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Premier Issue! September, 1997 -- PAGE 2



SPIRITUAL READING: WHY,HOW, AND WHAT

Spiritual Reading: Why, How, and What

All Christians, regardless of their state in life, ought to be struggling to become saints. A solid interior life is absolutely crucial if we are to succeed in this battle. This article is the first in a series that will look at various norms of piety, that is, specific activities around which all of us can construct thriving, vibrant spiritual lives.

Why Spiritual Reading?

Reading has made many a saint. An example which comes quickly to mind is St. Ignatius of Loyola. His conversion took place while he was recuperating from a serious wound. The only reading material he could get was the Bible and a book about the lives of the saints. He read them voraciously and the rest, as they say, is history!

A regular program of spiritual reading will provide a fertile ground in the mind for both prayer and apostolate. Our understanding of the New Testament and of the great traditions of Catholic spirituality will grow by leaps and bounds. No adult Catholic should neglect this aspect of the interior life.

How Ought We Do Spiritual Reading?

Like so many things in the Church, there are many ways to approach this one. I will give you a way that has worked for me and thousands of other people. It is simple to do and does not take enormous amounts of time. Is it the only way? Of course not. Is it the best way? For me, yes. And perhaps for you too.

Set aside fifteen minutes every day. No matter what happens, no matter how complicated life may seem, you'll need fifteen minutes everyday--no more and no less. "I don't have the time," you say. Most of us can find fifteen minutes we otherwise fritter away during the day. Perhaps we can get up a few minutes earlier in the morning. Or we could read during a quiet lunch break. Or we could watch a little less TV. You get the idea. Don't forget what our Lord did with five loaves and two fishes! He is not to be outdone in generosity. If you make an effort to find the time, you'll find it.

Spend about half this time with the New Testament. That's right. Seven and half minutes, more or less. I like to alternate the Gospels with one or two of the other New Testament books. And I like to have a commentary handy too. The Navarre Bible (Scepter Publishers) has a wonderful commentary right below the text. The Navarre commentary is orthodox and pastoral, studiously avoiding academic and controversial aspects of Biblical studies. If focuses squarely on the ascetical and spiritual issues. There are others out there, but this one is a great support for a regular program of New Testament reading.

For the remainder of the time, read a good spiritual book. Choose it carefully--there's a lot of chaff out there in bookstores. I'll have some suggestions in a moment. And avoid the temptation to "spiritual reading gluttony." Discipline yourself to fifteen total minutes, even if you feel like reading more or less. You will absolutely amazed at how much material you'll go through in a year.

What Are Some Good Books to Read?

Before giving some specific recommendations, a word or two of caution is in order. Many years ago, a Catholic could safely assume that any book for sale in a Catholic bookstore was orthodox. Sadly, that is no longer the case. I have been in bookstores that sell all manner of new age nonsense, feminist foolishness, and other stuff that is just downright silly.

To further complicate things, many books no longer carry the imprimatur. How do you find good Catholic books? One way is by publisher. There are now a number of publishing houses who put out terrific Catholic books, many of which are suitable for spiritual reading. There are other publishers who specialize in, well, let's be charitable and say that they specialize in authors at the bleeding edge of heterodoxy.

The following publishers are especially known for their fidelity the magisterium and the quality of their listings: Ignatius Press, Sophia Institute Press, Scepter Publishers, Our Sunday Visitor Press, Pauline Publications, TAN Publishers, and Alba House. There may well be more, but these are the ones I know best.

I won't give a list of the publishers who publish heterodox literature. But if you are in doubt, ask someone you trust for a recommendation before you buy and read.

Now, on to a bibliography for spiritual reading:

1. The Old Testament. A good source of spiritual reading. Some books are easier to read than others. Pay particular attention to Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Kings, Samuel, Daniel, and Macabees. If you ever find yourself in a hotel, and you've left your regular spiritual reading material at home, you can always find the Old and New Testaments in your nightstand, courtesy of the Gideons.

2. The Fathers of the Church. Anything from a recognized Father makes good spiritual reading. Be sure you have a good modern translation. Older translations can be a little tough to digest.

3. The Documents of Vatican II. What more can I say? The two with most relevance to lay people are "Lumen Gentium" and "Apostolicam Actuositatem", but they are all worth reading.

