Essential Books for a future priest?


I am not sure if this is the correct place to post, but since it deals with vocations, and is not necessarily about the CA Book Club, I will post here anyway. Please move this thread if needed. Thanks.

I have a very strong calling to the priesthood. If nothing changes I will be entering seminary in the next few years. Currently I am finishing up my undergraduate degree (in Theology and Philosophy) before entering grad school for theology this fall. I have some money saved up, and am looking to buy some books to better prepare me to be a good spiritual director and preacher. I am not looking for any books on discerning the priesthood, books that give a basic overview (although they are good), or apologetical works (Hahn, Kreeft, etc.). Rather, I am looking for more “academic” works with a lot of “meat” in them. I would prefer writings by the Saints. I am looking mainly for books that will be beneficial for me throughout my vocational process and during my priestly vocation. Cost is not an issue, since I won’t be buying everything all at once (as much as I can afford).

Currently on my list:

  • Ancient Christian Writers Series (63 Volumes)
  • Catena Aurea–Commentary on the Four Gospels, 4 Volumes
  • Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers (4 vol.) A Manual of Preaching, Spiritual Reading, and Meditation
  • Sermons of the Curé of Ars
  • The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Hell, Heaven
  • Purgatory: Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints
  • Preparation for Death: Considerations on Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell
  • Uniformity with God’s Will
  • Visits To The Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life
  • St. Peter Chrysologus: Selected Sermons
  • John Henry Newman: Selected Sermons (Classics of Western Spirituality)
  • Some Copy of Lives of the Saints
  • Imitations of Christ

Are there some major works that I am missing? This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather a good overview. If anyone can add to this list, specifically with works on sermons and homilies that would be great.

Thank you!


Well there is, of course, St. John Chrysostom’s “On the Priesthood,” which is actually very in depth and probably just what you’re looking for. And you might want to check out a good rhetoric book too (for homilies). When I asked a priest friend how best to prepare, he suggested also learning Spanish. You’ll want to make sure you understand Latin (may I recommend Wheelock’s?). And of course St. Vlad’s Seminary Press has the Popular Patristics Series. May I recommend everything? Of course, I’ve only read OtP, St. Basil’s “On the Holy Spirit,” and St. John of Damascus’ “Three Treatises on the Divine (Holy?) Images.” I’d read the others, but I’m a sixteen year old who works at McDonalds and has a pile of books to read that just might be taller than he is!


Three things:

1) Congratulations on your decision! I myself am discerning the priesthood, and wish you the best of luck in your studies!

2) Do you plan to be in a specific order? The books you want may vary based on that. For instance, if you want to be a Jesuit, it would be good to get The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and The Autobiography of St. Ignatius. If you want to be a Dominican, it would be good to stock up on Aquinas and his respective commentaries, etc.

3) I must recommend getting the Faith Database to get a good many of these works for a much lower cost. It has quite a lot of stuff and is only $40, so I would definitely recommend checking it out.

  1. Thanks, and best of luck with your journey too!

  2. I am most likely going to be a diocesan priest. Battle grounds. I feel called to preach to the faithful in a parish and to hear confessions.

  3. That sounds like a great deal. I am going to look into it, but the only problem is I am a book type of guy. Reading on computers cannot ever compare to having a book in hand.

Thanks for your response. I will most likely be getting the Spiritual Exercises and Catena Aurea (Aquinas).


Thanks for your response. I currently am finishing up ancient greek, and hopefully, I will take latin in seminary. The Ancient Christian Writers Series… very expensive, cover almost all of the early fathers’ works. I will definitely check out “On the Priesthood”.

I once altar served at a Byzantine Liturgy on campus. Did not know what I was doing, but it was so beautiful.


You should add on St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori's 'Dignity and Duties of a Priest' as absolutely essential reading.


[quote="Pieman333272, post:3, topic:233678"]
If you want to be a Dominican, it would be good to stock up on Aquinas and his respective commentaries, etc.


Even and especially if he isn't looking to enter the Dominicans he should stock up on Aquinas, the summa and the catena are musts. Thomas Aquinas is the Doctor of Doctors, a good and holy priesthood I think cannot exist without the help of St. Thomas, avail yourself!


Pope St. Gregory's The Book of Pastoral Rule is a must. It provides general guidance on the words and pastoral approaches to be used with persons of different personalities and in different areas of the spiritual life.

With God in Russia, by Fr. Walter J Ciszek. The account of a Jesuit priest who survived the Russian gulag. Very inspiring. His He Leadeth Me also is good.

If you want sermons, St. John Chrysostom offered a great number of them. You may find them free online or in book form. The ones I have read are very good.

Fulton Sheen's The Priest is Not His Own. I have not read all of this one, and do not myself find it great, but I have Catholic friends who find it awesome, so I thought I would pass the title to you.

Pro-life Answers to Pro-choice Arguments. Randy Alcorn. Great foundational ethics text on abortion issues. Written by an evangelical (I think) Protestant, but quite valuable for any Christian who believes abortion is wrong. Would be helpful for a priest when parishioners come to him with tough questions.

Confessions of St. Augustine. A Christian classic well worth the read.

Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales. Provides practical advice for those living in the world.

Also, two Orthodox books which I think would help Catholic priests as well:
Father Arseny: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father, and its sequel, Cloud of Witnesses. Both books are about Father Arseny, a priest who continued as a priest even in the harshest conditions of the gulag, and who was a light of Christ to those in darkness. The books also contain stories about his spiritual children and their interactions with Father Arseny.


I am in the application process right now to go to seminary in the fall. If I were you I would not worry about Theological books or even Philosophical books right now but instead read about as many Saints as you can. The reason for this is that in seminary you will be exposed to many Theological and Philosophical books and you can always buy them to further your studies but as a priest you do not need to be a Theologian but instead a Pastor. What better to learn how to be a Pastor than our past Pastors and the ones who led others to and through the faith. The Saints' stories are timeless and always help when preaching and teaching the faith. That is why I would say to hold off on the Theological and Philosophical books and instead focus on the Saints. If you want the other books then I believe your list is great. I would also add the Church Fathers, especially their homilies as they are wonderful sources for learning our faith in context. I would also say to learn about the Old Testament as best as you can to understand the whole context of the New Testament. I don't know where you are in your studies and I can't think of a book off hand but find a good commentary on the Old and New Testament can be invaluable at all times.


To Save a Thousand Souls” - A Guide For Discerning a Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood by Fr. Brett A. Brannen


Henry Cardinal Manning’s ‘The Eternal Priesthood’


In addition to the earlier mentioned To Save a Thousand Souls, I suggest that you consider something similar to A Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan by Father John McCloskey.

Thanks for saying Yes to your vocation.


The Priest the man of God by St Joseph Cafasso.


No ifs, ands, or buts... Fire Within by Fr. Dubay.

Priests must learn about contemplative, deep prayer and growing in Holiness.


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