If anyone stopped eating, they would not be surprised to find themselves rapidly becoming thin, weakened and ill, resulting eventually in death if things did not change dramatically. We take a great deal of care about our bodies, not least of all by feeding them several times each day if we are able to do so.
Surprisingly, we don’t always take such good care of our souls.
Like the body, the soul needs regular care and sustenance. Primarily, this comes through the Sacraments of the Church – especially the Eucharist, the Food of our soul. It also comes through prayer, that tremendous bridge of communication between the Creator and the created, in which we open ourselves to Him in response to His move toward us. Along with this, a further conduit of divine grace comes through spiritual reading, greatly recommended by so many Saints of the Church.
Saint John Bosco once said that “only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book”. But he followed this with a warning – “Never read books you aren’t sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this – would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?”. And so clearly, while spiritual reading is salutary and does us good, we need to be prudent and discerning in what we read.
The great Saint Pio of Pietrelcina had this to say – “Don’t consider me too demanding if I ask you once again to set great store by holy books and read them as much as you can. This spiritual reading is as necessary to you as the air that you breathe”. Like Don Bosco, Saint Pio added a warning – “The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder; what power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection”.
The written accounts of the lives of the Saints make good spiritual reading, encouraging us to follow their example and ascend the way of perfection, as they have done before us. There are also a great many holy books on prayer, meditation, contemplation – many of these written by the Saints, who leave us a very clear path which we, too, can walk.
Today, let us listen to the admonitions of the Saints and carefully choose a good and holy book for our spiritual reading, praying that we will profit by it and vivify our souls.