Welcome back to “The Clergy Speaks”, a recurring feature here at The Catholic Book Blogger. “The Clergy Speaks” is a column focusing on one question I have asked various members of the clergy. That question is: What five books would you recommend as must-reads for Catholics today? I left the responses open to current or classic books with the only restriction being that the Bible and the Catechism could not be used as they are a given. This week we welcome Bishop Edward J. Burns from the Diocese of Juneau, Alaska.
Bishop Burns was born on October 7, 1957, in Pittsburgh, PA. He obtained a B.A. degree (Philosophy and Sociology) from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA during his four years of priestly formation at St. Paul Seminary. He received a Master of Divinity degree and a Master of Theology degree from Mt. St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, MD. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Pittsburgh by the Most Reverend Vincent M. Leonard on June 25, 1983. He was then assigned as a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Burgettstown, PA until 1988 when he was assigned as parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception Parish, Washington, PA.
In 1999, Bishop Donald Wuerl released Bishop Burns from priestly service in the Diocese of Pittsburgh in order to accept the position of Executive Director of the Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC. In this capacity, Bishop Burns served as staff to the Bishops’ Committee on Vocations and the Bishops’ Committee on Priestly Formation.
Bishop Burns served as Interim Director of the Secretariat for Priestly Life & Ministry and served as a consultant for the Bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People. Bishop Burns was named a Chaplain to His Holiness by Pope Benedict XVI on June 29, 2006. On January 1, 2008 Bishop Burns assumed the responsibilities as Executive Director of the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life & Vocations in response to the re-organization of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
On August 1, 2008, Bishop Burns completed his time at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop David A. Zubik, Bishop of Pittsburgh, appointed Bishop Burns as Rector of St. Paul Seminary, Director of the Department for Pre-Ordination Formation and Director of the Department for Priestly Vocations for the Diocese of Pittsburgh effective August 18, 2008.
On January 12, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Burns to be the fifth Bishop of Juneau, Alaska. He was ordained as a Bishop at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh on March 3, 2009, and took possession of the Diocese of Juneau at Saint Paul the Apostle Catholic Church on April 2, 2009.
Here are his five must-reads for Catholics today:
As I wondered what five books to recommend for Catholics that that represent the rich history, sacramental life and teachings/tradition of the Church, I sat in my small library and den at my residence and chose the following:
Every informed Catholic should be familiar with the key documents of Second Vatican Council, in particular the Dogmatic Constitutions on the Sacred Liturgy; on the Church; on Divine Revelation and on the Church in the World. These documents show the way and direction of the Church.
- A Concise History of the Catholic Church by Thomas Bokenkotter.
Every aspect of the life of the Catholic Church is shaped by two thousand years of inspiring, sometimes disappointing but always exciting and relevant history.
- The Imitation of Christby Thomas a’ Kempis.
This little book by the 15th century Flemish monk Thomas of Kempis is an invitation to renew one’s spiritual life by imitating the example of Jesus, striving to deepen communion with him, especially in the Eucharist and to converse with God in prayer.
- The Confessions by Saint Augustine.
Ever since being introduced to this work in college, I have appreciated the message of St. Augustine reflecting on his own conversion, relationship with the Lord, and mission in life. Many times I walk to work from my house on Douglas Island to the Diocesan Chancery offices in Juneau (about two miles) and I continue to listen to the audiobook edition of it – St. Augustine proposes a life of obedient confidence in God’s love, fidelity and ultimate purpose.
- The Gospel of St. Johnby Raymond Brown
In my study of Sacred Scripture, I am particularly interested in Johannine literature. In light of this, I have come to appreciate the work of renowned 20th century scripture scholar, Fr. Raymond Brown. I appreciate his treatment of Johannine Literature in the Anchor Bible Series and his book, “The Community of the Beloved Disciple”. I believe that his work combines both a deep faith (rooted in scripture and the sacraments) and superlative scholarship.
I hope that these selections help. In forging ahead in the work of the New Evangelization and renewed efforts in catechesis, I believe that these five works offer good foundational material to continue the mission of the Church and advance the Gospel message.
Blessings to you and your readers.
Bishop Edward J. Burns
Diocese of Juneau, Alaska