Spiritual classics you can read in, like, 30 minutes.

Also, they're free.

The Roman Catholic Church has existed for 2,000 years and has been blessed with great writers and orators since the beginning. Many of these people’s works are compiled into great spiritual classics, like St. Augustine’s “The Confessions” and Eusebius’ “Church History.”

However, some works are much shorter and are a great way to start reading primary accounts of the Church’s history. Here are some that you should be able to read in one sitting and can find free online.

The Martyrdom of Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas
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Perpetua was a Roman noblewoman who was still nursing her child. Felicity was a slave in her third trimester of pregnancy. Both were condemned to die in the arena for their Christian faith.

Perpetua managed to dictate most of what happened to them to a friend. This account is the Maryrdom of Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas. It’s stunning. All of the arrested Christians pray together, and help each other find the joy in their sufferings.

No one died immediately in the ring. Instead, they were partially gored by a variety of wild animals while Roman citizens watched. Finally, Perpetua instructed her companions to “stand fast in the faith and love one another, and do not be weakened by what we have gone through.” All of the martyrs were eventually killed by beheading.

The Martyrdom of Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas is an enduring record of faith in the face of adversity, but it’s so much more. It’s a story of Christian friendship, of motherhood, and of true beauty.

Supremi Apostolatus Officio: Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Devotion of the Rosarywiki commons// http://bit.ly/1MscrhY
This may sound like a boring list of reasons why a Pope liked the rosary, but it’s so much more than that. Pope Leo XIII starts his 11 paragraph long encyclical by reminding Christians of the many reasons we turn to Mary during times of trouble. He then gives a brief history of the rosary, and then explains why asking for Mary’s intercession is the perfect cure for the evils that afflict modern times.

“..it is one of the most painful and grievous sights to see so many souls, redeemed by the blood of Christ, snatched from salvation by the whirlwind of an age of error, precipitated into the abyss of eternal death. Our need of divine help is as great today as when the great Dominic introduced the use of the Rosary of Mary as a balm for the wounds of his contemporaries, ” he wrote.

Then he finishes with a list of the many, many ways you can gain an indulgence from praying the rosary.

wiki commons// http://bit.ly/1JjJ4wb Humanae Vitae
It’s a bit of a stretch to call this one a “classic” since it’s not very old, but it’s still a primary source you can read quickly.

Pope Paul VI wroteHumanae Vitae encyclical on married life and procreation right as many Protestant churches began to accept contraception. In 35 paragraphs, he lays out the Church’s teaching on human life, especially with regards to sexual ethics. In the midst of teaching the Catholic stance on birth control, he even made predictions about the future that have proven to be uncannily accurate.

The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus
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This treatise was written somewhere between 120 A.D.-200 A.D. The writer is an early Christian writing to a pagan official named Diognetus. He begins by explaining (rather harshly) why neither paganism nor Judaism can be the true faith. He then explains how Christians are set apart, and finally explains some Christian teachings. Here is an oft-quoted line from the middle section:

“They [Christians] dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships as strangers. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign.”

COMING UP: Suggested Spiritual reading from Father James Thermos

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In honor of Catholic bookstore month, we asked Father James Thermos for his thoughts on spiritual reading.

Father Thermos leads the spirituality year for St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. The spirituality year is a time of deep formation in which seminarians partake in a media fast, spend extra time in prayer and serve the poor. They also spend two hours every weekday studying sacred Scripture, the Catechism, and spiritual classics.

Father Thermos said that all Christians can benefit from a regimen of spiritual reading.

“Spiritual reading aids us in discovering both who God is and who I am, and that I both receive my love and freedom from God and give it back to Him. Therein lies my happiness,” Father Thermos said.

Father Thermos said that spiritual reading can help Christians develop virtues, such as forgiveness or trust.

“We don’t know how to do these things by nature. Spiritual reading provides guidance,” Father Thermos said.

While Father Thermos said that there is a nearly inexhaustible list of good reading for Christians, he especially recommends the following:

33 Days to Morning Glory by Father Michael Gaitley, M.I.C.

In this self-guided retreat, Father Michael Gaitley uses the lives of four saints to prepare the reader for a total consecration to Mary.

“This book is very helpful in learning how to foster our relationship with Mary, and learning what a sweet relationship that is,” Father Thermos said.

He Leadeth Me by Father Walter Cizek

Father Walter Cizek was imprisoned for 23 years in the Soviet Union. Despite the truly horrendous circumstances he had to endure, his memoir shows how God led him through every moment.

“It teaches in such a concrete way to totally trust in God,” Father Thermos said.

Interior Freedom by Father Jacques Philippe

“Father Philippe has a deep understanding of how we can make choices from our souls, instead of simply reacting to our lives. It’s very empowering. His writing is informative but accessible, and I would recommend anything he’s written,” Father Thermos said.

Wellspring of Worship by Father John Corbon

Father Carbon was the principal author of the fourth part of the Catechism. He is a Greek Catholic, and his work carries a distinctly Easter flair.

“This really is a stunning book, although not as accessible as the other writers I’ve mentioned. Father Carbon gives us a description of the liturgy. He explains that within the Trinitarian life, the Father pours himself into the Son and the Son into the Father, and in the Mass we are invited into this,” Father Thermos said.

Unbound by Neal Lozano

Neal Lozano has practiced deliverance ministry for over 30 years. His teachings on freeing oneself from evil influences and living in freedom as a child of God have been accepted by many different Christian denominations, including many Catholic priests.

“This is a very concrete and well-tested spiritual path to freedom, because it’s the integrated whole of our need to make acts of faith, and forgiveness, and instructions on how to enter into God’s life,” Father Thermos said.

Father Thermos said that any of the above books, or any spiritual classic, can teach the soul new vocabulary to communicate with God, and ultimately lead to greater freedom and happiness.

“Spiritual reading allows us to understand how God desires to speak to us, and how we are better able to speak with Him,” Father Thermos said.