Sunday, June 18, 2023

Catholic History and Religion :: 2023-24 School Year

It's my annual post on our Catholic history and religion for the upcoming school year!

Below you'll find lots of Catholic supplements for medieval and modern history, which is what we'll be studying the coming year with the CMEC. As usual, I have also included some Bible and religion resources I'll be using and links to recommendations from years past.

This post is organized into the following categories: Bible for all Forms, Catholic Historical Supplements for Forms 1-3, Religion for Forms 1-3, and Catholic Historical Supplements and Religion for Forms 4 & 5 (High School).

Previous' years plans:

This is my LAST post in the four years' history rotation. Soon I'm planning to create separate pages on the site to house these resources for future years -- and to be a place I can update as I come across great new books!



Lower Forms

For Old Testament, my students in Form 1-3 will be reading through parts of Samuel and Kings. For New Testament, my students in Forms 1 and 2 will read the Gospel of Matthew. As I have explained before, the CMEC follows the PNEU in scheduling Paterson-Smyth's books as a resource for Bible lessons, so I will be using his volumes on these sections for my preparation as well (Prophets and Kings and Saint Matthew). I don't agree with everything he writes, but he offers good "captain ideas" for Bible lessons that get at the over-arching themes of the assigned Bible texts.

I like to take his suggestions in light of Catholic resources; for this, I often rely on Knecht's A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture. This tome (it's a thick one!) provides a Catholic perspective on both Old and New Testaments: historical background, theological and doctrinal connections, notes for personal application. I have used it in various ways over the past few years and always with good results. It also includes a few nice images and diagrams helpful for Book of Centuries work.

Upper Forms

For Old Testament, my high schoolers will be reading through some of the minor prophets this year: Amos, Hosea, and Micah. We will have a few commentary resources on hand:
  • Dummelow's One-Volume Bible Commentary - We have used this PNEU-recommended commentary for the past few years. My kids appreciate the historical details it includes on each book. (This is the new edition -- we have an older used one.)
  • I will be previewing the Navarre volume on The Minor Prophets for their reference as well.
  • We also draw on the Catholic Encyclopedia at New Advent whenever my kids have a question they'd like to explore further.

For New Testament, they will have two streams of reading. First, Form 3 and up will be reading the gospels alongside Charlotte Mason's Saviour of the WorldSecond, they'll be reading the epistles to the Thessalonians and Corinthians. I like the short introductions to each epistle from Catholic Answers as well as the Dummlow linked above. (I have been previewing additional commentaries but don't think they are necessary for these epistles. However, if you have a favorite classic commentary written by a saint to recommend, let me know! For example, we loved St. Robert Bellarmine's Commentary on the Psalms last year.)

All Forms

In all our Bible lessons, we will be reading directly from our favorite translation, the Douay-Rheims. Each of my Upper Forms students has his or her own copy to use, and I use mine for the younger kids. 

We rely often on The Dore Bible Illustrations. I have used this volume for years and it so handy to have these scenes so reverently and beautifully illustrated all in one place!

As a side note: our TBG Songbooks from Riverbend Press include the Bible passages for the year in the King James Version, so I print ours in the Douay-Rheims and tape it in for our recitations. And for the terms that schedule a hymn we have already covered, we will work on reciting the additional verses of that hymn but also add in a Latin hymn to learn.



This coming year, we will be studying roughly 1900-present. My Form 2A and 3 students will also be studying the Middle Ages in Europe for their general history stream.


There are many great options for saint biographies for these time periods! My Form 1 students will read a couple easier biographies from the list below; when they come around to this period again in Form 2 or 3, they will have the chance to read the others. My Form 2 and 3 students have 1-2 biographies assigned each term, depending on age and ability. Ideally, the Form 2A and 3 kids to have one medieval and one modern saint to read about each term. The rest will go on their free read shelf. 

A few notes on the list: The books below have been ordered by series/difficulty level. This list is not meant to be comprehensive; it is just what I have on my shelves or have purchased for this year's studies! Also, Form 3 students who are strong readers may also like some of the options under High School.

Windeatt series: 

Vision series: 

F.A. Forbes series: Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Athanasius, Pope St. Pius X (better for Form 3)

Other books:

Historical Fiction

I like to add some Catholic historical fiction to the free read shelf when able. A few for this year:

Other Notes on Form 1-3 History

For the Middle Ages, Christine Miller's The Story of the Middle Ages is the CMEC's recommended spine. The nice thing about this text is that it provides a broader view, covering the history of much of Europe (not just England). I read this book with my students four years ago and don't recall anything problematic for Catholic families but will add notes here if I encounter anything worth a caution.

