Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Christ, the merciful and compassionate King

Christ the King, Year C.
November 21st, 2010
Luke 23:35-43

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

As Americans we have a hard time accepting the idea of kings and kingdoms; but as Catholics we know that Christ is not a president, he is a King. Christ did not found a democracy, he established a Church, which is his Kingdom. However, when we think of Christ as King, we must remember that he far excels all earthly kings and rulers, he is the Good King, the King of justice, the King of peace.
If we want to understand who Christ is as our King, we must consider what a good king is meant to do for his people: he provides for their needs, especially in difficult times. The good king judges his people in fairness, he is eminently merciful. Moreover, the good king protects and defends his people from outside invaders, he is their safeguard against the enemy.

This image of the good king, ruling over and providing for his people, is something of an image for the Kingdom of Heaven – that Kingdom of peace and justice, of security and eternal joy. When we consider that this is the Kingdom which Christ comes to establish, we ought not fear his coming, but we must look forward to that day with great joy – thus we pray, “Thy kingdom come.”
It is true that, when he comes again, the Lord will separate the just from the wicked, as sheep are separated from goats, but we need not fear – for we are the people he has redeemed, if only we turn to him in faith. The Kingdom which Christ brings is the fulfillment of our hope.

On the other hand, Christ wishes for us to know that we need not even fear his judgment, if only we entrust ourselves to his mercy. The Lord desires to prove to us that he is not a king who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses and suffering. And so we are given to think upon the Cross. It is particularly at this moment, when he is most humbled and most humiliated, that Christ reveals himself as our King.
The Kingdom of peace and justice is coming, yet we still suffer – but Christ proves that he knows our suffering, he shows that he is capable of compassion.

And, so that we might be more inclined to turn to his Divine Mercy, the Savior desired that the good thief should repent at the last moment. Then, in the midst of the greatest of all suffering, the Lord received the contrition of the penitent thief. A life of sin is reversed by the simple words, “Jesus, remember me. Oh my Jesus, do not deny me. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Here we learn that the mercy of Christ is greater than all human weakness and sin. Witnessing such great Love, how could we turn away? How could we flee from Christ’s mercy?

One thing, however, will not due – unfortunately it is something which is very common today – the one thing which will surely separate us from Christ and plunge us into Hell is this: If we deny that we have sinned, if we act as though we are not sinners, if we pretend that we are worthy of heaven, then Christ will deny us. So many people today will say, “Oh, I am basically a good person. I haven’t done anything that bad.” What pretense! What arrogance!
Only this – denying that we are sinners in need of Christ’s mercy – only this can separate us from the Love of God.

As we come to the end of the Church’s liturgical year, and as we prepare to enter into the season of Advent, we look forward to the coming of our merciful and compassionate King. For those who are faithful, his Day of Judgment, shall be a day of vindication and the beginning of life everlasting.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When Confession is needed before receiving Communion

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.
September 12, 2010
Luke 15:1-32, The parable of the prodigal son

While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him … Then the celebration began.

There is a very popular saying about love, which goes like this: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
My brothers and sisters, that is a lie. Love is not opposed to apologizing. Anyone who is married knows from concrete experience that love often requires us to say “Sorry”.
In fact, true sorrow can only come from true love; and perfect sorrow comes from perfect love. Sorrow is an expression of love. True sorrow heals and restores true love.

How well this is expressed by the parable of the prodigal son. It is love which leads the wayward son to have the confidence to return to his father and to ask for mercy. The son realizes that he does love his father and that he is heartily sorry for having offended him; what is more, the son also knows that his father truly loves him and will forgive him.
Even before the son has reached the house, the father runs out to meet him and welcomes his son with the embrace of love. The father has loved his son even when he was astray, now his love is complete as he forgives his son and draws him back into the family.

This is a very beautiful and encouraging parable – it teaches us so much about God’s forgiveness and mercy – but I would like to focus on one specific aspect of the story. Notice that the boy, when returning, is first greeted by his father and forgiven, and only then does he enter the house. First he receives forgiveness, then he enters for the feast.
Consider how inappropriate it would have been if the prodigal son would have simply come into the house without having apologized to his father, without first receiving forgiveness. It would have been terrible!
It is very clear: First forgiveness, then the feast. First confession, then communion.

This is why, at Mass, we begin with the penitential rite – conscious of our sinfulness and our need for God’s forgiveness, we say, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” We recognize the need to say “Lord, I am sorry, have mercy on me, forgive me.” We must be reconciled with God; we must first receive his forgiveness, then we come to the feast of heaven.