4. Papal writings. Of these there are an abundance. Pope John Paul II is prolific and very readable. "Evangelium Vitae" is a must. So is "Crossing the Threshold of Hope." (Pauline Publications prints all the papal encyclicals.)

5. Benedict Baur, "Frequent Confession", Scepter Publishers. A terrific study of the sacrament of confession. You will gain new insights into how you can practice frequent confession effectively.

6. Walter Ciszek, "He Leadeth Me", Ignatius Press. One of the most moving books I have ever read. Father Ciszek's spiritual experiences as a political prisoner in the former Soviet Union are powerfully told.

7. G.K. Chesterton, "St. Thomas Aquinas", Ignatius Press. Arguably the best biography in print of the Angelic Doctor. Told as only G.K. could do it.

8. Jean Baptiste Chautard, "Soul of the Apostolate", TAN Publishers. A solid presentation of the importance of prayer in the live of an active Catholic.

9. St. Francis De Sales, "Introduction to the Devout Life", various publishers. St. Francis saw the potential of a lay spirituality long before many others did. A good book for all. (A word of caution: In keeping with the customs of his time, St. Francis has certain advice regarding marital intimacy and reception of Holy Communion in one of the chapters. This particular advice is no longer recommended by the Church.)

10. Alban Goodier, "The Public Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ", Pauline Publications. A classic biography of our Lord drawn from the Gospels.

11. Georges Huber, "My Angel Will Go Before You", Scepter Publishers. One of the best books about angels ever written.

12. Thomas A Kempis, "Imitation of Christ", numerous publishers. A classic of Catholic spirituality. Keep in mind that it was written for religious and not lay people. It needs to be understood in that light. 13. Ronald Knox, "The Hidden Stream", Scepter Publishers. Just republished, a classic from one of the great converts of this century.

14. John Henry Newman, "The Mystical Rose", Scepter Publishers. A series of short pieces about our Blessed Mother.

15. Fulton J. Sheen, "The Life of Christ", Image Books. This is his greatest book. If you've ever listened to his tapes, you will recognize some of the themes. Eminently readable.

16. Frederico Suarez, "Joseph of Nazareth", Scepter Publishers. Simply the best book about the head of the Holy Family in print.

17. Frederico Suarez, "Mary of Nazareth", Scepter Publishers. A solid and very down-to-earth book about Our Lady. Avoids the pious sentimentalism that sometimes afflicts other books about Mary.

18. St. Thomas More, "The Sadness of Christ", Scepter Publishers. Written by the great martyr while he was awaiting execution.

19. William T. Walsh, "Our Lady of Fatima", Image Books. Simply the best book about Fatima in print.

20. William T. Walsh, "St. Teresa of Avila", TAN Publishers. The canonical biography of a great mystic and a very down-to-earth woman. Well researched and superbly told.

Well, there you have it. There are many other good books out there, but these will give you a head start on a program of regular and steady reading.

Don't procrastinate! Make a resolution to begin a program of spiritual reading today. And then keep it, no matter what. The treasures that you'll discover will enrich your interior life immeasurably.

-------------- by John S. Robertson

Dr. Robertson is the Chairman of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Georgia College & State University, Milledgeville, Georgia. His email address is jroberts@mail.gac.peachnet.edu.

Editor's Note:

INVITATION: If you wish to subscribe directly to the "Daily Word For Reflection", have a computer with email access and would like the daily readings accompanied by commentary from Navarre, please send your e-mail request and address to:

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"THE ST. ANTONINUS INSTITUTE EMPOWERS CATHOLIC MOTHERS" by Dr.Jean-Francois Orsini

By and large women are more practical than men. Catholic mothers are no different. Catholic mothers want to equip their children with the means to be successful professionally in their jobs and professions and still keep their faith. Preferably, they are also interested in providing their children with an opportunity to evangelize their future workplace. Catholic mothers want also to make a difference in the overall society and are aware of their combined power as consumers to promote and protect Catholic values. The Saint Antoninus Institute offers them tools for these purposes which are unique and most effective.

*Virtue Based Management* The St. Antoninus Institute has done several studies in the theology of work. One result is this textbook of management which takes the best theological perspectives and express them in terms which are compatible with the way people talk about work in their job and the way business schools talk about management. The purpose of writing this book came after the following realization: on one hand the Vatican publishes pastoral letters on work and the social question which seem to be written in a very scholarly and philosophical language and on the other hand average people read management textbook and receive memos from their companies which use different sets of ideas and words. How do you put the two together?

