and lives for the Christ Child, it is very fitting that December has taken on this designation.
Increasing our spiritual literacy is vital if we are to grow in faith. Just as we cannot expand a friendship with our neighbor if we never talk to him, we cannot expand our friendship with God if we don’t get to know Him. And the way we get to know Him is to read about Him and listen to His word. Of course, we should all read the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and we know of the greats like Aquinas, St. Therese of Lisieux, G.K Chesterton, and so many more. These are vital for any home library. But we cannot discount contemporary books, which are more likely to resonate with today’s culture—especially with young people. These books are meant to help us combat the forces of evil at work today. They’re meant to help us think and to understand. And best of all, they’re meant to help us articulate our faith.
Just as Christ charged His apostles to go out and evangelize, so He has charged us. But how can we do that if we don’t know Him? How can we live our lives glorifying God if we don’t understand what that means or even how to go about it? We need good teachers. And often those teachers take the form of good authors.
So, as we find ourselves deeper into Advent and deeper into Spiritual Literacy Month, let us take on the challenge to read at least one book this month that will strengthen our relationship with God. Let us take a step back from the craziness of December and think about what’s truly important, what Christmas really means, and what we were put on this earth to do.
Below are 10 books that you may not have heard of but that will transform you. Some will make you weep with joy. Some will broaden your understanding of scripture. Some will take you on a faith-filled journey to see things you’ve never seen. But all will deepen your love of and thirst for Christ.
And because it’s vital to raise children with a love for the faith and to immerse them in solid Catholic books, the last three on our list are just for them.
1. Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn
One of my all-time-favorite books is the story of Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s conversion to the Catholic Church. In this book, they tell that story with love, compassion, and raw truth. I guarantee that your heart will be on fire for our Lord as you read this book.
2. Walking with God: A Journey through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins
Get to know the Bible like never before. This journey takes you through the Bible’s 14 narrative books and helps you understand God’s salvation plan.
3. A Biblical Walk through the Mass by Edward Sri
Everything in Mass has meaning and biblical roots. This beautiful book will help you understand—and then explain to others—why we do what we do during Mass.
4. Jesus: The Way, the Truth, and the Life by Marcellino D’Ambrosio
This book takes Catholics on a journey through the entirety of Christ’s life and helps us get to know Him and the sacrifice He made because of His immense love for us.
5. Love Never Fails by Bishop Donald Hying
This inspirational book is made up of 53 short chapters on topics such as relying on God, evangelization, family, and more. In each chapter, you will find words of wisdom, inspiration, and love.
6. Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly
Just the prologue is enough to not only make you think but to bring tears to your eyes as you ponder the enormous sacrifice and love of God. For those who may feel weary or in need of inspiration, this is the book for you.
7. A Catholic Scientist Champions the Shroud of Turin by Gerard Verschuuren
The cloths that covered the body of Jesus after His crucifixion are examined in depth, and this examination leads us on the path to Calvary with Christ, as we learn about how many times He was beaten and what other atrocities He suffered. If you want to know the depths of Christ’s love for you, just look to the cross. And then read about what He endured for you.
And for young people:
8. When You Became You by Brooke Stanton and Christiane West
This beautifully illustrated picture book helps young children understand that they were human beings from the very first moment of creation. Using the Carnegie Stages of Development, the authors teach children the beauty of the developing human being. This book is vital to combat the lie that preborn babies are simply “blobs of tissue” or are not “fully” human.
9. Blessed Carlo Acutis: The Amazing Discovery of a Teenager in Heaven by Sabrina Arena Ferrisi
Teenagers often think of saints as “old” people from centuries ago, and while there are many beautiful examples of saints or soon-to-be-saints from recent times, one special young man stands out. Carlo Acutis was just 15 when he died, but he lived an amazing life of service to others. He gave to the poor, taught catechism classes, and created a website to show Eucharistic miracles to the world. This relatable young man will help young people realize that they too can become saints.
10. St. Joseph: The Foster-Father Saint by Maria Riley
This fictional chapter book for children will take your child on an amazing journey with three young children to meet St. Joseph. Along the way, they come to an understanding of what family truly means as they learn about the love that parents have for their children, even those who have been adopted. Steeped in Catholic truths, this book will leave your child yearning to read more.
It’s an incredible feeling to know that your heart is on fire for Christ and to grow in love and understanding of His sacrifice for you. And it’s even more of a gift to help set your children’s hearts on fire for the Lord. This is our responsibility as parents, but we cannot do this for our children if we have not yet first allowed our hearts to be awash with His love.
So this December, pick up a book, shut out the world, and allow God’s story to permeate every aspect of your life.