However, we must also recognize that for serious sins, the Lord has given us a special sacrament which we must make use of before coming to Communion. I am referring to the sacrament of Confession. After committing serious sins, the Church requires that we go to Confession before coming to Communion. It is just like in the parable – first Confession, then Communion.
Now I know that this has not been preached about very much, and perhaps this is the first time some of you have heard this teaching. I don’t know why so few priests are speaking about it… The Catechism is very clear on this point, paragraph 1385 states: “Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to Communion.” Even the music books (Breaking Bread, OCP) in the pews state this in equally strong language on the inside of the front cover, under the “Guidelines for the reception of Communion, for Catholics.”
After committing a serious sin, we cannot receive Communion without having first gone to Confession. Instead, we must either remain in the pew or, if staying in the pew would be too difficult, we may come up and cross our arms to receive a blessing – but we must not take Communion when we have serious sin on our souls.

Now some will say, “But I have asked God for forgiveness in my heart, isn’t that enough?” Perhaps God has forgiven you, in your heart. However, if we have made only a “spiritual confession”, we are able only to make a “spiritual communion”; forgiveness in the heart can only lead to communion in the heart – thus, I would recommend offering special prayers to Jesus and professing your love for him, but one must not receive him in Sacramental Communion without Sacramental Confession.
If we want to receive Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, we must first receive his forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession. If we desire to take Communion from the hands of the priest at Mass, we must first receive forgiveness from the hands of the priest in Confession.
My brothers and sisters, nothing is more effective in leading us to holiness and union with Christ than a good and worthy Communion. Nothing is more valuable before God than receiving the Eucharist in the state of grace and in a worthy manner.
On the other hand, nothing will destroy our union with Christ more than an unworthy Communion. Nothing is more effective in separating us from Christ and plunging us into the depths of hell than taking Communion after having committed serious sin and not having gone to Confession.
Let us make no mistake, a good and worthy Communion is everything! Everything relies upon the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar!

But let’s get real practical. I would like to list three serious sins, sins which are very common and which must be confessed before we come to Communion. Certainly, there are many other sins, and there are even many other worse sins, but I mention these three because they are so common and so often misunderstood. Everything I say here is from the Catechism; it is not my opinion, it is the clear teaching of Christ and his Church.

First, skipping Sunday Mass. To skip Mass on Sunday, without a grave reason, is a very serious sin.  If we skip Sunday Mass, we must not come to Communion until after first going to Confession.
Second, any sin against the 6th Commandment; that is, any external sexual sin either alone or with another person – I think you all know what sort of sins I am referring to here. Sins against chastity are very serious. We must confess any external sin against chastity before we come to Communion.
Finally, drunkenness and drug abuse. By drunkenness, I do not mean simply being a bit tipsy or loopy; I am talking about real intoxication, a loss of reason. To intentionally get drunk or abuse drugs is a serious sin, it must be confessed before coming to Communion. Moreover, to drive while under the influence is a serious sin – one must first go to Confession before coming to Communion.

I do not say this to be hard or difficult. This is a teaching of love! It is all about forgiveness and communion. But we must come to Christ in the proper order – we must approach God in a worthy and holy manner.
Be sure of this: The good and worthy Communions we make in this life will bring us all to the glory of life everlasting.

Monday, November 15, 2010

On the last judgment, Sermon of November 14th

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.
November 14th, 2010
Luke 21:5-19

Jesus said, “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down … But not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

I would like to begin with a little thought experiment – take a moment and think about what your primary image of Christ is. When you think of Jesus, what image or what event first comes to your mind?
I am sure that, for many of us, we think of various moments in Christ’s life – either his birth or one of his miracles, perhaps his preaching or his love for the children; I am sure that many think of the crucifixion, when he proved his love for us. Perhaps even some have thought of the resurrection or Christ as he is now, reigning in the glory of heaven. And all of these are fine and good images of Christ – but none of these are the principle ways in which the earliest Christians thought about the Savior.

