Suggested Spiritual Reading from Father James Thermos

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”

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by Father Walter Ciszek, S.J.

 

Father Walter Ciszek 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”

Wellspring of Worship_DC

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 Eastern 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”

Unbound_DC

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.

COMING UP: On Fathers and Christian Masculinity

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The Year of St. Joseph points us to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, as the essential model for fathers. Joseph not only manifests genuine masculinity, he also images God’s own fatherhood, as Pope Francis makes clear in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde: “In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” Jesus, though the Son of God, obeyed Joseph, learned from him, and worked with him, acknowledging Joseph as a true expression of God’s own fatherhood.  

God does not just use fatherhood as an image of himself, because he himself is Father, even within his own triune life. Earthly fatherhood comes forth from him and should manifest his life and love. St. Paul speaks of honoring the “Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). God wants everyone to be able to see his own fatherly love and called certain men to share in his own paternal gift of bringing forth life and caring for others. Every father is called to be liked Joseph, “an earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” for his own family. 

Our culture, however, often denigrates masculinity, sometimes viewing even its proper expressions as toxic. We too often see maleness in its fallenness — dominating and selfish — rather than showing self-sacrificial service. In fact, later in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the true vocation of the husband and father: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). He also speaks of the role of fatherhood: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Paul shows us the goal of fatherhood — sacrificing himself for the flourishing of the family by putting the good of his wife and children before his own desires.   

No matter what the contrary voices of our culture say, we need strong men and fathers. God created man and woman in complementarity, and they need each other to thrive, helping the other in relation to their own strengths and weaknesses. Children need the strong presence of a father to discipline and teach, as Paul reminds us. Study after study has shown that fathers have the largest impact on the faith of their children. Christian Smith explains in his sociological study, Young Catholic America, that “the faith of Catholic fathers is powerfully determinative of the future faith of their children (125). The same can be said for general wellbeing and success. When fathers are absent or refuse to exercise their role, a moral and spiritual vacuum appears. A strong majority of felons, for instance, grew up without fathers in the home.  

St. Joseph helps us to understand the strength of Christian fatherhood. First, like any good husband, Joseph listened — not just to his wife but also to God. Woken up frequently by angels, he demonstrated obedience and trust, quickly leaving everything behind to follow God’s instructions and to protect his family. We also know Joseph for his work as a carpenter and builder, content to live simply and to work hard. Importantly, he also taught Jesus how to work, showing that fathers model and teach by drawing their children into their life and work. And we can also learn from Joseph’s humility, serving the Incarnate God and his Mother without even a single recorded word in the Gospels.  

This humility points us to the essence of Christian fatherhood. Although living with two perfect people, Joseph was still called to lead. He quietly and humbly did what was needed for his family and taught his own maker how to share in his work. Fathers do not lead in order to be in charge or to get their own way. They lead because God asks them to care for and protect their families. Fathers and mothers share in the great and beautiful partnership of family life, although fathers cannot simply sit back and let mom take the lead in the spiritual life, as they are often tempted to do. Like Joseph, fathers should act firmly and lovingly to put God and the family before self, obeying God and leading the family in the right direction. They are called to model faith, work, and sacrifice to their children. 

On Father’s Day we can affirm that masculinity and fatherhood are not just good — they are essential to understanding God and his plan for human flourishing. If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight. As Christians, we cannot give in to the culture’s attempt to denigrate masculinity and fatherhood or to pit men and women against each other. We can use this celebration to affirm the essential role that our fathers play, leading their families like St. Joseph.