Francis Phillips

For anyone who wants to know more about the spirit of the Russian Orthodox faith, Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon (Pokrov Publications, £20) provides a wonderful introduction. Written by a monk from the Pskov Caves Monastery near the Russian-Estonian border, it is a charming mixture of miraculous events, lives of holy monks and incidents of religious persecution, providing an inimitable glimpse of the supernatural.

Many travel books are published these days. Jim Malia’s In Belloc’s Steps (New Millennium, £8) is, however, different. It’s his account of following Hilaire Belloc’s classic story, The Path to Rome (1902), 100 years later, with all the humour and challenges such a walking pilgrimage involves. For those who want to learn more of the faith and Europe’s Christian culture, this book will provide a refreshing companion. Malia even discusses the merits of the local wines.

Any recommendation of Catholic reading should include the story of a saint such as Pier Giorgio Frassati: a Hero for Our Times (Ignatius Press, £16). Frassati, who died in 1925 aged 24, provides a wonderful example to young people today, especially those of no faith, of what an exuberant and joyful life you can lead when you place Christ at the centre. Like the rich young man in the Gospel, the young Frassati, son of a wealthy Turin family, wanted to “inherit eternal life”. Unlike the unnamed man in the Gospel story, he did renounce his wealth in an interior act of poverty, though it did not curtail his love of his friends, cigars, mountaineering and joining societies of Christian action.

Hillary Clinton, a well-known feminist, who wanted people to vote for her in the American presidential election because, among other things, she was determined to break the political “glass ceiling”, should have read Thérèse Vanier: Pioneer of L’Arche, Palliative Care and Spiritual Unity by Ann Shearer (DLT, £12.99). Clinton would have found the life of this unmarried, Catholic woman doctor who died in 2014 highly instructive. How did Thérèse Vanier, sister of the founder of the L’Arche communities, Jean Vanier, come to be so loved and valued by so many people and to exert such a great (if quiet) influence within the three spheres of life that she chose as her vocation?

Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, the author of The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church (Pauline Books and Media, £11), who writes a popular blog, Pursued by Truth, relates her own story of having abandoned her faith for 10 years and then, after a series of experiences and encounters, returning to it. Her book is full of hope and good advice and it will put heart into those whose own loved ones have left the faith. Prayer is the key, followed by example and obeying the promptings of the Spirit in our conversations with others.

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