So, you’re going to Mass and Confession regularly, and praying every day, but you want to take the next step towards God? In just ten minutes daily, you can fill your mind with thoughts of Christ that inspire and sustain you. How? By reading a good book about the spiritual life.
I do best in the practice of virtue when I am reading about Christ or the saints regularly. Why is this so?
In Conversation with Christ, An Introduction to Mental Prayer, Fr. Peter Thomas Rorhbach, OCD writes:
We live in a world devoid, in great part, of a Christian spirit, in an atmosphere and culture estranged from God… We must, if we are to remain realistically attached to Christ, combat this atmosphere and surround ourselves with a new one. Constant spiritual reading fills our minds with Christ and His doctrine—it creates this new climate for us.” (Rohrbach 1980, 142)
Every day, ideas antithetical to the Catholic faith bombard us through the television, radio, internet, and conversations in the workplace and with friends. Reading a book written by a saint is almost like conversing with him or her. It reminds us what life is really about.
Start with the Bible
The Bible should be the first book we read. We need to experience Christ in our lives. The Gospels present His character. Reading how He forgave the penitent woman gives me confidence to approach Him when I have sinned. Studying the Sermon on the Mount teaches me to do His will.
The Gospels are a wonderful source for meditation. Some writers suggest reading a short section of the Bible before bed, then meditating on it in the next morning’s prayer. We can continue to think about what we have read throughout the day, seeking to apply it in our lives. Many saints attest that as they grew closer to God, they stopped reading anything besides the Gospels.
But for those who are just beginning or somewhere in the middle, other spiritual books encourage and inspire us as well.
Other reliable books for spiritual reading
What should we read? First, we must be sure the books we choose are in line with the Catholic faith. Look for the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat on the first few pages. They tell us that a book contains nothing that contradicts Catholic doctrine or morals. Of course, many good spiritual books of our age did not seek these designations, and some books that have them are poorly written or not centered on helping us grow closer to Christ.
Here are some solid spiritual classics:
- Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux
- Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales
- The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
- Abandonment to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussaude
In addition, the writings of Fr. Thomas Dubay, especially Fire Within, which explains the teachings of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, are excellent. And Fr. Jacques Philippe has written several short books on the spiritual life that are practical and accessible for modern readers.
Don’t try to read too much at once. Ten minutes or so a day gives you plenty to think about.
St. John Bosco wrote, “Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book.” Delve into one today and see what good it will do you.
Share with us: What spiritual books are on your night stand right now? Do you have a favorite I didn’t mention?