Similarly, our assigned American history texts for these Forms for the modern period (Builders of Our Country, The Landmark History of the American People, and Land of Hope) do not present issues for Catholics.



Catechetical Instruction

This year, I will be continuing a study of the Mass with my Form 1 and 2 students and preparation for Confirmation with my Form 3 and 4 students. See the post from last year for the resources we are using!

My Form 3 and 4 students will also be reading Knox's The Mass in Slow Motion, which was a big favorite of my older kids at this age! (Note: I have a different version than the one linked. Mine is a poorly-done reprint with lots of typos; I'm hoping this one is perhaps better?) I also have O'Sullivan's All about the Angels on the shelf for my Form 3 student since he hasn't read it yet.

We will be also reading from Children's Retreats by Reverend Halpin, which unfortunately seems to be out of print. I plan for my Form 1 and 2 students to read the Confession and Communion chapters and my Form 3 and 4 students the Confirmation chapters, but I may end up reading it aloud over breakfast with everyone.

Spiritual Reading and Liturgical Year (read as a family over meals)

This year, we will continue A Character Calendarwhich has been a favorite with my younger students. I will also be reading from Mother Loyola's "With the Church" series, which has been my personal reading for the past year. I am excited to share some of my favorite parts with the children.

I also plan to read from Mother Loyola's Trust, a new-to-us title. We have loved everything Mother Loyola wrote and I'm hoping this book will be another winner!



This year, I will have two seniors (Form 5) and one freshman (Form 4). My seniors have read so much and are also so much older, so there are some things I will be assigning all my high schoolers together and others that make more sense for me to assign separately. You will see notes to that end below.

As always, please preview the books listed below before handing to your high schoolers.

History Texts

In addition to the CMEC's high school history texts, I add a weekly Catholic history block to my high schoolers' timetable.

The main text for all my high schoolers this year will be Laux's Church History. Even in this one-volume history text, the Middle Ages makes up a large chunk of it (pp. 192-409, or about eight pages weekly). But it is more condensed than the volume and a half of Carroll's series that covers this time period, and I think my seniors will like Laux's style more than Carroll's. (My Form 4 student will focus just on the medieval era in her Catholic history reading, so this will be her only assigned text.)

My Form 5 students can handle a bit more reading and will benefit from a broader view in this their senior year, so they will add the following:
  • One chapter per term from Belloc's Europe and the Faith
  • A bit of reading on the history of the modern era in the Church at the end of Term 3 (not sure yet, but currently planning to assign about thirty pages from Vidmar's The Catholic Church Through the Ages -- not a big fan of his take on it, but I already have it on the shelf and it will make for good conversation with my students)
  • On the free read shelf because they love Belloc: the rest of Europe and the FaithThe Great Heresies (will tie together their history from the past four years), and The Crusades

Catholic Literature (tied to this year's history studies)

These will go in their leisure reading time. Some selections for this year:

Biographies, Autobiographies, and Spiritual Classics (tied to this year's history studies)

Some of these will be for Sunday reading, some for leisure reading, some just optional.
As a note: the biographies listed for Form 3 by Ann Ball and F.A. Forbes would also make great reading for a high school student.

Catechetical Reading (tied to this year's history studies)

My Form 4 student is preparing for her Confirmation, as mentioned above, so this reading is just for my Form 5 students. This will be slotted for Sunday reading and includes some from the Middle Ages and some from the modern era:
  • Aquinas's Shorter Summa: Saint Thomas's Own Concise Version of His Summa Theologica (they have been begging to read some of the Summa, so I thought this would be a good option -- it's still quite long, though, so they likely won't read the whole thing)
  • I also plan to have them read an encyclical each term, which is something they have not done yet. I wanted to choose ones that would be both historically important and clarifying about some aspect of the Faith or the Church's position today. I am currently planning on Aeterni Patris by Leo XIII, Pascendi Dominici Gregis by Pope Pius X, and Caritas in Veritate by Benedict XVI.
  • Last in this section, I wanted to have them read some short works by the Early Church Fathers. Ideally I would like a compilation volume, but every one I have previewed so far has been too much (very long, multiple volumes) or not enough (mostly descriptions of the Fathers rather than the works themselvees). If you have recommendations, please let me know!

