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10 Books That Straightened Out My Life

10 Books That Straightened Out My Life - Part 1 of 3

In 1998 I came back to the Catholic Church after years of living only for myself. It has been 15 years now that I have been trying to live the life of a good Catholic. There have been highs and lows, victories and defeats in this struggle and I am sure there will continue to be until the end.

I've told my conversion story over and over to hundreds and I don't plan to do so here. Rather, inspired, in a way, by the title (I've not yet read the book) of Benjamin Wilker's new book 10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn't Help I decided to list my own top 10 books. However, if I were writing a book like Mr. Wilker's, it would be titled, 10 Books That Straightened Out My Life: And 5 Others That Helped.

My conversion started with a book. Of course I never could attribute all that grace to a single book. When I tell my story I describe all of the people in my life who were praying for me at the time. I compare that wellspring of prayer to a giant water-tower being filled with grace. The book was merely a tool that opened the hardness of my heart and allowed that grace to flow in.

The book that I read, the one that opened the floodgates of grace was Pierced by a Sword by Bud Macfarlane Jr. This book was exactly what I needed at the time. In it I saw real people struggling with real problems like my own. However, they dealt with their problems with faith. It wasn't a super-pious type faith but a real down-to-earth, gritty faith. In this book I saw that it was possible to live a holy life without constantly walking around chanting or praying the rosary. In this book I also saw the power and potential for miracles in everyday life. All the teachings that had been locked away in some closet, or perhaps a tabernacle, in my soul came to life once again.

After reading Pierced by a Sword, I was introduced to C.S. Lewis. All of his works have had a profound effect on my life and I will mention others later, but none more than his classic The Screwtape Letters. Saint Paul talks about doing what he doesn't want to and not doing what he wants to and C.S. Lewis tells us who is behind this confusion. This conversation between a senior devil and his nephew in training gave me new insight into my own struggles and temptations. I've read it numerous times since and have gained new insights every time.

Shortly after my return to the Church and to the sacraments I had the opportunity to visit the Franciscan University of Steubenville where I was encouraged in my faith life by the love of Christ witnessed on that campus. I also became interested in St. Francis at that time. My brother, who was in the seminary at the Pontifical College Josephium, found a book about St. Francis for me in the library there. The Perfect Joy of Saint Francis by Felix Timmerman introduced me to the life and spirituality of St. Francis and I was inspired. In fact, I gave away many of my possessions and desired to live a more simple life. I moved out of a trailer that I was renting with a friend and found a simple apartment in town away from the partying and garbage that goes with it.

Living on my own away from the partying gave me more time to read. At a Catholic bookstore in the neighboring town I found one of the most powerful books written in the area of spirituality. This book, like The Screwtape Letters, is one that should be read over and over. Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean Pierre de Caussade is a book that can change the way you see God and the world. It is also like having a spiritual director close by for all occasions. After reading Abandoment I really began to discern my vocation.

As it turns out, my vocation was to the married life. God revealed this to me through the life and witness of my future wife's grandfather. During our courtship and engagement I was introduced to the Catholic author Louis de Wohl. I have never read a book by de Wohl that I didn't like. Most of his works are historical novels about saints and their lives. The Golden Thread is a novel about Saint Ignatius of Loyola that not only turned me on to writing but to Ignatian spirituality. Louis de Wohl is a master of writing wonderful stories that bring the saints to life in your heart. After reading The Golden Thread I felt like a friend of Saint Ignatius and I believe we still are.

10 Books That Straightened Out My Life - Part 2


CindySioux said…
Thank you for this list! I have been looking for some titles as the outdoors work is slowing down and I have a little more time to read. Now if I can just keep my eyes open past 7:30 p.m. when it gets dark!
I also love to hear people's stories of how they have come to the faith. Whether dramatic or subtle, it is so great to see how God works in people's lives!
James M. Hahn said…
Thanks, if you are interested, I recorded my conversion story a few years ago and you can find it here -

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