For the first Christians, the primary image of Christ was not something from the past (something from his life on earth), nor from the present (as he now is in heaven); rather, the central focus of the earliest Christians was a future event: the second coming and the day of judgment. When they thought of the Lord, they immediately thought of the end of time and the coming of God’s Kingdom.
Today’s Gospel, in which Christ speaks about the last days, would have been at the fore of everyone’s mind in the early Church – more than anything else, the early Christians looked forward. They focused on the goal; not only their own personal goal, which is salvation and heaven, but also the goal of all history: The last day, the final judgment, and the resurrection of the body.
Moreover, in the earliest days, the Church suffered intense persecution and grave trials. The first Christians would have identified with Christ’s words: For they were often betrayed and even killed by family and friends. They knew well that the whole world hated them. And yet they did not fear, for they knew that Christ would be coming soon.

It is our task, in these final days of the Church’s year (which begins anew at Advent), to make this fundamental disposition of the early Christians our own. We too must foster this longing for the Kingdom. Indeed, I am sure that we all desire that Christ would come again, for we all pray “thy kingdom come.” And yet, though we do want the kingdom to come, we often secretly add, “but please not today!”
Perhaps we are a bit afraid of the second coming, perhaps we fear the end of the world. But why are we afraid? It is Christ who is coming. It is the Lord, our Savior; he comes to bring peace for his people!

In these final two weeks of the Liturgical year, and as we prepare for Advent, we can consider what it is in our lives that makes us to fear the coming of Christ, and then offer that to the Lord.
Is it an attachment to sin in our own lives? Let us turn to Christ and ask for his healing love. We have the sacrament of Confession, it is a great means of healing and strength.
Or, do we fear the final judgment because we have loved ones who are estranged from Christ or from the Church? We should pray for them. Remember, Christ died for them; will he not convert them, if only we persevere in prayer? We need only entrust them to the Divine Mercy!

No, we must not fear the second coming, we must not fear the day of judgment. There will indeed be tumult and distress, but this will not be from Christ – it will be that final assault of evil, that sad moment of human weakness and sin. For the world will not slowly get better and better, progressing to become the Kingdom of God. Rather, the world will get worse and worse, and the Church will suffer intense persecutions and trials. But then, when it seems that the gates of hell are about to prevail against Christ’s Bride, then he will come!
The second coming will not be a time of chaos, but, for those who believe, it will be the end of all sorrow and the beginning of eternal peace. Indeed, for Christ’s faithful, the second coming will scarcely be a day of judgment – rather, it will be a moment of vindication!

When the Lord tells us that he will soon return in glory to judge the heavens and the earth, this is not a threat. No, it is a promise which gives rise to a great hope. And this hope wells up within us unto life everlasting.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The happiest and most perfect vocation? To be a monk or a nun!, Sermon of September 5th

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.
September 5th, 2010
Luke 14:25-33, The cost of discipleship

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes after me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple … Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

Of all the saints of the Church’s history, excepting the Blessed Virgin Mary, perhaps none is more beloved than St. Francis of Assisi. The joy of this great Saint was a light to the world in his day, and has shown through these 800 years even to illumine our own times. St. Francis may well be the happiest and most joyful man of the past millennium.
And yet, if we ask from where this joy came, we must affirm that St. Francis found his joy in hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life … in renouncing all his possessions and following Christ!

When still a young man, Francis renounced his father and mother, his brothers and sisters, his family inheritance, and followed Christ. He would no longer be bound to his earthly family, but to God above. In this he embraced the vow of obedience, by which all other relations are subjected to our relationship with God.
Moreover, Francis took upon himself the vow of poverty, renouncing all his possessions in order to imitate Christ who became poor for our sakes. Francis became known as the poor man of Assisi.
Finally, we must recognize that St. Francis can be said to have hated wife and children, when he vowed himself to perpetual chastity – becoming celibate for the sake of the kingdom of God.

It was these three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience which made St. Francis to be the happiest man of his age – through living out these vows, Francis followed Christ in the most perfect vocation.

We may be a bit surprised by the words of today’s Gospel, which speak of “hating” father and mother, wife and children, and even one’s own life. There is a great cost to being a disciple of Christ, there is a real sacrifice which must be made. Now I am sure that you have head in past homilies of how this word “hate” does not mean hate in the usual modern sense – our Lord, of course, is advocating that we love God above all and that all our other loves must be ordered to this love of God. We do not hate anyone, but our love for others must always be seen in relation to our love for God
Yet, you have probably also heard that Jesus is speaking in a hyperbole here, that he is exaggerating. In fact, it is true that most of us are not called to renounce all human relations and follow the words of Christ to the letter, but we must never forget that there some who are so called – this is not a case of pure exaggeration.
Consecrated religious– that is, monks and nuns – do take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. And, just like St. Francis, monks and nuns really do live out the radical discipleship of which Christ speaks in the Gospel today.

