[From parishioner, parish librarian, Hosanna prayer group member, lector, dedicated long time blog contributor and all around great person, Bill Thornton: In past years, I have written little sharings on the Mass readings for the day during Advent, and I probably will again as we progress into Advent. But today, I am taking a different approach by speaking of my one-person campaign to encourage spiritual reading during Advent.]
I am the self-appointed librarian at St. Edwards, and I am trying to encourage my fellow parishioners, i.e. you, to do a little “spiritual reading” during Advent to prepare in another way for the coming of Christmas. With all of the reading that we do for work, for home, and for a little relaxation, it would be hard to add a new reading stream of any length. What I am suggesting is maybe 15 minutes (or even 10 or 5) to put a little spiritual thought in your head (and your soul) that might come back to you over the course of the day to help you grow nearer to God.
Why should Catholics do spiritual reading? In his Confessions, St. Augustine tells of a vision or a dream in which a child speaks in a sing-song way , “Tolle, lege,” translated “Pick it up and read it.” So for Augustine, reading led to conversion of heart. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul says, “Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” Rom 10:17. For Paul, then, reading meant the growth of faith. St. Peter wrote, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” 1 Pet. 3:15. And for him it meant an ability to evangelize people who ask you questions about your faith, but he adds, “but do it with gentleness and reverence.” And so on and so forth. There are many reasons for doing spiritual reading, and many testimonies of the saints. In today’s parlance, “Why ask why?” and “Just do it.”
What should you read? I am going to make three suggestions, not so much about subject matter or specific books, but three sources. Before I do that, it is important that whatever you read is what you like to read, both in subject matter and style. Otherwise you will soon give up and be able to say, “I tried that and I couldn’t get into it.”
With that little piece of advice, here are my suggestions:
1) The Bible: I can hear the groans from some of you about the problems that you foresee about the reading the Bible. I am going to publish some thoughts about reading the Bible that could make some of those problems go away. I hope that you will read that little piece before you make the decision to dump the idea of reading the Bible. It is in the end the source of our faith and religion.
2) A book from our parish library: I case you missed it, the library is located against the wall outside of the Social Hall. It used to consist of a few books on a rolling cart. Now, however, thanks to donations we have two large bookcases that are quite full of a large variety of different kinds of books. You can borrow them for up to a month. Just follow the instructions for “Self-Service” or “Selfie-Service” withdrawal. By and large, these are books that you fellow parishioners have read and enjoyed. There is certainly something there that will be of interest to you.
3) The internet. Besides St. Paul’s ideas about hearing and St. Augustine’s ideas about reading, in the 21st century, both of them would be encouraging us to “log on” to countless sources of reading material, both Biblical and other writings. Many have a short daily release. Some of them will be happy to email a devotional blog to your smart phone, tablet or computer. Some will actually read it to you so that you can close your eyes and meditate, or, without closing your eyes, hear an inspirational word while you drive to work, school, or on errands. I will be publishing a piece that will give you a start to find the kind of resources that you want to read on the internet.
In his recent piece in the parish blog, Charlie Burre quoted a Protestant Pastor’s blog that said, “Keep re-telling, re-framing, and re-visioning the story of how Jesus enters the world. Because God is not done here. And we need stuff to do while we wait.” Let one of the things you do while you wait be some spiritual reading.