Devotional Reading (not tied to this year's history studies)

This includes Advent reading, Lent reading, daily spiritual reading for their personal devotional time, additional reading for the free read shelf, etc.


I hope this helps those studying these time periods with us this fall!

Any wonderful books I should add to the list above? Let me know in the comments!

(Amazon links above are affiliate links. Thanks for your support!)


  1. Thank you so much for doing these posts every year. I have added so many great books to our shelves based on your recommendations! This will be my 3rd year with the CMEC and your Catholic additions are so helpful, thank you!

    1. Thanks for letting me know, Rebecca! I'm glad!

  2. Sounds interesting, Mignon! I'll be curious to hear your thoughts once you have had a chance to review it!

  3. One other thought, on the Catholic lit section, is Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, one of the best novels of the 20th century. My husband uses it with the seniors at his school. It's one of my favorite books, and it's a great look into the complexity of the communist persecution of the Church in Mexico in the 1920's/30's through the lens of a hunted priest. Greene is just superb.

  4. Oh thank you for posting this again Celeste! Its always well received. I am reading Loyla's "Trust" this summer and curious if my family can handle it as a family read. My daughter sometimes needs an 'easier' read for her evening devotional and while it might fit into another time period than ours, it feels medieval in many ways -- "Live Well today: St. Francis de Sales's Simple Approach to Holiness" is kind of medieval self-help book that offers a theological psychology easily used for family reading or for a young person reading independently but struggles with older ways of writing (when reading by themselves).

    1. Thank you for this feedback -- very helpful! St. Francis de Sales is one of my favorite sprititual writers and my older kids read "Introduction to the Devout Life" a few years ago. I bet they we all would love the one you mentioned.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing these great resources! I did not grow up in a Catholic home and only converted 3 years ago. Trying to figure out how to create a catholic home for my family with 3 young kiddos is completely new to me. Not many people I know are familiar with the traditional Latin Mass so this has been incredibly helpful, Celeste!

    1. Welcome, Catherine! I am a convert too...but 20 years ago now! Hard to believe it has been that long. :) I'm so glad you found this helpful! Thanks for letting me know.

  6. Oh and I just found another one that I haven't read yet but is on my shelf. Looks like a Form 1 or 1 Catholic Historical Fiction read" "Treachery and Truth: A Story of Sinners, Servants, and Saints" by Katy Huth Jones about 'Good King Wenceslas' and the real basis of the legend in the life of Vaclav 1st of Bohemia. It is a recent Pauline Books and Media print. I think it might appeal to my boys in particular in Form .

  7. Hi, Celeste,
    Thanks for this post - I was just wondering how using the CMEC would integrate with Catholic history. After reconsidering the CMEC again via your last post (I see Baby Matthew was baptized by Fr. Skees! :) ) I wanted to reach out to ask some questions specifically about the CMEC but can't seem to find your contact to email (the "email me" button is redirecting me to an unusable link).

    1. Hi! Not sure who this is since it's posting as anonymous -- but you can email me at You can also reach out with CMEC questions to the info box: Thanks!

  8. One of my favourite blog posts of the year! I'm wondering if you do this all in just one block per week (eg 20 minutes for a Form 1 student), or if you have multiple/longer blocks? I want to fortify our Catechism block this coming school year, but it's hard to fit it all in.
    I love your idea of having your older students read a papal encyclical - we are big fans of Pope St Pius X (we attend a Society priory), and I recently read aloud the Junior Vision version of Diethelm's "St Pius X: The Farm Boy Who Became Pope" - it's a condensed edition with illustrations, many in colour, on each page, so it was easier for my 7 year old to stay engaged. Vision only published a few of these "Junior" versions but they're such a nice bridge to the regular Vision books for slightly older children.
    Thank you for continuing to keep blogging - I still go back to your old blog posts when I want advice and inspiration. Wishing you a summer of "active leisure" :)

    1. My kids really liked the regular Vision book for Pius X -- I didn't realize there was an illustrated and condensed version! Sounds really neat. I'll have to keep an eye out for those Junior editions.

