Book List for Catholic Seminarians and Priests

Recommended Formation Reading

by Fr. Gary Coulter

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These book are recommended to help enhance the formation of Catholic seminarians and ongoing formation of Catholic Priests. But let's be honest: many Catholics have found this list helpful who aren't priests or seminarians.
Other Papal and Magisterial Documents for Priestly Formation

Also see: Books on Apologetics and Intellectual Catholic Books

This is a work in progress, so please e-mail your corrections and suggestions or write in the guestbook.

Internet Exclusives:

Other Online Books

Other Internet Sites

Some short reviews

Quickening the Fire in Our Midst: The Challenge of Diocesan Priestly Spirituality

Fr. George A. Aschenbrenner, S.J. - Loyola Press, Chicago, 2002, 197 pp.

In this thoughtful examination of diocesan priestly spirituality, Fr. Aschenbrenner, S.J., distills years of wisdom gained through working with diocesan priests and seminarians to offer hope, inspiration, and encouragement to those discerning and living out a priestly call.

Aschenbrenner explains how diocesan priestly spirituality is beautiful, special, and unlike any other Christian spirituality. He outlines the gifts that define diocesan priests, explores the particular stresses priests face, and points to attitudes and resources that are essential for maintaining or recapturing priestly joy. Most important, he shows how a continuing experience of the love of Jesus can help diocesan priests offer pastoral love to those they serve.

The Unchanging Heart of the Priesthood

Fr. Thomas Acklin, O.S.B. - Emmaus Road Publishing, 2006, 228 pp.

Father Ackin presents an apologetic for the priesthood found in the unchanging heart of Christ, refuting modern misconceptions and false understandings of the ministerial priesthood. Subtitled "A Faith Perspective on the Mystery and the Reality of Priesthood in the Church" it strives to uncover the beauty, strength and hope that is found in God's plan for the priesthood. A book of encourgagement for priests and laity alike to understand and appreciate the reality and mystery.

Priestly Identity: A study in the theology of priesthood

Fr. Thomas J. McGovern - Four Courts, Dublin, 2002, 320 pp.

"A deep understanding of the theological nature of the priestly ministry is essential if we are to have a clear perception of how this ministry affects the life of the priest, and the way in which its exercise brings about his personal holiness." (Introduction)

This conviction that a deeper awareness will be of much benefit to priests is what led Fr. McGovern to write this book. Faithful to the magisterium and especially the writings of Pope John Paul II, he draws attention to particular aspects of the priestly vocation which are needed to help to define the identity of the priest today. The different chapters of this study are gathered together under three main headings - Theological, Spiritual, and Pastoral.

Christ - The Ideal of the Priest

Dom Columba Marmion, O.S.B. - Ignatius Press, 2005, 398 pp.

This 1952 book by Bl. Abbot Marmion, a classic author on the spiritual life, has now been reprinted. It consists of notes from a series of conferences and retreats he gave for priests collected after his death. It is an important book for priests desiring to grow in their knowledge and love of Jesus Christ.

With a short exposition on the priesthood from scripture, he shows why Christ is the model and source of priestly holiness and how the priest is another Christ. Then the majority of the book is devoted to virtues that are necessary for priestly ministry, such as faith, sorrow, humility, prayer, etc. A great inspiration and help for even the busiest priest to find sanctification and perfection in the little things each day.

The Hidden Enemies of the Priesthood: The Contributions of St. Thomas Aquinas

Basil Cole, OP - The Society of St. Paul / Alba House, New York, 2007, 234 pp.

What makes a good priest? In a via negativa, Fr. Cole surveys nine vices through which priests most commonly fall: pride, vainglory, ambition, envy, avarice, gluttony, lust, anger and acedia (spiritual apathy). Then drawing heavily on Thomas Aquinas, he clarifies the nature and operation of each of these vices and shows how each one can ensnare the unwary priest, destroying both his spiritual life and his work.

Of course knowing how not to be bad is not quite the same thing as knowing how to be good. Fortunately Fr. Cole devotes the first three chapters of the book to what a priest is, and what makes a priest good. The first provides an excellent introduction to the nature of the Catholic priesthood according to the clear teachings of the Church. The second emphasizes "the priest as bridegroom and spiritual father". And the third focuses on the proper priestly attitude toward study. These three chapters provide one of the finest introductions to what makes a good priest.

