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A Christmas reading list to stir your soul


Scott Hahn/Image | J.R.R. Tolkien/Mariner Books | Pierre-Marie Dumont/Magnificat

Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP - published on 12/23/20

These selections will help reignite the holiday spirit and deepen your appreciation of the mystery of Christmas.

With travel restrictions and limited gatherings, take the extra time this Christmas to nurture your spiritual life by turning to these great reads.

“Journey of the Magi” by T.S. Eliot (Collected Poems: Harcourt Brace, 1991)

This poem, written by the Anglo-Catholic British poet T.S. Eliot, tells the story of the journey to Bethlehem from the perspective of one of the Gospel’s three wise men. First published in 1927, just two months after the author’s baptism, the poem’s dramatic monologue expresses the wonderment at the changes that the birth of Christ brings to the world. One commentator describes the conclusion of the pensive magus saying, “The reader becomes aware that, Nemi-like, the birth of the new priest-king means the end of ‘the old dispensation’—an entire world order—as ‘this Birth was / Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.’” Swept up in the traveling king’s contemplation, Eliot’s mysterious images transcend the experience of this one journey, giving way to the deeper Christian mystery.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Penguin Classics, 2010)

Written in just six weeks when Dickens himself was struggling financially, A Christmas Carol depicts one of the most delightful conversions of heart worthy of reflection every Christmas season. Dickens joyfully describes the converted Scrooge saying, “He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew.” It is possible to be changed, and Scrooge’s own transformation promises the possibility of interior renewal and change of heart. But Scrooge’s conversion is far from the end of the story. Every soul that reads this book must ask: what do I love? Are those loves really worthy of my devotion?

Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI (Image, 2012)

The final volume in Pope Benedict XVI’s trilogy Jesus of Nazareth, this book was a New York Times bestseller on its release. Anthony Esolen claims that for Pope Benedict, “Love is the key to his work, as it is the theme and lesson of this work.” Esolen continues, “Indeed, the Pope has written that in Jesus, the man and the mission are one, and the mission is the holiness of love—of being entirely for and with God, and for and with mankind, without reserve.” For those who know the Christmas story well, Pope Benedict’s rich exploration of the Gospels opens new horizons to encounter Christ.

Joy to the World by Scott Hahn (Image, 2014)

When asked to identify the biggest challenge of Christmas, Scott Hahn replies, “To welcome Jesus. That’s always the challenge. We think our lives are full, and we don’t really trust him to come in and mess with our plans. Even after all these thousands of years, we hang a ‘no vacancy’ sign at the inn.” The bestselling author Dr. Scott Hahn offers a novel look at Scripture, encouraging readers to make the Christmas story their own. Hahn’s book is ideal for those looking to renew the joy of Christmas.

It’s a Wonderful Life by Frank Capra (Cluny Media, 2017)

Like Ebeneezer Scrooge of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Frank Capra’s George Bailey experiences a profound conversion worth reliving each Christmas. Lovers of the classic American holiday film will cherish the opportunity to ponder more contemplatively the film’s rich themes by reading the screenplay. Capra, a devout Catholic, reveals the workings of divine grace hidden in the ordinary experiences of human life during the holiday season. 

The Splendors of Christmas (Magnificat, 2014)

A visually impressive collection of the treasures of Christmas art and poetry, presented by Pierre-Marie Dumont, publisher of Magnificat. This marvelous volume includes artwork from masters such as Holbein, El Greco, Michelangelo, and Matisse. Passing from the ancient promises first made to Israel to their fulfillment in Bethlehem’s manger, the meditations of this volume will reignite childlike wonder and fervent gratitude for the gift of the Savior!

Mr. Blue by Myles Connolly (Cluny Media, 2016)

As 2020 opened, Americans celebrated the new year by recalling the thriving, even decadent, roaring ‘20s. We should not hesitate to additionally recall the charming and carefree antithesis to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby. The heir of an unexpected fortune, J. Blue forgoes the life of wealth and luxury. Preferring service and simplicity, this modern Francis of Assisi preaches a life of love and meaning to a morally bankrupt culture. 

Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien (Mariner Books, 2004)

These wonderful tales from the North Pole were originally written by Tolkien for his own children. The creator of Middle Earth spares none of his talent in sharing the delightful adventures of Father Christmas. For over 20 years Tolkien composed these letters for his sons and daughter. Meet all the friends of Father Christmas: the snow elves, polar bears, gnomes, and snowmen that become part of Father Christmas’ household. 

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