3 Books to Read as the School Year Begins

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I spent a lot of my summer on and off airplanes, which gave me lots of time to read (and watch the various film offerings of American Airlines, but that’s another post for another day). Of the dozen or so books I read since May, three stood out in my mind as “essential reading” for Catholics who want to grow in their faith, expand their understanding of ministry, and become more focused in their pursuit of holiness. 

As the new school year kicks off, these books are worth adding to your list. 

 

The Art of Forming Young Disciples

by Everett Fritz

Everett Fritz doesn’t mince words in his second book, asking the tough questions (and providing the even harder answers) of why young people leave the faith after being formed by the more “traditional” models of youth ministry. 

Fritz tackles the problem with three questions: “what is youth ministry, fundamentally?” “What’s the problem with how we’ve been “doing” youth ministry in that traditional model?” And lastly, “what’s the fix?” 

It’s worth reading Fritz’s detailed answers, but my favorite line comes from part two: 

“We expect them [teens] to participate in the world of adults, but our culture has largely removed adults from mentoring roles with teenagers. As a result, teens are growing up in a peer-dominated culture. As they grow into adulthood, they have difficult assimilating into the adult world and into the responsibilities and expectations that come with being an adult.”

Fritz’s ideas are challenging, thought provoking, and I imagine will help a lot of parishes, youth ministers, teachers, and parents re-think their approach to the formation of their teens. It may also make a few people uncomfortable, because it’s a radical new proposal. I think that may be a good thing, because as his book shows, what we’ve been doing for years isn’t necessarily working anymore. It’s definitely worth reading.

Grab a copy here. 

 

Overwhelming Pursuit: Stop Chasing Your Life and Live

by Mark Joseph

Mark Joseph, a man I’ve had the honor of knowing for a few years, is the real deal. He’s successful in his career, productive both professionally and personally, and faithful in things big and small. And I know this because I’ve read his first book, Overwhelming Pursuit, and felt like I was sitting in his living room, sharing a cup of coffee and talking about life. That’s the beauty of this book: it’s an honest look at Mark’s life and what he’s learned about how to pursue the most important things and focus on what matters most: relationship with God and an understanding that you are loved for who you are. 

The best part of Mark’s book is that he weaves personal testimony, practical teaching, and actionable steps all together in each chapter. There are great questions for reflection and then very tangible suggested actions to take to enact the principles taught into your life. This is not a book of concepts – it’s a book all about “doing” the faith and “walking with Jesus” a bit better, and it’s a gift to the world.

This is the perfect book, especially for men of all ages, to read. I’ve already passed out copies to my dad, my husband, my husband’s friends, friends in ministry, fathers of teens I’ve worked with, and I fully intend on keeping a stock of this book in my house to give out as a gift whenever I meet someone who needs the hard truths Mark presents and the wake-up call he invites us all to. 

Pre-order your copy here. 

 

Gaudete et Exsultate

by Pope Francis 

So this isn’t technically a “book” so much as an Apostolic Exhortation, but I did read it this summer (again), and it’s worth including on this short list. Pope Francis speaks practically about the pursuit of holiness, in all aspects of life, and does so with an inviting tone and down to earth attitude.

This is not a theological treatise so much as an invitation to a new way of thinking about how you are working to become a saint each and every day, written by the Pope, who sounds a lot like your friendly, neighborhood parish priest. This is Pope Francis, kind of writing like he’s still Father Jorge back in Argentina.

It’s the perfect “nightstand” book, and I’d highly recommend reading a few sections before bed each evening to keep you focused on your growth in faith, day by day. 

My favorite printing is from the USCCB, and you can grab your own hard-copy here. 

 

BONUS BOOKS

Two new books recently crossed my desk: Called: Becoming an Everyday Disciple in a Post-Christian World by Kevin Cotter and Off the Hook: God, Love, Dating, and Marriage in a Hook-Up World by Timothy P. O’Malley. Both are proving to be both delightful, informative, and really different than anything I’ve read in a while. I would highly recommend pre-ordering both and having them in your hands the second they’re available.

Happy reading, friends!

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