Top 5 Books on Christian Spirituality for Evangelization

When my wife and I were thinking about becoming Catholic (we entered the Catholic Church from the Baptist communion in 2005) we discovered an entire world of spiritual depth in the Catholic liturgy, Eucharistic Adoration, Catholic devotions, the Saints, and the writings of the early Church Fathers. We had never before experienced anything like it in our Protestant denomination. We felt that until that point, we had been wading in the shallow end of the pool when there was an entire ocean of Christian spirituality to be explored. 

In this Top 5 we’re going to share 5 books to consider passing on to non-Catholic friends and family to help them go deeper into their own spiritual life and discover the richness of the Catholic Tradition. Of hundreds of worthy books, I’m choosing 5 simple, highly readable, available, and helpful books. There are many more out there. Since “The Bible” would naturally top this, and many other lists, we’re not including it since we will have a Top 5 for study Bibles. 

One of the difficulties with shifting from no spirituality or a Protestant spirituality to a Catholic spirituality is simply understanding the richness, differences, and possibilities for spiritual growth found in the Catholic Tradition. Many books on Ignatian spirituality are written for religious (those who are consecrated as priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters) and are hard to understand and relate to. 

Many of us are married though, and Fr. Gallagher offers a short book on the rules for discernment from the perspective of a married couple and “real life” examples of the rules in their family home. Many people have told me that they finally understand what it looks like to use Ignatian spirituality and the rules for discernment by reading Fr. Gallagher’s book where many other books and retreats have failed. 

I recommend this book rooted in Carmelite Spirituality for those who have difficulty with daily prayer. The publisher describes the contents of the book: 

For every day it offers two meditations, in liturgical arrangement, that enable the soul to enter the conscious presence of God and to reflect on the theme of the day. These are followed by a ‘Colloquy’ that helps the person at prayer to start a friendly conversation with God where acts of praise and love, petition and thanksgiving are made, together with good resolutions for the future. Here we are at the very heart of prayer, which is a heart-to-heart encounter in faith with the living God.

Unlike the Liturgy of the Hours, anyone can pick up this book and start meditating on a daily basis on their own with no prior instruction. And each entry is short – you can complete each meditation in less than 10 minutes. Perfect for lay people with busy schedules. I recommend using this book with a daily visit to a Eucharistic Adoration chapel. I would often go to Eucharistic Adoration even before my wife and I became Catholic.

This Benedictine book is a little longer and more involved than some of the other volumes on our list, but it is still approachable for most people. With chapters like “How to relate to God” and “How to Enter into Prayer” it teaches us how to have a relationship with God through prayer. For those who have thoughts like “Why doesn’t God ever talk back to us?” or “Prayer seems like a waste of time” or “I don’t know how to pray” or “I get too distracted when I try to pray” this book is an immense help. It’s also quite ecumenical in the sense that it doesn’t use a lot of unfamiliar Catholic terminology, though it is still very rooted in the Catholic faith. 

Fr. Spitzer is a natural intellectual, and his book on the spiritual life is one of the best I’ve ever read. Covering the topics of the Holy Eucharist, Spontaneous Prayer, The Beatitudes, The Holy Spirit, and the Contemplative Life it’s an excellent starting point for anyone interested in learning more about Catholicism and the spiritual life. 

Okay, we’re cheating a little here because the Magnificat isn’t a book, but a periodical. Delivered to your home each month, The Magnificat helps people enter into the richness of the liturgical life of the Catholic Church by making it simple to follow along with Mass. It contains an outline of the Holy Mass for each day of the month, including the readings at Mass from the Bible, and short meditations. A gift subscription along with a book like A Biblical Walk Through the Mass by Dr. Ed Sri or The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth by Dr. Scott Hahn (which almost single-handedly converted me!) would be a great gift for someone considering becoming Catholic. 

You’ll notice that there isn’t a single mention of any of the great and timeless works of the Saints on the spiritual life – The Confessions by St. Augustine, The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross, The Story of a Soul by St Therese of Lisieux, Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, Preparation for Death by St. Alphonsus Ligouri and so on. All of these books are well-known, of great spiritual benefit, and I highly recommend anyone read them. For this Top 5 I wanted to cover some modern volumes that have been immensely helpful for beginners and non-Catholics and are more approachable than some of the works by the Saints, which might be read further along in one’s faith journey.

Author: Adam Janke

Adam is the Chief Operating Officer of St. Paul Street Evangelization. After converting to Catholicism from biblical fundamentalism in 2005, Adam obtained a BA in Theology and Catechetics and an MA in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University of Steubenville. He resides in Michigan with his wife and seven children.

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