Now you might wonder, “Can anyone really be happy, living such a life?” We need only look to St. Francis for our answer – there was none more happy, more full of joy than he, and yet he found his joy precisely in these vows. We affirm not only that one can be happy as a monk or a nun, but (what is more) there is no life happier! There is no life more joyful than consecrated life – the life of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Do you doubt the truth of this? Even statistically it can be proven! It is a very sad fact that about 50% of marriages today end in divorce – but I assure you that not nearly 50% of priests, monks, or nuns leave their vocations. If it is true that some particular monks or nuns have been unhappy; it is also true that, on the whole, they are among the happiest people in our country. I am speaking scientifically now: Those who have consecrated their lives to God through these three vows are, on the whole, far happier than married persons. Statistically, the happiest life in the United States right now is religious life!

And so, to you young people here, I ask: Have you thought about religious life? Have you thought of becoming a priest or a monk or a nun? There is no happier life. If you are called to be a religious, there is no life greater! Why, the life you live on earth will become a foretaste of heaven!

And to you here who are parents and grandparents, I ask: Have you encouraged your children and grandchildren to consider religious life? If they mention the thought to you, have you supported them? What are you afraid of? If you want your sons and daughters to be happy, help them to discern a call to become a monk or a nun, or perhaps a priest – there is no life happier, there is no surer road to joy!
But how can young people even consider the possibility of religious life, if they are never given an opportunity to see monks or nuns? It is a bit easier for them to have some encounters with diocesan priests, but you must work to give your children an opportunity to meet consecrated religious. There are a few monasteries and convents in the area – there are Carmelite monks in Wyoming, and Benedictines in North Dakota. Why not take a family trip some time? Especially, as your children come into their high school years, it will be important to give them some exposure to religious life – how else will they be able to discern if God could be calling them to this most precious and most joyful vocation?

May the joy and the love of Christ dwell in our hearts this day and, as we come into a more intimate union with his Most Sacred Heart, may we be drawn away from the cares of this world and begin to rejoice in the foretaste of life everlasting.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

On the resurrection of the flesh, November 7th

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.
November 7th, 2010
Luke 20:27-38

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to Jesus…

When an architect builds a house, he must consider every angle and every board in relation to the final product he is trying to accomplish. And, if even for a moment, he should lose sight of his goal (which is the finished house), the angle or wall will be out of place and, perhaps, the whole structure will collapse. Moreover, though the work is difficult at times, the architect finds great encouragement in thinking about how great the house will be when it is finally completed – thinking of the goal, he is able to persevere.
I think that there is an analogy between the work of the architect and the Christian life – we Christians must be constantly thinking about our goal, we must be constantly thinking and speaking about heaven! Perhaps one of the reasons we are sometimes not as joyful and as happy as we would like to be is this – we are not thinking often enough about life everlasting. The mere thought of heaven brings joy in the midst of difficulty and sorrow; and, as we keep our eyes on the prize that awaits us, we are able to persevere through all trials and sufferings.

It may be that we do not think of heaven as often as we should because we often have too small an image of what heaven will be like – many think of heaven as disembodied souls just floating around in the clouds, not doing much; sure, we are with God, but we are just floating there. If you tell this to a child, the boy or girl will tell you that that sounds pretty boring! And the child is right!
Heaven will not be just floating around as a separated spirit – we will not be angels. We will be human beings and, in the last day at the resurrection of the dead, we will have our bodies returned to us. We will have our bodies in heaven! These very bodies, this flesh which dies and is buried and corrupts; we will have this very flesh returned to us in the general resurrection! It is too great for us to imagine – but we must try to imagine it, we must think about it, and we must think of heaven in concrete terms; we are humans, that is how we have to think.

