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Shakespeare for Catholics: 4 books Bishop Barron wants you to read

“One of the signs of a vibrant Catholicism is that it thinks seriously about the faith”.  

Quoting John Henry Newman, Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles City, US  urged the faithful not to “dumb down the message” of the Gospel in the pursuit of New Evangelization.

During his talk on New Evangelization and family at St. Paul’s College in Pasig on January 24, 2016, the founder of Word on Fire Ministies shared how his niece, who was about to enter her senior year in a very good high school in Chicago, was preparing her books for the year ahead. She was assigned the whole texts of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Virgil’s Aeneid in Latin, and an “Einstenian” physics books bristling with complex equations. Underneath all those was a big paperback with pictures and large print inside—and that was her religion book.  

“Does this bother you at all?  She’s reading a comic book for religion,” Barron found himself asking his brother. So he decided to get his niece the Catholic Catholic equivalents of Shakespeare, Virgil, and Einstein. Sharing with you here are four of his must-reads for Catholics:

1. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton (1908)

J.M. Shields writes in his centenary review of Orthodoxy that although listeners would come to G.K. “for a laugh, they stayed for a lesson (1998).”  And that is why, among all the books on this list, this is the one you might want to start with.  In the introduction, the author states that the book is “an explanation, not of whether the Christian faith can be believed, but of how [one man] personally came to believe it”. Though it is very much an autobiography—a series of “mental pictures” rather than a deductive justification of faith, this book has also become a classic of Christian apologetics.  G.K. Chesterton wrote this book in 1908.  He converted to Catholicism fourteen years later.

Read it here:

Hard copy available thru:


2. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (1320)

In this epic poem written in 1320, Dante imaginatively envisions the afterlife, describing his travel through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise.  Allegorically, it represents the soul’s journey towards God. The Divine Comedy, which draws from medieval Christian theology and philosophy, has also been called “the Summa Theologica (of Aquinas) in verse”.

Read it here:

Hard copy available thru: National Bookstore


3. Summa contra Gentiles (Vol. 1) by Thomas Aquinas (1270 - 73)

Also known as the Summa contra Gentes, this work is often classified as an early missionary’s handbook because of its more apologetic tone—written to explain and defend the “Christian truth” against unbelievers.  It is the only complete summary of Christian doctrine written by St. Thomas. Here, Aquinas explains specific core articles of the faith by bringing forward demonstrative and probable arguments to convince the skeptic. The first volume studies God’s existence, nature, and substance; the autonomy of his knowledge, the independence of his will, the perfection of His life, and the generosity of His love. The succeeding volumes deal with Creation, Providence, and Salvation.

Read it here:

Hard copy available at:

4. Confessions by St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 397 - 400)

In Confessions, St. Augustine begins by writing, "For Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.” This partial autobiography is written in the form of prayers to God and details the saint’s regrets at having led a sinful life, especially pertaining to his sexual sins as well as believing in other religions in the past. It outlines his conversion to Christianity and features significant insights, which is why it is considered one of Augustine’s most important works.

Read it here:

Hard copy available thru: St. Paul’s bookstore

How's that for food for thought? (Katrina Martin)

*Works published before 1923 are generally under public domain. 

Added on Thursday, February 4, 2016


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