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?
11 thoughts on “How to grow in holiness in 10 minutes a day”
Connie, I enjoyed this post. I had been trying to think of a way to blog about this very topic.
Spiritual reading has been a mainstay of my spiritual life since childhood. I was attracted to stories of the saints at a young age. I formed the habit of spiritual reading without even knowing that’s what it was.
At one time or another I have read those on your list, and Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection’s writings had a big impact on me.
I don’t have a night stand, but I do have some spiritual books that I currently read, although lately I’ve been more attracted holy Scripture than anything else. One is Seasons of the Heart: the Spiritual Dynamic of the Carmelite Life by John Welch, O.Carm.
Two of my favorites, not mentioned in your post are Awakening to Prayer by Augustine Ichiro Okumura, OCD and Guidelines for Mystical Prayer by Ruth Burrows, a Carmelite nun.
I would also like to add the poetry of another Carmelite nun, Jessica Powers. The two I have are Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers edited by Regina Siegfried and Robert Morneau and The House at Rest. Her poems are the fruit of a very deep spirituality.
Outside the Carmelite tradition I treasure The Way of a Pilgrim which is about the Jesus Prayer. Learning about the Jesus Prayer definitely drew me closer to the Lord during my young adulthood.
A book that is now out of print (I believe), but which influenced my choice of writings/books: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Reading by Susan Annette Muto. I like it for the lists and annotations. It also had Guidelines which were helpful for developing a deeper approach to spiritual reading.
Wow, what a great list, Ruth Ann! I have not read any of the additional ones you mention, although I have read some of Jessica Powers’ poetry. Thanks for all the suggestions. i have some serious reading to do!
Well take your time, Connie. It takes a lifetime.
I wish you had included the CCC. I realize it’s not in the exact genre you’re talking about, but reading it puts me in a spiritual train of thought. Just sayin’.
Thanks for the suggestion, Loyd. Part 3 of the CCC, which is all about the spiritual life, I would count as spiritual reading–although much of it is of a more intellectual bent than lives of the saints, for example. Parts 1 and 2, I think, are more for study than inspiration. These sections inform our minds, but do not give much practical advice on what it means to live a Christian life. That’s not their purpose. But anything we read that lifts our minds towards God can benefit our spiritual lives.
This would also be great for those going through the RCIA program as well. It’s so important not to become lukewarm in our faith and to never stop learning of Christ and His Church. And also, from personal experience, don’t feel that you have to read the heady, deep theological texts. There are wonderful books in simple language that help us to grow in Christ and as a convert I’ve had to learn a lot of the “basics” before trying to delve into authors like Peter Kreeft– wonderful but a bit above my head, if you will. Thank you very much for this!
Thanks for visiting and commenting. I agree that when we speak of spiritual reading, we’re really looking for inspiration, encouragement, and practical help in our walk with Christ, rather than theological treatises. Some people tend to intellectualize their faith too much, and that can keep them from tending to their hearts. Everyone can learn from the lives of the saints and their teachings–even children. But not everyone can understand books by theologians.
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Connie, thanks for the motivation to do more spiritual reading. The last two books on your list are ones I read and reread every few years and quote in my writings. As a convert, I need hundred of saints to discover and you got me started.
Nancy, I tend to go in streaks with my spiritual reading. Right now I’m easily doing lots of it, because of blogging and writing my book on St. Therese. There are many classics I have not yet read either. But I like to “rediscover” my old favorites.
Let’s see: I have Story of a Soul, Dark Night of the Soul, Frequent Confessions, Saintly Women in Modern Times, Saintly Youth in Modern Times, Lord, Why Must I Suffer?, How to Pray When You Don’t know what To Say, several books by Mother Angelica, a book by St Teresa of Avila that I can’t remember the name, but it was written to her daughters at the convent. By the way, my night stand is a small book shelf, LOL.
Peace and Love in Christ,