The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan, by Fr. John Hardon, S.J.
Anything with Fr. Hardon's name on it is worth looking at, and this was a
Christmas gift several years ago. Sadly, it languished on the shelves for
many of those years until recently, shortly after I reviewed Elizabeth
Kantor's book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American
Literature. In that book, Dr. Kantor argues that English and American
literature is misrepresented in most universities. In the process of
developing her thesis, she introduces the reader to many of the classic
authors, with each chapter accompanied by a list of recommended authors and
works. I liked that book so much that I started thinking that there should
be a Catholic version of Kantor's book.
I should qualify that. I think there should be a list of Catholic authors
whose works demonstrate the best of literature and the Faith.
Thankfully, Fr. Hardon has saved me the trouble of doing this on my own by
compiling a list of recommended readings from Catholic sources.
Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan is divided into writings from various time
periods, such as The Age of Persecution, The Patristic Age, Medieval
Civilization, The Catholic Reformation, and finally the Modern Age. Each
author has a one to two page writeup, consisting of a brief biography,
followed by discussion of what Fr. Hardon argues is the best work of that
author. In some instances, he quotes from the author to give one a 'flavor'
of his writings. With more than 100 authors discussed, one could easily
find something that appeals to one's taste.
Here is an example from The Roman Catechism, where Fr. Hardon quotes a
report explaining the need for the catechism which was released after the
Council of Trent(1542?):
"There are few authentic teachers. As a result the children are growing up
without instruction and without formation, either by their parents or their
teachers, in the Christian way of life, which they began to have and to know
whey they were baptized."
This quote sounds as if could have been written today.
I recommend this book as a guide to reading the best of Catholic literature,
just as I think Dr. Kantor's book is a good source for reading the best of
literature in general. One thing that is striking is how often Catholic
ideas are woven into so many stories, poems, and essays. While the world
wants to relegate the it to the background, the Catholic Church still
provides a source of inspiration for literature and the arts.
I took the title of this blog entry from a common restaurant menu setup,
where one selects an entrée from several different lists. One could use Fr.
Hardon's and Dr. Kantor's books to develop not only a greater enjoyment of
literature, but also a greater appreciation of the contributions of Catholic
authors to the written word.