It has been the conclusion of Dr. Jean-Francois Orsini, the founder of the St. Antoninus Institute, who received a doctorate in management from the Wharton School, that most young Catholic professionals do not put the two together. It takes time to crunch these ideas and make them compatible and the fast pace of work most often does not give the luxury of that time. The result: good Catholics who are pretty confused on what the Church expect them to do with specific issues.

We are all conscious of the different attacks on “capitalism” and “the business mentality”. Some of these just demonize everything that is tied to making a profit. But when we get a job we start working with one of these organizations, we have a basic level of commitment that they are not inherently evil. However, we are ready to promote just and charitable decisions in these business organizations as far as we can. It requires a lot of discernment. In addition, those who work in non-profit organizations, government bureaucracies or private non-profits quickly realize that the same human issues of management exist there just as much as they exist in business organizations.

“Virtue-Based Management* is only available yet as an electronic text on a computer disk as Catholic publishers are a little nervous about such an innovative idea. Business publishers are very much repelled at the idea of managing to please Our Lord and His mother.

*Pro-Life Shopping Guide* The St. Antoninus Institute also publishes the Pro-Life Shopping Guide. We call it our 2 by 4 for promoting Church teachings in the work-place. After doing his doctoral studies in the field of “business ethics”, Dr. Orsini realized that the issue of abortion was not even on the radar screen of businesses when they talk about ethics. Many more politically correct issues are contained in this discipline but not abortion. Deciding to do something about it, he went about to compile a list of corporations which make donations to the most visible “benefactors” of the most staunch defenders of the pro-abortion camp. The Guide lists all the brands of the products sold by these businesses (it is difficult to boycott a corporation if you have no clue of what they really sell) as well as the addresses and names of CEOs for letter-writing purposes. It is indeed as important to write and state why one is boycotting their products than actually doing the boycott. And letters are very powerful because for one letter sent, a hundred of people has thought about writing this letter and never got around to it. Corporations know that.

*St. Antoninus Circles* These are parish based groups which help Catholics learn the social teachings of the Church and how they apply to their work and their responsibilities as citizens. The circles’structures are very flexible to allow for local initiatives and the nature of different parish populations. However, all circles have an educational component (reading materials are readily available), a social component so that one learns of the professional experiences and needs of others in the group, a spiritual component so one brings all these matters for the Lord to bless and cover with His spirit. The purpose of the circles is also to help develop a community-based, parish-centered and Catholic inspired support groups of working people and professionals.

*High-Tech Bake Sale and Home-Based Business* As a business-oriented organization, the St. Antoninus Institute is also very aware that many Catholic/pro-lifers are often unemployed or underemployed because of their beliefs and faith. Many mothers would rather work at home making an income on their own time and being free to donate some of their time to Church and pro-life activities. On the other hand, Churches, ministries and pro-life organizations are seriously underfunded. Pro-life groups are outfinanced by a ratio of about 100 to 1 but the pro-aborts. But Catholics and Pro-Lifers constitute natural networks. It just happens that network marketing is a new trend and offers a great opportunity to meet these needs. After looking at perhaps hundreds of opportunities we are recommending one special business to be involved in. It is not particularly religious as it aims at a market which is perhaps over half of the population. Individual Catholic/pro-lifers can work in conjunction with Catholic/pro-life organizations for the benefit of both sides. We call it a High-Tech bake sale because as with bake sales a non-profit organization will call these revenues for tax-purposes “non related income”, however what we offer is much more nutritive than a cake and the fund-raising mechanism is much more effective than a single bake sale.

The St. Antoninus Institute can be reached at 4110 Fessenden St. NW, Washington, DC 20016, tel (202)686-0849, email: jforsini@radix.net and on the web at http://www.ewtn.com/antonin/antonin.htm. We are on the EWTN server and Dr. Orsini, the president of the Institute is the “social teachings expert” of EWTN on the web.







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About the Editor: Maria Compton-Hernandez is a Catholic author and lecturer. Her books include, “The Catholic Mother’s Resource Guide’ which is a best-seller for Faith Publications, “A Crash Course in Apologetics for Catholic Mothers”, and "The Catholic Parent's Guide to the Internet".
COMMENTS, CONCERNS, QUESTIONS? Write me! catholic@qni.com

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