The brothers in 2 Maccabees give us a great witness to this hope in the resurrection. The one is so convinced that he sticks out his hands and tongue and says, “Go ahead and cut these off, destroy my body as you like; for God will one day restore these very hands and this very body to me, in the resurrection of the flesh!” The thought of the resurrection gave the brothers the strength to persevere and even to rejoice in the midst of intense suffering and persecution.
But many “learned” scholars today will come up with all sorts of objections to the resurrection of the body. 1,500 years ago, St. Augustine said , “On no other point does the Christian faith suffer more opposition, than on the resurrection of the body.” It is true today as well; many will admit that the soul lives on, but the world will yet deny that this very body will rise glorious and renewed.
The objections which some will make in the modern day to the resurrection remind me of the Sadducees’ objection in today's Gospel. These men were considered among the wisest and most learned in all of Israel, and they come to Christ with a very long and complicated objection – did you notice that it took them several verses to explain the intricate problem they had thought up? And yet, almost with a single word, with only a sentence, Christ is able to refute their objection and show them to be fools. The Sadducees were indeed fools, and so are all who doubt the resurrection of the body.
This is what we must say today to any and all objections against the truth of the resurrection – God created the whole world out of nothing, surely he can give us our bodies back at the end of time. If God has the power to create the universe, surely he can figure out whose body goes to whom and which part goes to which person. For God, all things are possible; he has promised and he will do it.

In any case, let us say this: If the dead are not raised, then neither has Christ been raised from the dead. And if Christ has not been raised, then his body is still in a tomb somewhere; and he is dead. But if Christ Jesus is dead, then our faith is in vain and hope is for nothing – if Christ is still dead, then all we do here in the church is worthless, we may as well all go home! But, alas, Christ has been raised and, by his power as God and even in a mysterious way through the power granted him as man, he will raise up even our bodies to share in the glories of his own resurrection. For those who hope in him, the Lord Jesus will indeed make us co-heirs with himself in life everlasting.

How a rich man is saved, Sermon of October 31st

 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.
October 31st, 2010
Luke 10:1-10

Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was…

Wealthy persons rarely come up in the Gospels, but when they are mentioned they usually do not fair too well. This is particularly true of the Gospel according to St. Luke – we have already heard in recent weeks of the parable of the rich man and the poor Lazarus; how the rich man went to hell, since he did not help Lazarus when he was in need.
Just a few verses before today’s Gospel, there is the passage about the rich young man who desired to follow Christ – the Lord told him to sell all his possessions and give his wealth to the poor; but the rich man went away sad, for he was attached to his many possessions. It was on this occasion that Christ said, “It will be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter heaven.” We may sum it all up with the Lord’s own words, “Woe to you who are rich.” Indeed, the rich will hardly be saved.

No, rich men do not usually do too well, when they meet Jesus; and this should be a bit alarming for most of us. Nearly every one of us would be considered rich in the Gospel sense of the word – we have our basic necessities provided for, and we have at least a few luxuries besides.
But St. Luke does not want us to be discouraged, and Jesus wants each and every one of us to know that he loves us. Thus, so that we might not feel dejected, St. Luke includes the account of the conversion of Zacchaeus – and we ought to note that this account is found only in Luke’s Gospel. He puts in there, I think, because he knows that he has been particularly hard on the rich and he doesn’t want us to give up hope.

In the story about Zacchaeus, the first thing we learn about the man, even before we learn that he is short (which is really a bit humorous), the first thing we learn is that he is a chief tax collector (and, thus, very powerful) and that he is wealthy. Before St. Luke tells us anything else, we learn that Zacchaeus is rich and powerful, and so we might be thinking to ourselves, “I know how this story is going to end, Zacchaeus is really going to get it.” But, behold, there is a new twist, something which is quite unexpected – Zacchaeus is not rejected by Christ, nor does he turn away from the Lord, but he is welcomed by our Savior and becomes his disciple.

When Jesus looks up in the tree and sees Zacchaeus, he calls to him and accepts him as a disciple – and we must point out that Zacchaeus was still rich at this time. The Lord called Zacchaeus while he was still rich, and Zacchaeus became a disciple while still wealthy. Here we find a great deal of encouragement – for Jesus looked at Zacchaeus and he did not see a rich man or a tax collector, he saw a son of Abraham, a poor lost sheep in need of a true shepherd. The gaze of our Savior pierces through all that is superficial and penetrates to the core. Perhaps for the first time in his life, someone loved and accepted Zacchaeus for who he was as a human being, rather than for his riches and his power.

So, up till now, we are all very much encouraged; for we know that Christ looks at each of us with that same gaze of love which fell upon Zacchaeus – but though Christ loves us as we are, he calls us forward to be something new; and this is a challenge to us. Zacchaeus is accepted by Christ as a rich man, and the Lord does not even command him to give his possessions to the poor – but Zacchaeus is compelled (not by word or deed, but by love itself) he is compelled to give half of his wealth to the poor. Because he loves Christ, Zacchaeus must also love the poor. The love of Christ, which so fills Zacchaeus, overflows in a love for the poor.
It is the same for us – Christ loves us and that love moves us not only to a true love for him, but also for an intense and even a sacrificial love for the poor. Because the love of Christ is pure, it is also purifying – and thus, the love of Christ compels us to love others even as he has loved us.