      As for scheduling, it really depends. Much of what I have here is Sunday reading -- my kids all do a Sunday reading block of varying lengths depending on age. My Form 1 students usually read a chapter (or I read a chapter with them) in their saint bio, however long that takes. Then I usually have one 20 minute block a week to work on catechism, study of the Mass, etc. with them. And then we have family reading over breakfast that includes books tied to the liturgical calendar and spiritual reading for my youngers. The older students gradually have more and more religious reading built into their schedule, so my high schoolers have a daily devotional time of about 20 minutes, a weekly Catholic history block of 40 minutes, Sunday reading of at least 30 minutes, and then other leisure reading that is tied to religion that they do in afternoons/evenings/weekends. So we kind of handle it differently year by year! :)

    2. That is a very helpful breakdown, thank you! I was wondering if Sunday Reading figured into the equation; as I have been reading more about it, it's definitely an area that I could be more structured about and make better use of. I think the key here is my own Sunday habits - we do take things slowly on a Sunday, spending our day at home after Mass, but I tend to want to introvert for the day, as does my husband (but God gave us an extroverted child lol). I like the idea of reading a chapter of a saint biography on Sundays. I do read the relevant chapter from Fr. Diamond's "Sunday Morning Storyland" on the way home from Mass - he has that wonderfully direct way of speaking to children that doesn't sugarcoat the realities of sin. Our morning catechism block used to be much longer before we started formal lessons - now I don't have time for much more than the daily readings from the Benedictus and the Character Calendar. I kind of miss those leisurely days of celebrating the saints' feast days and reading lots of picture books about the saints. Much to ponder as I plan our timetable for the upcoming school year...

    3. I really try to protect some quiet downtime for myself on Sundays also. Having independent reading for the kids helps me accomplish this -- so once he can read more on his own, I think you'll find Sunday reading a lot easier to implement! :) But it's nice to have just a chapter to read -- a quiet activity we can do together that doesn't take a lot of energy for me but fills up my little kids' need for mom time. ;)

  9. I have possibly found a real winner for a biography of St. Thomas a Becket, "The Falcon and the Dove" by Alfred Duggan. I am pre-reading it, and I am absolutely gripped by the narrative! I have found myself laughing out loud at some of his dry descriptions of the "lay of the land" in Christendom at the time of Becket's great conflict with King Henry. I can't endorse it 100% until I read more about how he treats our hero and the Church, but if it stays as good as the first couple of chapters, I highly recommend it as a terrific living book for strong Form 2 readers, or Form 3 and up.

    1. Thank you -- you'll have to let me know what you think when you finish! I didn't put Murder in the Cathedral on here, but my high schoolers are reading that with the CMEC as well. So a more traditional account of St. Thomas would be a great addition!

  10. This is so helpful, Celeste! Really appreciate you sharing your knowledge on some of these reading options! Going to work through some of those Windeatt stories with my Form 1 and younger kids! Trying to get an early start before baby 5 joins us in September!
    Appreciate what one of the other commenters said about the Fr. Diamond lessons also! I think my kids will like adding those this year. We have a longer car ride to/from Mass now, so this is how we will fill much of that time!

    1. Congrats, Amanda -- wishing you a wonderful summer prepping for your little one!

  11. Hi Celest! Thank you for this post, it is really helpful. I was wondering, how do your Form 3 and high schoolers approach Bible readings? Do they narrate or is it spiritual reading? I'd appreciate any insight you can give me.

    1. Hi Jenn! Their Bible readings are assigned and narrated. They also keep favorite lines in their commonplace. Generally speaking, they read the Bible text, narrate, read from a commentary, add to their narration anything they found shed light on their understanding. The commentary is not every day -- just as they have time.

  12. Hi Celeste! Have you seen "The Apostolic Fathers in English"? It's translated and edited by Michael W. Holmes and includes complete texts from Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp, among others. I used this text in a graduate level class on early Church history and found it to be very good. One downside is that it may not include a wide enough variety of Church Fathers for your needs, but just thought I'd suggest in case it helps!

    1. Thank you for the suggestion, Sally -- it looks great!

  13. Hi Celeste! My oldest will be preparing for her confirmation this year and I was wondering if you report catechesis as an elective or just leave it out of the transcript.

    1. Hi! I have a "Religion and Philosophy" class on our transcript every year and include the reading for sacramental prep there, as well as Bible reading, saints lives, spiritual reading, etc.

    2. Thank you! I really appreciate your guidance 🙂