One of the main thrusts for this academic year is to intensify the reading habits of our students.
I know it will never be easy but it takes a lot of encouragement and more push.
I was inspired by this article of Joby Provido on how spiritual reading leads to a balanced life.
Every day we are bombarded with news that can be violent or depressing. Sometimes immersing ourselves in those kinds of stories can drive us to despair when thinking of hope for humanity. Those studying internet behavior say we tend to compare our life with others on Social Media. This can be very stressful if we consider we have to keep up with other people’s happiness. It can make our lives seem empty at some point.
The spate of celebrity suicides does not help either. While taking one’s life (or any life for that matter) is contrary to Christian culture, we cannot judge those who have fallen victim to mental illness for we don’t know what they were going through. Since Christ is all-knowing and all-loving, we leave it up to him because he is the best and only authorized judge by the Father. One thing we can say that may make sense is that there must have been a feeling of helplessness that drove them to do it.
While we cannot remove these stressful matters from our secular life, we can balance it. How many times do we watch heart-warming videos of animals being saved, or fathers who are supposed to be away and make a surprise appearance, or mothers who prepare something her birthday girl enjoys? Don’t we press on the heart button and share them? Some even write a post: “faith in humanity restored.” In those moments, aren’t our spirits lifted?
Life is a constant battle and we need weapons to help us endure. Spiritual reading is one of these. It is the habit of reading something spiritual with the purpose of growing in holiness. By reading spiritual material, our soul gets buoyed so we can keep our head above the flood of depressing media, take a breath, and continue the struggle. It is like watching those heart-warming videos that bring back faith in humanity.
Spiritual reading is different from meditation. Meditation is a quest to find out what God wants us to do, feel, and be. Spiritual reading, on the other hand, is to reinforce our lives with enriching things.
One can start with ten minutes a day, then move on to fifteen minutes or longer. It would be nice to set a time to do this so it can be done regularly. It would also be best to do this in a place that has little or no distractions. Maybe a quiet room in the house will do.
What can a beginner read? The gospels are a good start. A slow prayerful reading always helps. The lives of the saints are extraordinarily good material. Get books on or by Teresa of Avila (The Interior Castle), St. Francis of Assisi, Therese of Lisieux (The Story of a Soul), Thomas Merton (The Seven Story Mountain), John Paul II. While Fulton Sheen is not yet a saint, his life is a wonderful thing to read. Books on Our Lady are particularly enriching too. Find books on the apparitions in Fatima, Lourdes, and Mexico (Our Lady of Guadalupe.) Other good titles are: “True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin” by Louis de Montfort, “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis, “The Everlasting Man” by G.K. Chesterton, “Mary of Nazareth” by Federico Suarez.
One does not have to “read” to do spiritual reading. Watching an enriching video or listening to a podcast is spiritual “reading” too. Find something that lifts your soul or educates you about the faith.
Make it part of a daily habit. Think of spiritual reading as the spiritual vitamins that keep us healthy.