In summary, every priest must be united to Jesus Christ, the High Priest, and must live his entire vocation in persona Christi. This can be accomplished only through prayer - deep and constant prayer which rises to the level of contemplation. All priests must learn to contemplate (i.e. to dispose themselves properly for contemplation), even though most are called to the active ministry.

It is in this context that the life of the priest unfolds, a life of prayer and union which must lie at the heart of the priest's identity as a bridegroom of the Church and a spiritual father to the Church's children. It is also in this context that the priest must wage his continuous battle against those "hidden enemies" - those vices - which occupy the later chapters of the book. (Review thanks to Dr. Jeff Mirus)

Learning to Read and Study

Leisure: The Basis of Culture Josef Pieper
The Life of the Mind (Includes: Twenty Books That Awaken the Mind)
Another Sort of Learning
On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs (Twenty Books That Tell the Truth)
A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning (Twenty Books to Keep Sane By)
Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods A. D. Sertillanges
Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life As a Christian Calling James W. Sire InterVarsity Press, 2000


* Gift and Mystery, On the Fiftieth Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination Pope John Paul II Doubleday, 1996
Directory of the Ministry and Life of Priests Congregation for the Clergy 1994
Pastores Dabo Vobis Pope John Paul II 1992
Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration Pope Benedict XVI
The Bible! RSV (Catholic Version) or Douhay Reims (Haydock version)
Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents ed. Austin P. Flannery (2 Vols)

Priestly Spirituality (Recent Books)

Conformed to Christ Crucified: Meditations on Priestly Life and Ministry Fr. Joseph Carola, S.J. Gregorian & Biblical Press, 2010 (Distributed by MTF
The Grace of Ars Fr. Frederick Miller Ignatius Press, 2010
Born of the Eucharist: A Spirituality for Priests Fr. Stephen J. Rossetti Ave Maria Press, 2009
The Diocesan Priest: Consecrated and Sent Monsignor David Bohr Liturgical Press, 2009
Reclaiming Our Priestly Character Father David L. Toups Institute for Priestly Formation, 2008
I Call You Friends: The Priesthood - Merciful Love Cardinal Justin Rigali Liturgy Training Publications, 2007
The Unchanging Heart of the Priesthood Fr. Thomas Acklin, O.S.B. Emmaus Road Publishing, 2006
The Joy of Priesthood Fr. Stephen J. Rossetti, ed. Ave Maria Press, 2005
Quickening the Fire in Our Midst: The Challenge of Diocesan Priestly Spirituality Fr. George A. Aschenbrenner, S.J. Loyola Press, Chicago, 2002
Priestly Identity: A study in the theology of priesthood Fr. Thomas J. McGovern Four Courts, Dublin, 2002


Priests for the Third Millennium Archbishop Timothy Dolan Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2000
Priestly Identity: A Study in the Theology of the Priesthood Fr. Thomas J. McGovern Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002
Christ - The Ideal of the Priest Bl. Columba Marmion, OSB
The Priestly Office: A Theological Reflection Avery Dulles, SJ New York: Paulist Press, 1997
The Priest in Union with Christ Fr. Reginald Garrrigou-Lagrange, O.P. Tan Books, 1951/2002
The Priesthood, The Catholic Concept Today Fr. Donald Wuerl (or his other books)
The Priesthood of Christ and his Ministers Andres Feuillet Doubleday, 1975
Theology of the Priesthood Jean Galot San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1984
A Spiritual Theology of the Priesthood, The Mystery of Christ and the Mission of the Priest Dermot Power, SJ Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark LTD 1998
Priesthood: A History of Ordained Ministry in the Roman Catholic Church Kenan Osborne, OFM New York: Paulist Press, 1988
Priesthood, A Re-examination of the Roman Catholic Theology of the Presbyterate Patrick Dunn New York: Alba House 1990
Sacramental Orders (Lex Orandi Series) Susan Wood Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2000
The Catholic Priest as Moral Teacher and Guide (A Symposium) San Francisco: Paulist, 1990
Common Sense for Priests Fr. James Perling Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 1996.
Peter on the Shore: Vocation in Scripture and in Real Life Fr. Anthony Bannon, L.C. Hamden, CT: Circle, 1996
Holy Order: The Apostolic Ministry from the New Testament to the Second Vatican Council Aidan Nichols Ignatius Press, 1991

