By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh and Sr. Marla Marie Lucas
“Spiritual reading is as necessary as the air you breathe,” St. Padre Pio
“Don’t neglect your spiritual reading. Reading has made many saints,” St. Josemaria Escriva
If these two saints and many more recommend and insist on spiritual reading, then we should find out more about this powerful practice of prayer. Spiritual reading can be explained simply as reflective reading of spiritual writings to help deepen our understanding of faith, and more so, our relationship with Our Lord. St. Athanasius said: “You will not see anyone who is truly striving after his spiritual advancement who is not given to spiritual reading.”
The best sources of spiritual reading are the Scriptures (especially the Gospels), then the biographies of the saints, and spiritual writers from the early Church to our present day. Many of these books can be found at Ignatius Press or Sophia Press, among several catholic sources on-line. The lives of the saints offer a wealth of inspiration. It is refreshing to find out that the saints are human too, just like us, with their own struggles and inner battles, giving us hope in our own.
I recently read the Life of St. Anthony of the Desert written by St. Athanasius. This Father of Monks was a formidable warrior in the struggle against demons and his approach to evil spirits was actually healthy and quite modern (considering he lived in the third century). He would often consider them of no importance at all, like flies at a picnic. These days there is so much fear surrounding demonic powers, but St. Anthony encourages us not to be afraid for they are powerless in the face of a baptized soul.
The benefits of spiritual reading are numerous. Our time in holy reading provides candid advice and counsel, and corrects and encourages us in our faith. Spiritual reading also enlightens our souls about the dangers and temptations that we may encounter, while giving us insight on how to handle these challenges. Most importantly, spiritual reading provides an opening for Our Lord Jesus to speak to our hearts to help us in our continued conversion. In the words of St. Jerome, “when we pray we speak to God; but when we read, God speaks to us”.
The important point to remember is to go about this holy reading prayerfully, taking one’s time when reading, even if we can only devote 10 or 15 minutes a day. Spiritual reading is like meeting up with a dear friend for a chat. If there are points in your reading that have touched you, talk about them with the Lord, he is waiting to hear what you have to say because it is he who touches hearts.
Here is a site of suggestions for reading: www.listchallenges.com/50-books-every-catholic-should-read. If you have any questions or would like suggestions of good spiritual reading, please contact the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light Sisters at 508-996-7753 or firstname.lastname@example.org