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Do You Only Read Contemporary Catholic Books?

Catholic BooksAlready an avid reader, since converting to Catholicism I have delved into all sorts of Catholic books — mostly new, but a few classics.

I am currently participating in “Epic: The Early Church” video study through my parish and so picked up some of the early church writings of saints, including bishops and popes, who lived during this period. On my desk right now is St. Athanasius’ “On the Incarnation.” St. Athanasius was the bishop of Alexandria in the early 300s who defended against Arianism, a belief which denied the divinity of Christ.

The introduction to the version of the work I am reading was written by the great Christian theologian and author C.S. Lewis. In it, interestingly, he recommends reading one classic/old book for every new book you read, or at least one old one to every three new ones.

He explains that older books give us a history and context within which new books have descended. Also, every age has it’s own outlook, he says, so it’s important not to solely immerse yourself in that outlook, but present yourself with other perspectives, especially by those deemed great theologians and even doctors of the church.

How many old books do you read compared to contemporary books?

Don’t Panic! Follow the Lead of Saints Athanasius, Augustine & Catherine

“God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.” — Mother Teresa

St Augustine of Hippo

Augustine of Hippo (354–430 CE) as painted by Botticelli (c.1445–1510) Credit WikiImages

Many people are so very upset — and rightfully so — by the recent Supreme Court rulings upholding the Affordable Care Act and making it legal for individuals of the same sex to marry around the country. No doubt about it, this is a blow for Christians and Catholics in the United States. It’s disappointing to see the leaders of our country, which was founded on God, make laws against the fundamental truths of God, including the right to life for all and marriage as defined as between a man and a women.

After attending mass on Tuesday, the feast of the first martyrs of Rome, and reading the 2014 book called “Renewed: Ten Ways to Rediscover the Saints, Embrace Your Gifts, and Revive Your Catholic Faith” by Robert Reed (Ave Maria Press), I was reminded of how much the Church has been through since its founding. Certainly, the Catholic Church has been through WAY worse than this; in fact, this is barely a blip on the screen of persecution the Church has faced over time.

Can you imagine being one of the Roman martyrs, who lived in the time of the Emperor Nero when Christians were put to death in the most cruel manner possible for the entertainment of others? They lived in a society with a rule of law where Christians had NO rights and were killed for fun! But many persevered in their faith, going to their death as believers in Christ.

While I am not saying we shouldn’t be alarmed or stop encouragin our government to uphold the fundamental truths of God, I am saying we need not panic. We WILL get through this, even if it gets much worse — and it probably will. We need simply follow the model of many of our saints and martyrs who also lived through even worse persecution. As Blessed Mother Teresa’s quote so perfectly explains, sometimes God asks us to simply “work,” not be successful. It’s in the “doing” where we will find grace.

St. Athanasius

Take the example of St. Athanasius, featured in the book “Renewed,” as an example of remaining “steadfast in the truth.” Named the Bishop of Alexandria, he was exiled five times from his OWN diocese for defending the truth that Jesus Christ is of “one substance” with God the Father. No matter what happened to him — or in the society around him — he kept proclaiming the truth over and over and over again, just as we should do. Says Reed:

“Athanasius worked and taught in a time of tumult, radical change, and uncertainty about the future of both Church and society. In other words, his time has a lot in common with our own. And it is a wonderful thing that lives of courageous faith like that of Athanasius are still being lived today.” 

St. Augustine

Another example in Reed’s book, in which he pairs two saints together based on a virtue they displayed, usually one who lived long ago and another more modern saint, is St. Augustine. We all know the story of his dramatic conversion after his mother, St. Monica, prayed for so many years.

But did you know that as he lay dying, St. Augustine watched as the city from which he had preached the faith fell to vandals who had converted to Arianism (a heresy against Christ)? He had also earlier in his life witnessed the sacking of Rome. But did St. Augustine fall prey to despair and give up on the world or his country after all the work he had done? No, he fought the good fight, and in the words of St. Paul, “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith!”

St. Catherine of Siena

St. Catherine worked tirelessly until the age of 33 to advocate reform of the clergy, the return of the papacy from Avignon to Rome, to heal the great Western schism and persuade others of the legitimacy of a new pope, Urban VI. This young woman, the daughter of a cloth dyer, dared to write letters to and visit popes to follow the path she was being led by Christ. Despite the constant conflict around her, she pressed on boldly.

These are just a tiny portion of the multitude of saints who have set such an example for us. The world might be falling apart around us, but remember all the persecution and trials that have passed before us. We need to keep the faith and keep on keeping on with the truth as we know it, and give the rest to God, knowing that His will be done.

Just as so many Christians before us have endured great torment, mockery and attempted destruction of their faith, so we may, too. But Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church. So let’s show the world what it means to be a Christian and put on the full armor of God, living our faith to its fullest completion, knowing that Christ wins in the end. Let us be faithful, even if we are not successful.

Note: Renewed was provided to me at no cost in exchange for a complete and honest review.

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