BlogCHN Community Responds

What Books Would You Recommend to Someone Exploring Catholicism? CHNetwork Community Question

July 11, 2017 16 Comments

At the Coming Home Network, we get this question ALL THE TIME, so we’re turning it around and posing it to our members and readers.  If you’re currently studying Catholicism, or if you’ve become Catholic as an adult, or if you’re a Catholic who’s had an opportunity to help mentor someone in faith, we want your suggestions of books that might connect with those curious about the Catholic faith.

We posed this question to our members and readers, and here’s what some of them had to say:

*****

It depends on the person. My first book was Rome Sweet Home by Scott & Kimberly Hahn. I loved it, and it started me on the road back to the Catholic church. The way it was written spoke to me, and I’ve re-read it about half a dozen times. But when I suggested it to one of my best friends, she found it horrifying and couldn’t even believe that I, someone she knows so well, could have been moved by it! That experience has taught me that there is no one size fits all.

Caroline L., via Facebook

*****

“In my case, my imagination was converted first, and that laid the groundwork for my heart and head to be willing to accept the logic of apologetic arguments for Catholic doctrine. G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy was crucial in this regard- its sense of wonder and mystery opened to me to a whole new way of looking at theology as not just a math problem to be solved, but as poetry to be appreciated.

Once my imagination was converted, the mystical and typological arguments followed naturally, such as the Marian ones articulated by Scott Hahn in his book Hail Holy Queen, which was a way of fleshing out the doctrinal nuts and bolts of what had become for me a fascination with and a deep regard for the Blessed Mother.”

Matt Swaim, Communications Coordinator, The Coming Home Network

*****

“Two books were instrumental in my conversion from Presbyterian to Catholicism four years ago. By chance I picked up Catholicism: A Journey To The Heart Of The Faith which greatly affected me and my decision to convert. I had never heard of Fr. Barron or the TV series and for some reason thought it was written decades ago by some cloistered old priest. Imagine my surprise!

The second book was A Biblical Walk Through The Mass: Understanding What We Say And Do In The Liturgy by Edward Sri. This was very helpful as I attended my first masses.”

Patty S., via Facebook

*****

“So much depends on one’s personality type. Some people need very detailed, very specific apologetic, historical, or theological works. Others respond best to mystical or devotional books. And others to fiction.  Mark Shea’s By What Authority: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition is a really good one for people who are certain type of Christian. The Surprised by Truth series really helped me because they are collections of short pieces that showed what led a wide variety of people to the Church.”

Gail Finke, The Catholic Telegraph

*****

“I love so many books, it’s hard for me to say which I would give to a person. Evangelical Is Not Enough by Thomas Howard was important for me in regards to beauty, but I have to agree that conversion stories are probably the best choice.

Only in a conversion story do you hear the case for Catholicism presented in the context of a human life. In most cases, this has got to be more attractive than straight exposition.”

Ken Hensley, Pastoral Care Coordinator, The Coming Home Network

*****

A Rabbi Talks with Jesus by Jacob Neusner.  The author is a 20th century reformed Jew and professor.  He imagines himself at the Sermon on the Mount, and explains why he would not have followed Jesus.

I read it after reading references to it by Ratzinger, and whilst I disagreed with Neusner, reading the book and thinking about what he wrote did a lot to deepen my understanding of the continuity between Judaism and Christianity, and what it means to be a People of God, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

Oliver L, via Facebook

*****

Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home. They so well portrayed the struggle between the head and the heart as someone begins to question their assumptions and pre-conceived notions about Catholicism, and how, even when the rational part of us knows we need to convert, how emotional baggage and desire not to hurt or discredit those who formed us in Christ holds us back.

Randal B, via the CHNetwork Blog

*****

How about you?  What are one or two books that have greatly impacted you on your journey, and that you’d recommend to people who have questions about the Catholic Church?  Please share them in the comments below!

  • Matt Swaim

    In my case, my imagination was converted first, and that laid the groundwork for my heart and head to be willing to accept the logic of apologetic arguments for Catholic doctrine. G.K. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” was crucial in this regard- its sense of wonder and mystery opened to me to a whole new way of looking at theology as not just a math problem to be solved, but as poetry to be appreciated.

