Books for the Burnt-Out Reader

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July 11, 2013 by lucieromarin

So, you’re burnt-out, recovering, and rebuilding your life. You don’t need to read any more apologetics, because you know what you believe and you’re not looking to argue. You don’t need any more calls to any kind of action. You have no idea whether or not you’re in the purgative or the illuminative way, and you’re not sure you want to know. What, then, should you read? Here’s a list – though I hasten to add that, really, most of these books belong on every bookshelf!

Middlemarch – George Eliot. I mention this, not only because it is the greatest novel in English ever written, and should be read and loved by all mankind, but because it is the counter-argument to every temptation to express yourself with bitterness, nastiness, vindictiveness or contempt. ‘Middlemarch’ proves, not only that human weakness can be seen through the lens of compassion, but that doing so leads to deeper truth and greater art than can ever be produced by caricature or satire.

‘Sweet and Blessed Country: The Christian Hope of Heaven,’ John Saward. What a great book! I hardly know where to start. Okay, I’ll start by saying that if you’re burnt-out by a surfeit of apostolates, (or by a single, super-demanding apostolate), you may want to put them aside and remember what this religion is actually about. If you’ve been burned by doomsayers, you want to be reminded of the of the ultimate good which is on offer. If you’ve been saturated with pious material of questionable intellectual value, you may want to spend some time with a well-written book enriched with philosophy and art. One caveat, though – it’s not the kind of book you can read in noisy places or surrounded by distraction. It needs to be thought-over. I tend to keep it for mental prayer.

Enthusiasm, Ronald Knox. In what possible way could a history of Christian heresy and/or lunacy be helpful? Well, it’s helpful, not only because Knox is a pleasure to read, because he is charitable throughout, and the scope of history is just plain interesting; the real help is in his identification of the error of ‘ultra-supernaturalism’ as the common element of nearly every heretical movement and/or weird group both within and without the Church.

You know that desire that some people have to create a community that gets everything perfect, for everyone, right now and for always? And you know how they know exactly how it should be done and if you would just do what they say, you’d be perfect too, right now, and for always? Yep…turns out, they’re not the first people to have that desire and that knowledge…

Sanctity in Other Words, Dom Hubert Van Zeller.  This is a very brief book about holiness by a fairly modern writer. I love it, because it goes straight to the point; is readily and immediately applicable to your life, no matter what state it’s in;and it removes burdens from your programme, rather than adding them. The simplicity of his style isn’t emptiness of thought; it’s the simplicity of a single, deep, well-expressed thought. The only problem is that I think it’s out-of-print. I found mine online.


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