Clerical Celibacy and Chastity

The Courage to be Chaste Fr. Benedict Groeschel, OFM Cap Paulist Press, 1985
Priestly Celibacy Today Fr. Thomas J. McGovern Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1998
Priestly Celibacy: Its Scriptural, Historical, Spiritual, and Psychological Roots Fr. Peter Stravinskas, ed. Newman House, 2001
The Case for Clerical Celibacy: It Historical Development and Theological Foundations Cardinal Alfonso M. Stickler Ignatius, 1995
Celibacy in the Early Church: The Beginnings of Obligatory Continence for Clerics in East and West Stefan HeidIgnatius, 2001
The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy Christian CochiniIgnatius, 1990
Christian Totality: Theology of the Consecrated Life Frs. Basil Cole, O.P. and Paul Conner, O.P. Alba House, 1997 - Explanation of all three evangelical counsels that comprise religious life.


Any lives of the saints, especially priests such as Sts. John Vianney, Maximilian Kolbe, Philip Neri, John Bosco, Padre Pio, etc.
* St. John Vianney Trochu
Saint John Vianney: The Village Priest Who Fought God's Battles Leon Cristiani Pauline, 1994
Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox
Saint Francis of Assisi
G.K. Chesterton (online)
St. Joan of Arc Mark Twain Ignatius, 1989
A Man for Others: Maximiliam Kolbe Saint of Auschwitz, in the Words of Those Who Knew Him Patricia Treece Maximilian Kolbe
Saints of the Roman Calender: Including Feasts Proper to the English-Speaking World Enzo Lodi, Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P.


Witness to Hope George Weigel Pope John Paul II
* Treasure in Clay Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (Autobiography) Ignatius Press
Journal of a Soul Blessed Pope John XXIII (Autobiography)
With God in Russia
He Leadeth Me
Walter Ciszek SJ IgnatiusAutobiography
Called by Name The Inspiring Stories of 12 Men Who Became Catholic Priests Edited by Jerry Usher and Christine Mugridge Ascension Press, 2008
A Priest Forever: The Life of Father Eugene Hamilton Fr. Benedict Groeschel, OFM Cap
Seven Story Mountain Thomas Merton (Autobiography)
The Shadow of His Wings Fr. Gereon Goldmann OFM (Autobiography) Ignatius, 2000 WWII
Called by Name The Inspiring Stories of 12 Men Who Became Catholic Priests by Jerry Usher and Christine Mugridge Ascension Press 2008 The vocation story of ten important Priests and Bishops
Fishers of Men: Apostles of the Modern Age ed. John M. Janaro Trinity Communications, 1986 Biographies of ten American Priests (Online: search the EWTN Library for the keyword Fishers)
Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism Douglas Brinkley, Julie Fenster William Morrow, 2006 Founder of the Knights of Columbus


Any other "classic" works by the saints themselves: Augustine, Theresa of Avila, John of Cross, Louis De Montfort, Alphonsus Liguori, etc.
* The Imitation of Christ (online) Thomas a Kempis
* Story of a Soul: Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux St. Therese of Lisieux
The Dignity and Duties of the Priest (online) St. Alphosus Liguori
Introduction to the Devout Life (online)
Treatise on the Love of God (online)
St. Francis de Sales
The Dialog of Divine Providence (online) St. Catherine of Siena
12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation St. Alphonsus Liguori
The Confessions (online) St. Augustine
Sermons of the Cure of Ars (online) St. John Vianney Tan Books
Divine Mercy in My Soul: The Diary of St. Faustina St. Faustina
The Way (online) St. Josemaría Escrivá
The Divine Comedy: Inferno / Purgatorio/ Paradiso (online) Dante Alighieri


Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel-On Prayer Thomas Dubay Ignatius Press, 1989
The Soul of the Apostolate Fr. Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O. Tan Books, 1977 reprint
The Three Ages of the Interior Life (2 vols)
The Three Ways of the Spiritual Life (online)
Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. Tan Books, 1947
The Spiritual Life: A Treatise On Ascetical And Mystical Theology Adolphe Tanqueray Tan Books, 2001 2nd Edition
In Conversation with God (7 vols) Francis Fernandez Scepter Publishers, 1993
Father Hardon's Catholic Prayer Book: With Meditations Fr. John A. Hardon
Tuning in to Grace: The Quest for God Andre Louf Cistercian Pubns, 1992
The Spiritual Combat (online) Fr. Lorenzo (Lawrence) Scupoli Or see "The Spiritual Combat Revisited" by Jonathan Robinson, Ignatius Press, 2003
This Tremendous Lover Fr. M. Eugene Boylan, O.C.S.O. 1947; Christian Classics, 1987 new edition
Spiritual Theology (online) Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P. Chicago: Christian Classics, 1980
The Ways of Mental Prayer Fr. Domitry Vitalis Lehodey Tan Books, 1982

More Spiritual Classics

* Abandonment to Divine Providence (online) Fr. Jean Pierre de Caussade
City of God (online) Venerable Mary of Agreda
The Cloud of Unknowing (online)
Revelations of Divine Love (online) Julian of Norwich
Christ, the Life of the Soul Bl. Columba Marmion, OSB Zaccheus Press, 2005; Also see Christ in His Mysteries
Divine Mercy in My Soul Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska


The World's First Love Fulton J. Sheen Ignatius Press, 1996 reprint
Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God Dr. Scott Hahn
The Mother of the Saviour: And Our Interior Life Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. Tan Books, 1994
God Alone: The Collected Writings of St. Louis Marie De Montfort St. Louis Marie De Montfort "True Devotion to Mary" (online)
"The Secret of the Rosary"
"The Secret of Mary"
Mary Through the Centuries: Her Place in the History of Culture Jaroslav Pelikant Yale Press, 1998
The Reed of God Caryll Houselander Christian Classics; Revised edition 2006
Mary as the New Eve (online) John Henry Newman


Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration Pope Benedict XVI
Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection Pope Benedict XVI
The Navarre Bible Commentaries Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre
Ignatius Catholic Study Bible Dr. Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch Ignatius Press
Letter & Spirit Project Scott Hahn
A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God's Covenant Love in Scripture
The Lamb's Supper: The Mass As Heaven on Earth
Dr. Scott Hahn Servant Publications, 1998
Doubleday, 1999
The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers: A Manual of Preaching, Spiritual Reading, and Meditation M. F. Toal (Editor) 4 volume set


New Exclusive: The Good Confessor (online) Gerald Kelly, S.J.
Frequent Confession: Its Place in the Spiritual Life Benedict Baur Scepter Publications, 1999
Lord, Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession Dr. Scott Hahn Doubleday, 2003
Confession Adrienne Von Speyr Ignatius Press, 1985
A Confessor's Handbook Fr. Kurt Stasiak, O.S.B. Paulist, 2000

Conversion Stories

See my page of Apologetics Books and Conversion Stories for a more comprehensive list and brief reviews.
Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism Dr. Scott Hahn and Kimberly Hahn
Surprised by Truth (3 vols.) Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic Patrick Madrid Basilica Press
By What Authority?: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition Mark Shea Our Sunday Visitor, 1996
There We Stood, Here We Stand: Eleven Lutherans Rediscover Their Catholic Roots Timothy Drake, Richard John Neuhaus
Journeys Home Marcus Grodi
Prodigal Daughters: Catholic Women Come Home to the Church Donna Steichen
Welcome Home!: Stories of Fallen-Away Catholics Who Came Back Victor R. Claveau, ed. St. Joseph Communications


* Josef Pieper: An Anthology Josef Pieper, ed. Ignatius Press, 1989
The Silence of St. Thomas: Three Essays Josef Pieper St. Augustine's Press, 3rd edition 1999
A First Glance at St. Thomas Aquinas: A Handbook for the Peeping Thomist Ralph McInerny Notre Dame Press, 1989
A Summa of the Summa: St Thomas Aquinas Edited and Explained for Beginners Peter Kreeft Ignatius Press, 1990
The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy
The Unity of Philosophical Experience
Etienne Gilson Notre Dame Press, 1991 reprint
Ignatius Press, 1999 new ed.
My Way of Life: Pocket Edition of St. Thomas: The Summa Simplified for Everyone Walter Farrell and Martin Healy Confraternity of the Precious Blood, 1952


