Cardinal Mercier’s Book Prescription for the Catholic Household
I have been reading through the great Cardinal Mercier’s book simply titled, ‘Modernism.’ It is a relatively short work at about 70 pages. In it however, aside from pointing out the errors of modernism, he gives a short instruction on what books he thinks that Catholics should read and study as a minimum for any Catholic household. I had often wondered if it was true, that Catholics before Vatican II were taught that they should never read the Bible. While some may have been taught such things, this instruction by the Cardinal proves that this was not the case everywhere. I thought I would share this short part of the book with you. Catholics in general are not known for being readers, especially when it comes to their faith. This little list would not make a bad starter kit for those who don't have a Catholic library.
Protect with vigilance the treasure of your faith, without which nothing will profit you for eternity. Perfect your religious instruction.
It is an astonishing fact that in proportion as the youth grows to manhood, he considers it almost a question of honour to develop his physical forces, to increase the measure of his knowledge, to strengthen his judgment, enrich his experience, to polish his language and refine his style, and better inform him self on the march of events. Man has at heart the perfection of his profession, and is there a lawyer, magistrate, doctor, or merchant who would not blush if forced to admit at forty that for the last twenty years he had added nothing to his store of knowledge?
And is it not a fact that if Catholics of twenty, thirty and forty years of age were interrogated, they would have to confess that since their First Communion they had not studied their religion, and perhaps have even now forgotten what they then learned? In these troubled times I understand the conquests of unbelief, and I deplore them; but what seems more difficult to explain is that a believing, intelligent man, conscious of the value of that rare gift of Faith, is content to ignore what he believes, why he believes it, and what the solemn vows of baptism pledged him to, towards God and his neighbour.
Every well educated man should have in his library a Catechism, if not to learn by heart, at least to study the text. The one most highly recommended is the Catechism of the Council of Trent, an admirable work in its clearness, precision and method, in which by the order of the Fathers of the Council of Trent, a commission of distinguished theologians was charged to condense the substance of faith and morals and the institutions of Christianity.
To instruct himself in the reasons for his belief the well-informed Catholic should have, beside his Catechism, a manual of the dogmatic teachings of the Church, and the principal Pontifical Encyclicals addressed to our generation, those of Leo XIII, of glorious memory, and the Encyclicals of Pius X.
All Catholics should have in their house holds, if not the integral text of the Bible, at least the New Testament, that is, the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. And they should have, moreover, a history of the Church and an apologetical treatise. But to keep alive and nourish his piety every Christian should possess a Roman Missal, and a treatise on the liturgy that will explain the ceremonies of the Mass and the principal manifestations of religious worship in the Church.
The Imitation of Christ, Bossuet’s Meditations on the Gospels, and The Introduction to a Devout Life, by St. Francis of Sales, and, in addition to these, several lives of the Saints that represent to us the practical application of the teaching of the Gospel: these books form together at a very modest outlay the minimum religious library of a Christian family. Every family, however humble, ought to have several books of piety.
I have sometimes glanced at the libraries of friends following liberal careers, and noticed books of science, of literature, and profane history; but how often one searches in vain for any religious literature. Is it then surprising that minds so poorly equipped are easily taken in by an audaciously formulated objection: they are then horrified, and appeal to apologetics for help.
Apologetics have without doubt their place in the Church, and oppose a defence to every attack. When one is ill the physician is called in, but hygiene is more potent than the doctor. Study for choice the statements and proofs of Catholic doctrine, penetrate yourself with its teachings and meditate on them, get to know the history of the Church, and learn her apostolic labours.
Taken from 'Modernism' By Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Malines
Translated from the French 1910