I am reminded of the words of Mother Teresa, “Jesus in the Eucharist, Jesus in the poor. It is the same Jesus.” Now Mother Teresa surely knew that Christ is not present in the poor in the same way in which he is present in the Eucharist. He is present in the Eucharist really, truly, substantially, and sacramentally. In the poor, though he is present really and truly, Christ is not present substantially and sacramentally. The mode of presence is clearly different, but the one who is present in the Blessed Sacrament and the one who is present in the poor is the same Jesus.
The Savior is so closely identified with the poor that he can truly say, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.”

May the love of Christ purify and fill us, and may our love for the poor here on earth bring us swiftly to the glories of life everlasting.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Recommendations for spiritual reading

A Dominican sister engaged in spiritual reading

November 1st, The Feast of All Saints

Well, not even a full month into my new blog, I am going to break the format. This post is neither a sermon nor about Sunday. Rather, I have decided to post a small sample of books for some suggested spiritual reading. I gave this list to the parishioners this morning with a few words of encouragement:

“We are given the great blessing of a friendship and communion with the saints, but we need this to be more than just a theoretical fellowship. As human beings, we need some tangible reminders of this communion – and what better way than through prayer?
We can do more than simply pray to the saints (though that is already nine tenths of the work), we can also pray with the saints. We can pray after the model of the saints, taking them as safe and reliable guides in the spiritual life. Rather than running off to any number of silly ‘self-help’ books on spirituality, we ought to give pride of place to the spiritual writings of the saints.”

Below is a very simple and small list of recommended spiritual reading from the writings of the saints. Particular mention must be given to Sts. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila (who are Doctors of the Church particularly for their spiritual insights) and also to St. Alphonsus Liguori (who is recognized by the Church for his writings about prayer).

Some recommendations for spiritual reading, from Fr. Ryan

If you want a good introduction to the spiritual life in general, consider: Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales…
St. Francis becomes your personal spiritual director as you read this treasure. Though it is called an introduction, this spiritual classic will be helpful to people in all levels of the spiritual life.  300 pages.

If you are looking for a child-like spirituality, consider: Story of a Soul, by St. Thérèse of Lisieux…
In her autobiography, Story of a Soul, St. Thérèse tells us of the experience of her youth and her entrance into the convent. We are given a very personal insight into the spiritual life of this young girl, whom Pope St. Pius X has called the greatest saint of modern times.

If you want a book that can be read in 10 minute segments in the midst of a busy life, consider: The Way, Furrow, and The Forge by St. Josemaría Escriva…
The founder of Opus Dei offers a spirituality most especially suited to the life of working people. He understands how busy modern life can be and he will help you to live out your vocation as a lay person, active in the world.
“The Way, Furrow, The Forge” is available in a single volume edition from Scepter Publishers.

If you want to learn how to speak with God throughout the day, consider: How to Converse Continually and Familiarly with God, by St. Alphonsus Liguori…
In approximately 50 pages, St. Alphonsus teaches you how to “pray always”. This book can be read many times – it is a practical guide for growing in holiness while going about the activities of daily life.

If you want a book that can help you to pray the Rosary better, consider: The Secret of the Rosary, by St. Louis Marie DeMontfort…
St. Louis Marie DeMontfort is widely recognized as the Church’s greatest promoter of Marian devotion. He will help you to understand who Mary is in the life of the Church and who she wants to be in the life of your soul. The Secret of the Rosary and Secret of Mary are very short works of around 100 pages each.
Also, consider: The Secret of Mary and True Devotion to Mary, by St. Louis Marie DeMontfort.

If you want help with making daily meditations, consider: The Way of Salvation and Perfection, by St. Alphonsus Liguori…
St. Alphonsus offers meditations for every day of the year. He guides you into the depths of the spiritual life and will bring you to a closer union with our Savior. This book is meant to be used as a step by step guide-book during times of prayer.

If you like poetry, consider: A Spiritual Canticle and other poems, by St. John of the Cross…
The poetry of St. John of the Cross is the fruit of his mystical union with God. The poems themselves are relatively easy to read, and they are not very long. The Saint offers a more systematic explanation of the spiritual life in Ascent of Mount Carmel and Dark Night of the Soul.
“The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross” is published by ICS Publications.