Catholic Theology Student Reading List

If you’ve ever been curious about what a Catholic theology student’s reading list is like, wonder no more!

I actually have two different lists to share: the reading list for my Master’s focusing on Catholic theology and my personal reading list. I’m through my Master’s in theology and will be applying for a Ph.D.program, so this list will grow with me in the coming years. Check back frequently!

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My reading list for my Master’s program:

Catechism of the Catholic Church – An obvious addition to any Catholic library!

The New Oxford Annotated Bible – I have to admit to being thrown off by my university using this version of the Bible and not an explicitly Catholic version (especially when I try to cite a footnote and get comments on it not being Church teaching); however, it is the academic Bible and I cannot recommend having this version with you as you study for both grad school and personal study. Just know that it is ecumenical and doesn’t exactly have Church teachings within the footnotes.

The Shape of Catholic Theology by Aidan Nichols – The main book used in my intro to theology class. My professor complained about me going off on tangents at times, but I feel like this book does the same thing. Nevertheless, a good resource.

Introduction to Theology by John Laurance – This book was created for a theology class at Notre Dame and my intro to theology class used it periodically. I didn’t particularly care for it, but have linked to it so you can browse for yourself.

Introduction to the Hebrew Bible by John Collins – Another book I can’t recommend enough. It is hugely eye-opening and should be required reading for anyone who reads the Bible! You think you know the Old Testament? Think again.

An Introduction to the New Testament by Raymond Brown – And another book I can’t recommend enough! This is the reference for New Testament study and it is hefty. Again, it’s an ecumenical work, so don’t get confused if you purchase it and read different Christian perspectives (yet another one that throws me off when I try to cite in papers). It is perhaps the most comprehensive work on the New Testament with many references for recommended reading and will probably keep you busy studying for years to come. You think you know the New Testament? You guessed it – think again!

The Case for Jesus by Brand Pitre – Sounds pretty similar to The Case for Christ, huh? This is a thinner work but is interesting nevertheless and worth having around.

A Brief Catechesis on Nature and Grace by Henri de Lubac – This was used in my Theology of Grace course and despite putting off reading it, it’s actually a nice little book on nature and grace. I’ve actually gone back to read it after the course ended since it was actually easy to digest and understand. De Lubac is one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century, and now I understand why!

Guardian of a Pure Heart: St. Augustine on the Path to Heaven by Dr. Patricia Sodano Ireland – Another book used in my Theology of Grace course and, admittedly, I might harbor a distaste for this book since we only used it for three chapters. Parts of it are interesting, certainly, but I feel like I would get more out of it if I read Augustine directly.

The New Jerome Biblical Commentary – This actually is not part of the curriculum; however, it came at the recommendation of my priest since he used it plenty during his seminary years, and it turns out everyone recommends it during theological studies! It’s chock-full of information for probably every single verse in the Bible, both historical and theological.

My personal reading for spiritual development and discernment:

Now That I’m Called: A Guide for Women Discerning a Call to Ministry by Kristen Padilla – This is written from a Protestant perspective, but it was helpful for me. I used the prompts at the end of each chapter to further explore my calling, as well as take general notes as I read. This is the book that helped me to see I am just like the Apostle Paul and that alone has been life changing! It’s just important to understand the differences in theology and limitations women have in the Catholic Church when reading through this; i.e., obviously, a woman cannot become a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. I ended up gifting this to a friend who is a youth director at an Episcopal church, so it is a gift that keeps on giving, in the end.

What Do You Really Want?: St. Ignatius Loyola and the Art of Discernment by Jim Manney – As someone who changed their major seven (or nine…) times during their undergraduate years, I feel like discernment books are my security blanket! Anything from St. Ignatius Loyola should be in everyone’s libraries regardless of difficulty in discernment of the big things or the small things. This book is short and sweet at 140 pages and is insanely helpful.

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis – A spiritual classic beloved by many saints and popes. Supposedly, it’s the second most popular book behind the Bible. This version is a gorgeous book that is great to carry to your next Adoration visit!

Blessed Trinity Book of Catholic Prayers – I figured it would be useful to have at least one prayer book around for spiritual development and conversion. This one seemed to be one of the most comprehensive and it’s nice looking. It has all the basic prayers, prayer intentions by month, prayers and Mysteries of the Rosary, and all sorts of other prayers and devotions.

The Catholic Journaling Bible from Blessed is She (Amazon link here) – The one and only Catholic journaling Bible available. This is a hardcover with nice little calligraphy pages interspersed of particular verses, which is great if you like to think you’re artistic but are a little lackluster in the lettering department! I love it because this allows me to take plenty of notes without having to resort to sticky note tabs sticking out everwhere. The Catholic Notetaking Bible is also available, which is very similar to the Catholic Journaling Bible but without interspersed word art pages and is leather-bound.

If you are or were studying Catholic theology, what did your reading list have? Any recommendations for spiritual development and discernment? Let me know in the comments!


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