The Priest is Not His Own was required reading for me prior to my ordination to the priesthood. Archbishop Sheen was one of the most influential Roman Catholics of the 20th century and after reading this book, it is easy to understand why. This particular book reminds priests of their obligation to represent Christ in the world, living sacrificially (or "as victims," in Sheen's words).
One of my favorite quotes from the book: "Our faith is the satisfaction of the soul's desire, not the didactic presentation of a syllogism."
9) The Ninety-Five Theses and Other Writings by Martin Luther
I am fully aware of the irony of placing this book in between Fulton Sheen and G.K. Chesterton. Nevertheless, The Ninety-Five Theses and Other Writings is a valuable volume is a necessary addition to a theological library. It is a fairly straightforward presentation of some of the most essential pieces of Luther including The Ninety-Five Theses, The Heidelberg Disputation, the Preface to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans, among others. One reason this is worth reading is the hard-hitting and heart-wrenching introduction written by William R. Russell. Luther is much-maligned, being known especially for his bombastic way of speaking. However, one thing that has stuck out to me throughout this is the pastoral tone of Luther which can be quite tender and beautiful.
One of my favorite quotes in this collection can be found in Luther's letter to Melanchthon titled "Believe More Body than you Sin": "If you are a preacher of grace, then preach real and not fake grace. If grace is true, then you must bear true and not false sin. God does not save those who are only fake sinners. Be a sinner--believing and rejoicing in Christ more boldly than you sin. And do so because Christ has overcome sin, death, and the world."
This is a wonderful book about one of my favorite saints (the patron saint of my ordination in fact). It traces the details of his life as well as his theological and philosophical ideas which have been so important to the development of theology in the Western Church.
One of my favorite quotes from this book could be about some of the very social problems we are currently facing: "Chaotic negation especially attracts those who are always complaining of social chaos, and who propose to replace it by the most sweeping social regulations. It is the very [people] who say that nothing can be classified, who say that everything must be codified."
Silence is a novel about Catholic missionaries who travel to Japan during the mid-1600s to bring the Church back to the people who had been deprived of their religion by the government as well as to rescue their mentor who is rumored to have apostatized his faith. It wrestles with questions about faith and doubt and how a transcendent Gospel can be changed to fit particular social contexts. The film is also worth seeing but warning: it is not for the faint of heart. This article "Empathy is Not Charity" in First Things by Patricia Snow is a great discussion of the movie.
Michael Ramsey was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1961 through 1974. He was known for being very ecumenical, making great strides in the Anglican Communion's relationship with the Roman and Eastern Churches. This book was also required reading for me leading up to my ordination. It does a wonderful job inspiring and encouraging those who are or feel called to the priesthood.
One of my favorite quotes from the book: "the Church is both divine and human. It is human, inasmuch as its members all share in our sinful and fallible human nature...It is divine, inasmuch as the principle of its life is the risen Jesus and the Holy Spirit, whose presence the sins of Christians never prevent being somewhere at work."
5) Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
This was my first time ever reading anything by Willa Cather. I loved her descriptive prose and interesting characters. It is the story of a newly consecrated Catholic Bishop who goes to the New Mexico territory of the United States in order to build a diocese.
Ross Douthat is a conservative Catholic columnist for the New York Times. This book is about the decline of American Christian thought from the great religious resurgences in the 1900s headed by such figures as Billy Graham, Fulton Sheen, Karl Barth, and Reinhold Niebuhr to the modern pop theology of Prosperity Gospel preachers and touchy-feely "spiritual but not religious" books like Eat, Pray, Love. Even though it pre-dates Rod Dreher's Benedict Option, the two should be read in conversation with each other.
One of my favorite quotes from the book: "The secular mistake has been to assume that every theology tends inevitably toward the same follies and fanaticisms, and to imagine that a truly post religious culture is even possible, let alone desirable. The religious mistake has been to fret over the threat posed by explicitly anti-Christian forces, while ignoring or minimizing the influence that the apostles of pseudo-Christianity exercise over the American soul."
Cranmer. Andrewes. Hooker. Jewell. Newman. Pusey. Thornton. Wright. Williams. All names exalted within the Anglican tradition for their theological acumen. Fortunately, largely thanks to Gerald McDermott, there seems to be a renewed interest in E.L. Mascall, a 20th century Anglo-Catholic Thomist whose writing is sheer brilliance.
I'm still working through this book which, according to McDermott, is effectively Mascall's systematic theology which centers on the Incarnation but delves into soteriology, sacramentology, and ecclesiology.
One of my favorite quotes thus far from the book: "There is in Christ a new creation of manhood out of the material of the fallen human race. There is continuity wit hate fallen race through the manhood taken from Mary; there is discontinuity through the fact that the Person of Christ is the preexistent Logos. In Christ human nature has been re-created by the very God who was its first creator; and the new creation is effected, not like the first creation by the mere decree of omnipotent will -- 'Let us make man in our image' --but by the Creator himself becoming man and moulding human nature to the lineaments of his own Person. Christ is this quite literally the Second Adam, the Man in whom the human race begins anew; but while the first Adam was, for all his innocence, only God's creature, the Second Adam is the Creator himself. In him human natures made afresh, and in him the mysterious distortion which succeeding generations have inherited from the man's first disobedience, and which theology knows as original sin, has no place."
2) A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
This is the most emotional book I read all year. It is the story of an old curmudgeon named Ove (whose personality I identify with). After the death of his wife, he struggles to find a sense of belonging until a family who moves in down the street changes everything. I'd go into more detail but I don't want to spoil anything. I absolutely cannot recommend this story enough.
How do orthodox Christians live in an increasingly secularized world? This is the question Rod Dreher answers in The Benedict Option by arguing that robust catechesis is an a priori to effective cultural engagement. Christians have long been worried about engaging the political (a la Moral Majority-esque movements) at the expense of passing on a robust faith tradition to the next generation of believers. Unfortunately, the results of this crumbling are being made evident as more people are leaving the Church than ever before and those who stay are being attracted to churches that seem to have lost their way theologically. Christians who are serious about maintaining the orthodox tradition need to read this (and not the many shoddy reviews out there by those who do not grasp its fundamental thesis).
Saepius Officio (This isn't really a book, per se. It was the response by the Archbishop of Canterbury named Frederick Temple and William Maclagan, the Archbishop of York to Pope Leo XIII's Apostolica Curae, a papal bull which "invalidates" Anglican Orders. Not only does it teach what classical Anglicans should believe about Eucharist, ordination, and other important topics but it also shows serious deficiencies in the Roman Catholic position against Anglicanism)
Norms and Nobility by David Hicks
Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper by Brandon Pitre
Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism by R.C. Sproul