What’s the Deal With Spiritual Reading?

By Kayla Faherty

What’s the deal with spiritual reading?  Seriously, who has the time, energy, or intellect to read spiritual works?  Aren’t those books just for theology professors and priests anyway?  Won’t reading spiritual books turn me into a fanatic?  If you would have asked me about spiritual reading several years ago, this probably would have been my response.  I had quite a few misconceptions about spiritual reading.  Thankfully, I am here to share the real deal with spiritual reading.

Spiritual reading is simply reading books and articles about spirituality with the purpose of growing in holiness.  Each of us is called to holiness, and spiritual reading can be an excellent resource on our journey.  Whether we are reading the lives of the Saints, writings of doctors and fathers of the Church, theological works written by holy people, or doctrinal writings of Church authorities, we are taking practical steps to increase our knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith.  Drawing from the spiritual insights of others, we can benefit greatly.  Most of us already appreciate the value and importance of reading.  And spiritual reading can be a solid step toward your best self.

Saint Paul advises us to “attend to reading” in 1 Timothy 4:13.  While most agree that he is speaking about the public reading of scripture in the Christian assembly, the Greek word he uses for reading refers to public or private reading, and so we can allow his encouragement to extend to individual reading.  And rather than simply breezing through a section, we want to actually spend some time with what we are reading, to really focus.  As lifelong learners we want to spend more time reading Scripture than ten minutes a week during Sunday Mass.

Reading Scripture is the place to start.  It only takes about ten minutes to read the daily Scripture readings.  I have been reading them for a little over a year now and it has become such a simple habit that has changed my life.  Starting my day with the Bible sets the tone for my day.  Spending time to meditate and pray about what I am reading allows the Holy Spirit to speak to me through the Scriptures.  And in the same way that the Holy Spirit speaks to me, He speaks to many others, and reading about the connections and daily applications of others helps my personal faith to grow.

Saint Paul also tells us in Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  We get to choose what we spend our time and energy thinking about.  Much of the noise of our culture is life-taking.  But we can choose to use a portion of our time to read books that are life-giving. 

My first exposure to spiritual reading was during RCIA classes a couple years ago.  I was learning so much about the Catholic faith, and I wanted to continue to educate myself.  One of the first spiritual books I read was Matthew Kelly’s The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic.  I am so thankful a friend shared this book with me.  In the book, one of the four signs of dynamic Catholic is study.  Matthew Kelly encourages us to read five pages of a Catholic book every day for the rest of our lives.  It takes about fifteen minutes to read a handful of pages.  Since taking that advice I have read quite a few books.  I have had many of my questions about Catholicism answered and have gained clarity of faith.  I know what I believe.  My relationship with Jesus is deepening.  And my life is changing.

Think of the difference fifteen minutes spent reading a good Catholic book each day could make in your life.  Is there a particular Church teaching you don’t understand?  Is there a Saint whose life interests you?  Is there an area of the Christian life that you need help with?  There are so many inspiring books.  All it takes is a small step.  So today, let’s begin.