Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As much as I wrote last week about reading good fiction, I can’t help but follow with a reflection on how important it is to read good non-fiction as well. One thing I’ve discovered, especially working with young people, is that we are all so caught up with technology and reading headlines, that we rarely delve into a topic with any depth. To sit and read a 300 page book on any topic is daunting. Regretfully, this means that as much as we can have a superficial knowledge of a lot of things, we so often fall short of developing a deeper understanding of anything.
And this is particularly true when it comes to our faith. Few today really take the time to deepen their knowledge of the faith and engage with it in a meaningful way. So often when we are confronted with those who have wandered, especially those who are frustrated by one teaching or another, they repeat sound bites but rarely realize that the Church has beautiful explanations for all of her teachings. Fulton Sheen said it best, “There are not 100 people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” Even we can sometimes fall into the trap of accepting a teaching and not really bothering to understand it so that we can explain it to others.
More than that, one of the great benefits of reading is that it places us in a dialogue with those who lived in radically different cultures and times. Living today, in a time where so many consider us to be more enlightened and advanced, public discourse can become an echo chamber of a small number of loud voices. If we take the time to read authors from the 18th Century, the 10th Century, or even the 2nd or 3rd Centuries, we can discover insights and reflections that not only still hold true, but can personally help us overcome a similar difficulty. Especially in the faith, each saint is a source of great wisdom, and many can serve as guides for us by breaking our limited mindsets and giving us greater perspective.
In addition to daily prayer then, daily spiritual reading, even just a few pages a day, is a great habit to develop, and one which can provide great fruit in our relationship with Christ. The list of spiritual classics I could give this week would go on for many pages, but I will still offer a variety that might be worth checking out.
The Story of a Soul, by St. Thérèse of Lisieux
The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis
An Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales
True Devotion to Mary, by St Louis de Montfort
My Daily Bread, by Anthony Paone
Spiritual Combat, by Lorenzo Scupoli
Confessions, by St. Augustine
The Way, by St. Josemaría Escrivá
The Dark Night of the Soul, by St. John of the Cross
The Interior Castle, by St. Teresa of Avila
The Life of Christ, by Fulton Sheen
He Leadeth Me, by Walter Ciszek
The Curé of Ars, by Francis Trochu
St. Francis and St Thomas Aquinas by G.K. Chesterton
Yours in Christ,