A Catholic Researcher’s Reference List

Aug 02, 2023

Dear Souls and Hearts Members,

Have you ever wondered, “How does Dr. Peter research the content for the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast and these weekly reflections? What are his ‘go-to’ primary resources for grounding the best of secular psychology and human formation in an authentically Catholic understanding of the human person?” Well hang on, curious readers, I’m about to take you on a guided tour of my bookshelf with a desire to inspire your continued formation. Oh, and don’t worry, the promised series on daydreams and the inner life is in the works. We will continue with that next week.

Take a topic, any topic

I generally start researching a topic by diving into my two main sources of Catholic teaching: 1) Sacred Scripture, and 2) the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

If I were marooned on a desert island, and could have only two books with me, these would be the two. Let us take a deeper look at both.

Start with Sacred Scripture

Sacred Scripture has a central importance in our Catholic Faith. Scripture is the Word of God. If we want to know the mind of God on any given topic, we embrace what God freely gives us in Sacred Scripture. St. Jerome famously said “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

So which translations do I use in these weekly reflections, and in the podcast? My go-to translation is generally the Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition, or the RSVCE. For more literal translation, which I greatly appreciate, I will access Douay-Rheims translation. I have several other Catholic translations of the Bible, and sometimes I will use biblegateway.com as a rapid way to compare dozens of English translations of a single verse.

Scripture commentaries

Along with the translations themselves, the commentaries on Scripture are of great importance in my work. Biblical commentaries are written to help the reader grasp Scripture more deeply by providing additional information on the context and meaning of the text. We Catholics need this commentary just as the Ethiopian eunuch needed Philip’s guidance on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza in Acts 8:27-31:

And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of the Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

I use the following Scripture commentaries regularly:

For both the Old and New Testaments:

Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary by Fr. George Haydock has been a standard reference commentary to the Douay-Rheims translation for more than two centuries since its initial publication in 1811 with a traditional Catholic approach to understanding the Scriptures. This is a massive commentary, approximately 7500 pages in length, but there is a Kindle edition.

The Didache Bible with commentaries based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church edited by Fr. James Socias and several other contributors, which shows the deep connections between Sacred Scripture and the teachings of our Church in the Catechism. I’ve just purchased this one and have not yet studied it carefully.

The New Jerome Biblical Commentary by Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, and Roland Murphy is a one-volume compendium of commentary on all Sacred Scripture.

Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scriptures a 29-volume series edited by Thomas C. Oden that present the key writings and commentaries of the Early Church Fathers (from the first six centuries of Christianity) on the passages of Scripture to provide their theological, spiritual, and pastoral insights. It is an “ecumenical project” that sifted through the writings of the fathers and brought them together in a collage around each Scripture passage.

For the Old Testament:

The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible has published paperback commentaries on Psalms; Tobit, Judith, and Esther, Isaiah; Deuteronomy; Genesis; Wisdom and Sirach; Daniel; Exodus; 1&2 Samuel; 1&2 Kings; Judges and Ruth; Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon; Joshua; Job; and 1 & 2 Maccabees. These are very easy to read and informative, and faithful to the teachings of the Church. I have some of these, but not all, as they are released periodically, volume by volume.

A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: The Old Testament by John Bergsma and Brant Pitre. Published in 2018, this one-volume work provide an excellent summary and relevant notes for each of the books of the Old Testament, solidly grounded in Catholic theology and spirituality, written by men who believe the Old Testament is indeed the Word of God.

Berit Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry, David Cotter is the general editor for this 14-volume series which brought together commentary from a variety of religious backgrounds (not all Catholic). I find this series particularly helpful for understanding more deeply word usage in the Scripture. Obviously, when non-Catholic authors are included in a series, one must be discerning around theological, spiritual, religious, and pastoral matters presented.

Navarre Bible: Old Testament This seven-volume commentary by the faculty of the Universidad de Navarra in Spain explains the Biblical text in an accessible way. The commentary is heavily laden with quotes from Opus Dei founder St. Josemaria Escriva; a greater variety of quotes from other Catholic saints would have improved the work. One excellent element of this commentary is the inclusion of the Latin Vulgate, a feature I greatly appreciate.

The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter brings in a Jewish understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures which I find interesting. This is not a Catholic or Christian commentary. It focuses on understanding the Scriptures as the Jews would have understood them centuries ago.

