Spiritual reading and the saints
As a student in elementary school, my teachers highlighted the importance of reading – often using this phrase, “reading is fundamental.” However, despite their repeated encouragement, I never quite understood how necessary reading was until I was of college age.
What this convenient phrase succinctly expresses is how an ability to read is the foundation by which a person is able to learn and to grow in understanding. For the Christian, reading is also important.
Spiritual reading is that reading whose purpose is to assist the believer to better know, love, and serve God, thereby becoming, by our cooperation with grace, more Christ-like. This means that we become more holy, especially in the life of prayer and the practice of Christian virtue.
The practice of spiritual reading, therefore, is an invaluable means by which the Christian can learn to better love and serve our Lord. So vital is this discipline that the Church’s program for forming men to the priesthood strongly encourages its practice.
At the beginning of November, the Church celebrates the great solemnity of All Saints. The saints powerfully intercede for each of us by their prayer. They are examples of great holiness as they each strived to conform their lives to Christ during their time on earth. Their stories are indispensable sources of spiritual nourishment which help and inspire us to better know, love, and serve our Lord.
Learning to cultivate a love of spiritual reading is important for the life of the Christian — even more so for young men discerning a vocation to the priesthood. The lives of the saints and their witness to Christ can help a young man come to a better knowledge of who our Lord is. Their love of God can serve as a source of encouragement for a young man to love Him more. The saints’ readiness to do the will of the Lord can inspire a young man to follow God’s will for his life.
If a person, especially a young man discerning the priesthood, is unfamiliar with the practice of spiritual reading, a good place to begin would be with the saints.
Here are some of the books I have read and recommend:
- The World’s First Love by Archbishop Fulton Sheen
- The Book of Pastoral Rule by Pope St. Gregory the Great
- The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila
- The Rule of St. Benedict by St. Benedict, OSB
- The Living Flame of Love by St. John of the Cross