    Once my imagination was converted, the mystical and typological arguments followed naturally, such as the Marian ones articulated by Scott Hahn in his book “Hail Holy Queen,” which was a way of fleshing out the doctrinal nuts and bolts of what had become for me a fascination with and a deep regard for the Blessed Mother.

  • Randal Burris

    Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home. They so well portrayed the struggle between the head and the heart as someone begins to question their assumptions and pre-conceived notions about Catholicism, and how, even when the rational part of us knows we need to convert, how emotional baggage and desire not to hurt or discredit those who formed us in Christ holds us back.

  • PSCM

    Catholicism for dummies. Everyone to whom I have given it, have loved it. Factual, historic asides, humerous and simply stated. Full of information.

  • Wes Jones

    Karl Keating’s Catholicism and Fundamentalism

  • Louise Springer

    For somebody struggling with purgatory, CSLewis’ The Great Divorce.

  • David Currie ‘s, Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic. Excellent title, excellent read. After reading about the real presence in the Eucharist from Rome Sweet Home, by Scott Hahn (also necessary), I thought, “How do you find out about this history, and not become Catholic?!” Then, Currie quoted Cardinal Henry Newman. In so many more eloquent words, snatched my thought. (Maybe he spiritually, passed it to me)? “To become historically literate, is to become Catholic. To remain historically illiterate, is to remain a Protestant.”

  • C. Julien

    I have several books that were particularly influential in my journey.
    Catholicism and Fundamentalism – Karl Keating (this would be my top recommendation)
    Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic – David Currie
    Crossing the Tiber – Steve Ray (excellent material on the early Church Fathers)
    Surprised by Truth series – Patrick Madrid
    Radio Replies – Frs. Rumble & Carty (these guys prove that Truth is infinitely relevant)
    Against Heresies – St. Irenaeus

    In addition to these books, I would also recommend downloading the mp3’s of Journey Home programs (which are somewhat like audio books). These were very helpful.

    • Dave

      I am pretty ancient. The only ones that existed at the time of my conversion were Keating’s book and Radio Replies. Of course, St. Irenaeus as well, lol. I do love Currie’s book as well.

  • IAmBrianBoru

    Four Witnesses by your friend Rod Bennett would be one of my top suggestions, as well as the Surprised by Truth books from Patrick Madrid. Steve Ray’s Crossing the Tiber and Jeff Cavin’s I’m not being Fed would also be good recommendations.

  • Chris Moellering

    There are so many….as others have noted, it depends on where the person is at. One that laid me open to receive was Christian Smith’s “The Bible Made Impossible” which really shows the frailty of protestant interpretation of Scripture. I would also suggest the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I found to be very readable, coherent, and what I had been longing for for so long on my journey.

  • rosearbor

    Why Do Catholics Do That? by Kevin Orlin Johnson is wonderful, and I’ve recommended it to non-Catholic friends and loved ones. It is very readable, and in explaining the “why” of aspects of Catholicism that some outside the Church might find curious or baffling, the book opens the door to understanding — the first step in encouraging those whose “hearts are restless” (h/t St. Augustine 🙂 to explore the Catholic Faith more deeply. I was very grateful to have found this book during my journey, and always keep two copies on my bookshelf — in case someone comes along that I’d like to share it with!

  • Trish

    The very first book I read was Waking Up Catholic by Chad R. Torgerson which addressed a lot of issues. Someone suggested Scott Hahn and I started with Rome Sweet Home, then moved on to just every book he has written. Recently I read Why We’re Catholic by Trent Horn, which is very helpful.

  • Andrea Gadomski-Riker

    Although I have been Catholic for my entire life, I was not active in The Church for many, many years. Because I now live in a “senior” apartment building, I have had to learn how to explain our faith to some fairly hostile people. Two books that I started with are Marcus’ “The Journey Home” & “Reflections on the Journey Home.” The other book that helped me explain why we do what we do at Mass is Alfred McBride’s “A Short History of the Mass”. It’s written in plain, simple English. I’ve also gifted it to two friends who were in RCIA. They found it very interesting.

  • Pat

    I found Christian Smith’s book How to Go From Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-five Difficult Steps very helpful. Plus, it’s fun to read!

    • Dave

      Love the title! I will have to check it out…thanks!

  • chnetwork

    THanks for all the great suggestions!

The Coming Home Network International