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Romano Guardini's The Inner Life of Jesus.
This is the first "life of Christ" type book I've read, and I liked it very much. Guardini begins by describing - in a way that initially seems haphazard - various aspects of Christ's earthly life, such as his healing ministry and his apparent failure in everything he attempted. Ultimately, the meditation turns to Christ's very identity as Son of God, as one who yearns to do the will of the Father ("My food is..." John 4:34). The absolute key to understanding Christ's actions is his identity as the Son of God. This book shows the folly of attempting to understand Christ in any other way - as preacher, healer, psychologist, political agent - without using his divine identity as a starting point.

From Chapter 10:

"If a man goes back into himself, he finds a man. If I look within myself, I find my thoughts, my excitements, my guilt, my sorrow, and the entire distress and poverty of my finiteness. I find myself. But when Jesus called upon Himself the 'I' who answered within Him was God. And God was also the one who called"

The book has a certain power to it, I think due to the way Guardini draws you in deeper and deeper. It made me desire to read more of him and other "Life of Christ" books.

Ignacio Larranaga's Transfiguration
A nice little book that serves as an introductory primer on spiritual growth. The author is a psychologist (his biography of St. Francis is one of my favorites) and he tends to approach spiritual questions from a psychological standpoint.

The most important part of this book, I believe, is his discussion of humility. He talks of humility in terms of detachment, and contrasts it with psychological appropriation of people and things. When in my mind, I appropriate a piece of land, or a pile of money, or the body of another to myself, I form an attachment to that person or thing. These attachments stem from and can also lead to a prideful sense of entitlement. Detachment (and thereby humility) consists of releasing my mind from these attachments and any sense of having a "right" to those things which are God's to give and take.

This is such an insightful way to look at detachment and humility. In this way, a great many of sins can be traced to their root in the mind (heart). Think of a man lusting for a woman. He has psychologically appropriated this woman's body to himself for his own use - even if only mental. Humility says that he has no right to that woman's body; it is a gift God gave to her to use to glorify Him. The lustful man asserts his prideful desire over God's plan by appropriating for himself a part of creation that God did not intend for him to have. Acting on this attachment leads to the sins of adultery, rape, and all other sins of unchastity. The same analysis can be used to get to the root causes of wars, murders, thefts, etc.

The rest of the book is OK. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, but I do like his writing. It's psychological in a very good way. If you're going to pick up one of his books, I'd go for Brother Francis instead. Warning: if you do pick it up, don't get fleeced. I saw it onlinw somewhere for 17 bucks. Don't buy it for more than 7.

Benedict Groeschel's Augustine: Major Writings
This is a very broad introduction to Augustine's writings. If you're not familiar at all with Augustine, it's a good start, but a better start might be to just go ahead and pick up Confessions. Fr. Groeschel tends to let Augustine speak for himself, which is fine, because Augustine does that very well, but then, what do we need Groeschel for? Additionally, the analysis he does give often seems not quite related to what the passage he is describing says. I can't say I recommend this for anything except that he recommends some scholars of Augustine that seemed worth a look.

John Saward's Redeemer in the Womb: Jesus Living in Mary
This is by far my favorite book I read all year. John Saward might just be my favorite author. Another of his books is entitled The Beauty of Holiness, and that strikes me as a wonderful way to describe his writing. He writes about the truths and the mysteries of our faith, and does them incredible justice by injecting his own devotion into his words.

I read Redeemer in the Womb as an Advent preparation for Christmas, and I can highly recommend it for that purpose. The entire book is a meditation on Jesus living in Mary. Saward traces this theme from the Gospels through the Fathers, the Scholastics, etc. From its beginnings to the present moment, the Church has worshipped the embryonic Christ as God and has battled heresies which tried to deny or explain away the fact that God assumed and redeemed humanity from its earliest zygotic stage. He pulls some of the most beautiful passages in Christian writing to demonstrate the Church's unrelenting honoring of Christ and his Virgin bearer through the centuries. Pick this up next Advent.

Now reading

Familiaris Consortio

John Saward's The Way of the Lamb

Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray

Alexander Dumas' The Three Musketeers

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Yep, John Saward is one of the best Catholic writers today. Also don't miss his Cradle of Redeeming Love, also from Ignatius.

He was recently ordained to the priesthood, iirc. Can you imagine hearing his homilies every Mass? Wow!



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