For the New Testament:

The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, a 17-volume set with commentaries from many Catholic scripture scholars with series editors Peter Williamson and Mary Healy. I have found this to be an invaluable resource for more deeply understanding the theological, cultural, historical, and linguistic context of the Word of God in Scripture and I recommend it. A balanced review of the CCSS is here. This is the commentary I consult first for New Testament passages.

Sacra Pagina, an 18-volume commentary on the New Testament by an international team of Catholic Biblical scholars. The publisher states that “The goal of Sacra Pagina is to provide sound, critical analysis without any loss of sensitivity to religious meaning.” I find this work quite helpful at times, drawing out details from the text and context that are not included in other commentaries.

The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament with commentary by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch provides notes and additional information that I find useful in my research, and is the best one-volume source for commentary on the New Testament, in my opinion.

The Navarre Bible: New Testament is another one-volume commentary, anonymously written by the collective faculty of the Universidad de Navarra in Spain that offers useful information along with the great feature of including the Latin Vulgate. An overabundance of quotes from St. Josemaria Escriva at the expense of other saints’ writings diminishes the work.

Connect with the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Just like the Ethiopian in Acts 8, we are ill-equipped to grasp the true meaning and implication of Scripture by the light of our own reason. Jesus established His Church on earth – a visible, living Church – giving Peter the keys to the Kingdom, the authority to bind and loose, to teach infallibly and authoritatively the perennial truths of the Catholic Faith, passed on from generation to generation, through Peter and his successors, the popes through the ages when they teach definitively.

Moreover, the Scriptures are not laid out in a systematic manner, organized by topics and their subtopics. We need a compendium of Catholic doctrine. And we have it – in the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).

Different publications of the CCC exist – my favorite is the Catechism of the Catholic Church with Theological Commentary edited by Catholic theologian Rino Fisichella because of the extensive commentary, which I often find refreshingly insightful and profound. An online, searchable version of the CCC is available here, courtesy of the US Catholic Bishops.

Another vital resource is the Companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which assembles the relevant texts cited in the CCC – Scripture passages, quotes from the Early Church Fathers, papal documents, Vatican II texts, writings from the saints, and many more sources, more than 3600 in all, to make the Catholic sources informing the CCC so much more readily available.

Authoritative systematic summaries of Catholic doctrine

Enchiridion Symbolorum: A Compendium of Creeds, Definitions and Declarations of the Catholic Church, originally published in 1854 by Heinrich Denzinger and now in its 43rd edition. Edited by Peter Huenermann, this volume is often simply referred to as “Denzinger.” The strength of this work is how well organized and indexed it is, making it so much easier to find Catholic teaching on any topic. It is a standard reference text for Catholic theologian and the most current edition (the 43rd) is updated through about 2010 or so.

The Christian Faith: In the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church edited by Jacques Dupuis covers essentially the same material as Denzinger, but is organized topically, for easy access by subject rather than being organized by source. This makes the volume invaluable for studying particular topics in a systematic way, without so much flipping back and forth from the indices. This book is updated to the year 2000.

Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott was originally published in 1952 in German, and the fourth edition in English was produced in 1960. The book systematically explores the nature of God in a highly structured and clearly presented outline form. It does not include material from Vatican II.


I am always fascinated by when things happened in history, especially in Bible history. So to that end, we have:

The Annals of the World, originally published in 1658 by the Church of Ireland archbishop James Ussher, which claims to nail down the exact years of all the major events in Scripture going back to creation. A fun read, many will question the scholarship and research methods, but fascinating nonetheless.

Handbook of Biblical Chronology (Revised Edition) by Jack Finegan, published in 1998. For those who might find The Annals of the World a bit dated and who seek the archaeological and other evidence from the last 350 years, I recommend this book. Be forewarned that much in these chronologies is still speculative, so take the information with a grain of salt.

And an atlas, for good measure…

Historical Atlas of Ancient Christianity, edited by Angelo di Berardino with Gianluca Pilara, published in 2013. This is a massive book 13 inches by 10 inches by 2 inches, weighing in at more than eight pounds. In its 478 pages you will find 59 maps, hundreds of illustrations, and detailed information about the impact of Christianity on the ancient world. An essential resource for those who want to study ancient Christianity.

Other useful Catholic sources

The Catholic Catechism: A Contemporary Catechism of the Teachings of the Catholic Church by Fr, James Hardon, published in 1975. This was my go-to catechism before the CCC was published in 1992, and it is still an excellent resource to deepen the understanding of Church teaching. In my opinion, Part II on Morality and the Spiritual Life is especially rich, plainly and clearly delivered, without mincing words.

