Looking for something new to read to make the rest of this season of Lent a spiritually enriching and productive one? Or are you just looking for a good book?
In either case, you may want to consult the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, to find out which books have influenced his spiritual life, inspired and simply entertained him. For Pope Francis, a former literature professor who never watches television, books have been and continue to be an important part of his life’s journey.
Fortunately, you don’t need a private audience with Pope Francis to get his reading recommendations. The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera has published an 11-volume series of the pope’s favorite books. The website Favobook.com has also gone through hisspeeches, interviews, and his writing, to help us come up with this tidy top 10 booklist of Pope Francis’ recommended reading, which will take you well beyond Lent.
Continue to next page to see the list of the top 10.
1. Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson
Like Pope Benedict XVI before him, Pope Francis has recommended this 1907 dystopian novel about what he calls “ideological colonization” and the “globalization of hegemonic uniformity.” In a review in Aleteia, Colin O’Brien writes of the book’s prophetic nature in describing how a world that “denies the supernatural does not cease to be influenced by supernatural forces but rather simply blinds itself to those influences.”
2. Late Have I Loved Theeby Ethel Mannin
In a May 2015 issue of L’osservatore Romano, a former student of then-Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a literature teacher at the time, recalled his assigned reading assignment from the future pope. The novel, Late Have I Loved Thee, set between the two World Wars in Britain, was, the student wrote, one of “conversion, of the existential change that leads to an imminent encounter with God, and the result of this encounter is no less than the inner joy that fills the spirit.” It is currently out of print, but can be purchased used or may be found in libraries.
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Both books by the great Russian author were included in Corriere della Sera’s Library of Pope Francis. The pope has frequently referred to Dostoevsky in speeches, writing and interviews as having a profound spiritual influence on him.
As a member of the Society of Jesus, Pope Francis follows St. Ignatius of Loyola’s methods, which form the the basis of Jesuit spirituality. The pope’s frequent discussion of the need for “discernment” is an important element of Ignatian spirituality.
5. The Lord by Romano Guardini
As with Lord of the World, Pope Francis shares his love of the theologian Romao Guardini’s The Lord with Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Francis has praised Father Guardini as “a thinker who has much to say to the people of our time.” According to the National Catholic Register, “while in Jesuit seminary, he owned The Lord, Father Guardini’s work on the Son of God. In the 1980s, then-Jesuit Father Jorge Bergoglio began his doctoral studies with a focus on Father Guardini, although he was unable to finish them.”
6. The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen
After contemplating Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son, Fr. Nouwen wrote this reflection on the parable. In his book Pope Francis, Pray for Me, Robert Moynihan writes that Rev. Henri Nouwen, a former chaplain of the L’Arche community, is a favorite author of Pope Francis.
7. The Splendor of the Church by Henri de Lubac
Before he was pope, Cardinal Bergoglio often mentioned theologian Fr. Henri de Lubac as a major influence. In one interview in particular he brought him up in reference to a common theme of his as pope — spiritual worldliness:
[Q:] For you, then, what is the worst thing that can happen in the Church?
BERGOGLIO: It is what De Lubac calls “spiritual worldliness.” It is the greatest danger for the Church, for us, who are in the Church. “It is worse,” says De Lubac, “more disastrous than the infamous leprosy that disfigured the dearly beloved Bride at the time of the libertine popes.” Spiritual worldliness is putting oneself at the center. It is what Jesus saw going on among the Pharisees: “… You who glorify yourselves. Who give glory to yourselves, the ones to the others.”
8. Memorialeby St. Peter Faber
Pope Francis canonized Jesuit St. Peter Faber in 2013 and is said to have long admired the close companion of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. On that occasion he said he admired Faber’s “dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naiveté, perhaps; his being available straightaway; his careful interior discernment; the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving.” Faber’s journal, now known as his Memoriale, chronicles his day-to-day inner journey from 1542 to 1543.
9. El Otro, el mismo by Jorge Luis Borges
When he was teaching literature in Argentina, the young Bergoglio invited the famous Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges to come meet his class. According to Italy Europe 24,Borges, “then 66 years old, took a bus from Buenos Aires and traveled all night, uncomfortably sitting for 10 hours, spent two and a half days with the students at the Colegio and rode the bus back.” El Otro, el mismo is a collection of the author’s poetry.
10. The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
Pope Francis once said, “I have read The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni, three times, and I have it now on my table because I want to read it again. Manzoni gave me so much. When I was a child, my grandmother taught me by heart the beginning of The Betrothed: ‘That branch of Lake Como that turns off to the south between two unbroken chains of mountains….’” The historical novel is the most widely read fictional work in Italian.
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