Crossing the Threshold of Hope (online) Pope John Paul II
The Four Cardinal Virtues
Faith, Hope, Love
Josef Pieper Notre Dame Press, 1990
Ignatius Press, New Edition 1997
Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume 2, Volume 3 William A. Jurgens Liturgical Press, 1998
Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification (online)
Apologia Pro Sua Vita (online)
An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (online)
Cardinal John Henry Newman

Moral Theology

Veritatis Splendor (online) Pope John Paul II
The Sources of Christian Ethics Servais Pinckaers
About Love (Über die Liebe); see Faith, Hope, Love Josef Pieper
Summa Theologica "seconda pars" (online) St. Thomas Aquinas
Basic Moral Concepts Robert Spaemann
Josef Pieper, Alasdair MacIntyre, Romanus Cessario


Catechism of the Catholic Church: Revised (online) Pope John Paul II
Baltimore Catechism (online)
A Map of Life
Theology and Sanity
Theology for Beginners
Frank Sheed

Introduction to Theology

The Belief of Catholics Ronald Knox Ignatius Press, 2000
Catholic Christianity
Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics
Peter Kreeft Ignatius Press, 2001
Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man Henri Cardinal de Lubac, S.J. Ignatius Press, 1988
Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma Ludwig Ott Tan Books & Publishers, Inc., 1992
Introduction to Christianity Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger Ignatius Press, 1990
Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Christopher Cardinal Schoenborn
Theology for Beginners Frank Sheed Servant Publications, 3rd edition 1982

Life of Christ

* The Lord Romano Guardini
To Know Christ Jesus Frank J. Sheed
Life of Christ Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

Meaning of Life

Arise from Darkness: When Life Doesn't Make Sense Fr. Benedict Groeschel, OFM Cap
Your Life Is Worth Living: The Christian Philosophy of Life Bishop Fulton J. Sheen
Grief Observed C. S. Lewis
Man's Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl
Making Sense Out of Suffering Peter Kreeft


See Dr. Warren H. Carroll's many other excellent histories, such as the French Revolution, Spanish Civil War, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Communist Revolution, etc.
* A History of Christendom:
The Founding, Building, Glory and Cleaving of Christendom
Dr. Warren H. Carroll 5 Volumes
The Dynamics of World History Christopher Dawson
The Great Heresies
How the Reformation Happened
Hillaire Belloc TAN Books
Triumph: The Power and Glory of the Catholic Church, a 2,000 Year History H. W. Crocker III Prima Publishing, 2001

C.S. Lewis

* Screwtape Letters
* The Great Divorce
* Mere Christianity
The Four Loves
The Abolition of Man


See my page of Apologetics Books and Conversion Stories for a more comprehensive list and brief reviews.
* Evangelical is Not Enough: Worship of God in Liturgy and Sacrament
On Being Catholic
Thomas Howard Ignatius Press
Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians" Karl Keating Ignatius Press, 1988
Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church Stephen K. Ray Ignatius Press, 1997
Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic David Currie Ignatius Press, 1996
Where We Got the Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church Henry G. Graham Tan Books & Publishers, Inc.
Not by Scripture Alone: A Catholic Critique of the Protestant Doctrine of Sola Scriptura
Not by Faith Alone: A Biblical Study of the Catholic Doctrine of Justification
Not by Bread Alone
Robert Sungenis Queenship Pub Co.


See my Page of Novels/Fiction which includes the following classic books about priests.
Georges Bernanos The Diary of a Country Priest (Journal d'un cure de campagne)
Graham Greene The Power and the Glory
J.F. Powers Wheat that Springeth Green
Morte d'Urban
The Prince of Darkness
Presence of Grace
Willa Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop
Alessandro Manzoni The Bethrothed (I Promessi Sposi) - obviously not about priests, but good for priests / seminarians to read.

Other Masters of the Spiritual Life

Other Books on the Priesthood


Former Lutheran Pastor Debunks Women's Ordination (Part 1) (ZENIT)

Former Lutheran Pastor Defends All-Male Priesthood (Part 2) (ZENIT)

Fr. Gary Coulter
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