Saturday, 9 December 2006

Books on Priestly Vocation

Joee Blogs has tagged me, challenging me to list some 'brilliant' books on the subject of vocation. Forgive me if I concentrate on the priestly vocation:

Religious Vocation: An Unnecessary Mystery, by Richard Butler OP. There aren't many books on vocation itself but I found this one useful when I was recently preparing a talk on Priesthood and Vocation. First published in 1961, this book is chiefly about vocation to the Religious Life, which Butler refers to as an invitatio rather than a vocatio - in a sense everyone is called to the Religious Life because it is basically a living out of the evangelical counsels, but most of us are prevented to do so because of circumstances (family, job, etc). Butler also makes the important point that vocation is an 'unnecessary mystery.' Many people procrastinate because they wait for a clear sign from God. Of course, this only happens rarely - initially the key thing in discerning a vocation is a right intention and the appropriate gifts of nature and grace. The long years of formation will help the individual and the Church decide whether this call is real. Vocation shouldn't be a conundrum and, in a sense, you have to be prepared to make a leap in the dark and get the ball rolling rather than procrastinate and wait for a 'feeling' that you are called.

Priests for the Third Millennium, by Timothy Dolan (now Archbishop of Milwaukee). To my mind the best modern book on the Sacred Priesthood. It is a collection of conferences by Mgr Dolan when he was Rector of the North American College, Rome, and they are lively, direct and frequently hit the nail on the head.

Vessel of Clay, by Leo Trese
I love this book by another American priest, Fr Trese. Published in 1950, it is effectively a 'day in the life of a priest' and each chapter signifies a different time of the day. Thus Chapter One is '6.30am' and begins:

One hand gropes for the alarm clock, two feet hit the floor. Another victory is achieved; another day begins. Sometimes I feel that a priest's salvation is determined during those first ten seconds after Big Ben sounds his call. It is so easy to say to oneself, "Just five more minutes." The five minutes become fifteen or thirty, and then there is a quick splashing of water and a mad dash for the altar.
I'm sad to say: been there, done that!

The Joy of Priesthood, Fr Stephen J. Rossetti
Another American book, published by Ave Maria Press last year. It is very accessible and, written as it is by a priest psychologist (with his head firmly screwed on), it contains some interesting observations. One chapter proposes that society is biased against masculinity and that the modern Church promotes mostly feminine virtues (listening, caring, nurturing, etc) but that priests must have the confidence to be masculine as well (direct with a clear identity and loyalty to the Church).

Finally, a trilogy of English authors on Priesthood: Cardinal Manning's Eternal Priesthood (probably one of his best books), Bishop Bernard Ward's superb Priestly Vocation and Ronald Knox's incomparable Priestly Life. These should be easily available via abebooks.

Hope that helps!

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Blogger Mark said...

Fr Nicholas,

Thank you for those book recommendations!

9:59 am  
Blogger Joee Blogs said...

Gosh Father, all your five were totally different from mine! Many thanks for accepting the tag - somehow I think this is more what the blogosphere is for...



12:32 pm  
Blogger Vicki said...

'The Priestly Life' by Msgr Knox is also available in its entirety online at:

Best wishes,
Vicki McCaffrey
Pres., Ronald Knox Society

12:10 am  
Anonymous ashlyn said...

Thank you for you suggestions. I now have more ideas for my Christmas holiday reading.

3:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about "The Priest Is Not His Own" by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, published by Ignatius?

Martin Shaw

6:46 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

Yes, Fulton Sheen's book is very good - but I was trying not to repeat the books recommended by Joee Blogs.

6:55 pm  
Blogger Mark said...

Fr Nicholas,

I said thank you before, but I want to say it again... today I finally got Mgr. Dolan's book, and though I have not yet had a chance to read it, my little glances inside have been already rewarded. Thank you again.

10:27 pm  

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