Modern Catholic Dictionary by Fr. James Hardon, published in 1975 contains definitions for more than 5,000 terms relevant to the Catholic Faith, worship, morality, philosophy, theology, spirituality, and worship. It is notable for its brevity and clarity. An online, searchable edition is available here.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, a massive work from the earliest years of the 20th century, but still very relevant today, is composed of 11,490 articles from A to Z on the “constitution, doctrine, discipline, and history of the Catholic Church” according to its editor, Charles G. Herbermann. You can access it online at New Advent here, or buy a Kindle version here.

Faith of the Fathers is a three-volume set edited by William Jurgens and published in 1979, an introduction to the most important selections from the Early Church Fathers. I find the layout and structure suboptimal, but the indexing and cross-referencing is solid for those with the patience to figure it out.

I also draw from the lives of the saints and I have an extensive home library of other titles, several bookcases’ worth, in addition to recently getting into Kindle for electronic versions (with the advantage of searchability being much easier).

And of course, I also search the Internet for reputable sources and excellent content.

Share your sources

If you have any other sources for this ‘go-to’ list, let me know – reach out to me at [email protected] or call me during conversation hours, every Tuesday and Thursday, from 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM Eastern time and let’s discuss!

Correct us when we are misguided…

I am acutely aware that, on my day of particular judgement, I will be responsible and will give an account of every word I utter and write, and every word I don’t. Help me out here – if you ever notice that we at Souls and Hearts offer something that is not in line with Church teaching, let me know at [email protected] or at 317.567.9594. We want to hear about it. We don’t want to lead anyone astray, ever.

We know that in offering you the leading, cutting edge of human formation resources, as pioneers in the field, we could get some things wrong, and we will humbly take correction. If you offer us the gift of a correction, it helps so much if you can reference any of the works listed above (or other Catholic sources) to show us where we are in error. We will issue corrections in future weekly reflections or podcast episodes as needed.

Shameless begging…

Thou shalt not covet… (Exodus 20:17) – The tenth commandment. Hmmm. But I want something. I’m not sure if it’s coveting. It’s something that perhaps I could justify as much a gift to you, as to me, as it will help me with these weekly reflections and the IIC podcast. And my spiritual director did recommend that I get it…

What I want is the Verbum 10 Diamond from Logos – that’s a resources library with nearly 2000 Catholic and Christian books, including Scripture commentaries, the collected works of the Fathers of the Church, great libraries of the books of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, dictionaries and encyclopedias and a lot more resources. All searchable and cross-referenced.

Here’s the rub. It costs $3,449.00. And I don’t have the money for that. So, if someone out there is willing and able to foot the bill, let me know and I’ll buy it and use it. If not, that’s OK. I will be detached from that resource, and I’m good with that. All in God’s hands. I’ll just ask this once.

Weekly reflections archive

At Souls and Hearts, we keep a virtual shelf filled with all the weekly reflections in order of publication date, with the most current articles at the top. There is also a way to search Souls and Hearts content by subject matter. From addiction to vocational discernment and everything in between (alphabetically speaking) a wealth of resources can be found. Check it out!

Join us live for the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast episode on narcissism

Join me for a live episode on Zoom later that evening, at 8:30 PM Eastern time, on August 7, 2023! I am excited to announce that Catholic clinical psychologist Peter Martin, Psy.D. will be my special guest in episode 119 for a frank and open discussion with me about narcissism for the first 30 minutes. Then we will open the discussion to Q&A from our live audience and also answer questions about narcissism from those who email me (my email: [email protected]) or who leave me a voicemail we can use on the air (my cell: 317.567.9594). It’s free to join us live – we just ask you to register beforehand with this link. That episode will release on August 21, 2023.


More than 100 new RCC applicants!

Our Resilient Catholics Community’s St. Edward the Confessor cohort is currently in the onboarding process, with 111 applicants. The window for new RCC members will open again on December 1, 2023. If you are considering membership in the RCC, please Join the December 2023 Interest List and get important updates about the application process for the St. Francis Xavier December 2023 cohort. 

Be With the Word

This Sunday is the celebration of the Transfiguration of the Lord, and in 2020, Dr. Gerry and I never did an episode of BWTW for that feast. We will return with another episode for the following Sunday, August 13, the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In Christ and His Mother,

Dr. Peter

P.S. You can hit the buttons to share any of your reflections at the bottom of each reflection via email, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Or maybe I should say email, Meta, Instagram, or X.

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