As students enter their freshman year or return to their respective universities, I think there are 5 books that every Catholic student in college needs on their bookshelf. You might be asking yourself, are there really only 5 books, Tom? With all the great books in the world, you’re only picking five of them? For this post, let’s say that these are the first five books a Catholic student in college should own.
These books can help a student when they face persecution from non-Catholics on what Catholics believe. As I told my high school students at Savio two years ago, once you make the Sign of the Cross in the university dining hall or food court, someone is going to ask you – why did you do that and what does it mean? Trust me, this will happen before you know it!
Defending the Catholic faith is called Apologetics. It’s not about apologizing for being Catholic, although some may want that from you. The word apologetics comes from the Greek term, apologia, which means to defend. Mary, a former student of mine from the Savio Class of 2012 and now in her second year of college explains what she encountered during her first year of university life,
“It was usually always to other Christians, not atheists or people of other religions. I was in a Christian sorority and the non-denominational, Baptist, or Protestant girls just couldn’t wrap their minds around the Catholic faith and my beliefs…The Christians girls I knew so desperately wanted me to be “saved” and asked me if I would ever be baptized if I felt that was what God was calling me to do. I had to explain I had already been baptized and “saved”… One belief the girls never understood was my devotion to Mary. They kept on saying, “Jesus is enough, we don’t need Mary…those were the most frustrating conversations, when I had to tell people over and over again.”
With that being said, let’s now turn to the 5 books every Catholic student in college should have on their bookshelf –
1. The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. Most non-Catholics believe that Catholics don’t read the Holy Bible. It is a terrible assumption and one that needs to be corrected immediately. The Catholic Church compiled the books of the Bible in the 4th century. It’s because of the Church that we have the Canon. As Catholics, we have 73 books in the Bible. We did not add books to the Bible; the Protestant Reformers subtracted them. The Sacred Scriptures (along with Sacred Tradition) are held in high-esteem for Catholics. Throughout Holy Mass/Divine Liturgy, there are hundreds of Scripture passages. Read the Bible, know the Bible, and live the Bible…always through the eyes of the Catholic Church.
2. The Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) is one of the greatest works of Catholic theology in recent memory. It is divided into four parts: The Profession of Faith, The Celebration of the Christian Mystery, Life in Christ, and Christian Prayer. The CCC is the tool for the New Evangelization! Developed by Blessed John Paul II and a Commission of Cardinals and Bishops in 1986, it was promulgated on October 11, 1992. The CCC is the menu guide to the Catholic faith. Every Catholic should own a copy and read it!
3. Butler’s Lives of the Saints/Introduction to Mary. Although these are essentially two books, I am counting them as one at this time since Mary and the Saints are so closely united. First, during their own life times, the Saints read the Lives of the Saints for the same reason we need to read them. They found their lives to be important as well as examples of how to live a holy life while on this earth. The Saints are our brothers and sisters in Christ who are now in the presence of God eternally.
Second, the book, Introduction to Mary, is a fantastic read. One of the major arguments that most non-Catholics can’t understand is the Catholic Church’s love for the Blessed Virgin Mary. Chapter 10 will help you immensely! As you read from Mary’s testimony above, she encountered this argument the most out of everything. It was written to be a high school textbook, so it’s relatively easy to comprehend.
4. Praying in the Presence of Our Lord. Most of the books I have presented so far will provide valuable information, however this book, written by one of today’s living saints, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., will give you words and encouragement to make the time to attend Eucharistic Adoration at your local Newman Center/Catholic Center. It’s small enough to fit into your back pocket or a small purse. Fr. Groeschel gives you great prayers for Eucharistic Adoration as well as some writings from the saints on the Holy Eucharist. Prayer is our conversation with God – you must talk to him everyday!
5. Man’s Search For Meaning. The only book in the list that is not specifically Catholic. Written by Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning is a life-changing book. It will help you grow as a human being and to always remember there is hope even in the most desperate of situations. You can’t read this book soon enough! Reading this during the your college years will assist as you leave college and enter the working world.
As college students, I would encourage you to get involved in the Newman Center/Catholic Center at your university. It will help you to grow in your faith. It should also provide the avenue to establish good, healthy, and holy friendships for your college years. See the website, the Newman Connection for a list of centers at universities in the country.
Please feel free to suggest other books as well in the ComBox.
This blog post is dedicated to the St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School Classes of 2012, 2013, and 2014. I always enjoyed teaching “y’all.” Your faith life and understanding of Church teaching always gave me great hope.