- A Catholic Reading Plan: Reading for Spiritual Profit
Looking for something to read?
Over the years, I've sought out Catholic spiritual reading books and looked for a Catholic reading plan that answered the deepening lure to read more Catholic books and Catholic authors. Is it possible to delve into all the written Catholic treasures in one lifetime? I think not. Even worse, the number of available works written and collected over two millennia can be downright overwhelming.
St. Thomas Aquinas, alone, wrote more than sixty works, including poetry and his famed Summa Contra Gentiles. Consider how many have devoted their lives to studying his works alone—and St. Thomas did his writings back in the 13th century.
Where to start? Well, I tend to follow my interests and passions, along with spending much-needed time with the classics. One way is to start by making a general survey of what's available. An excellent starting place is with a book by Fr. John McCloskey, an Opus Dei priest, called The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan. Can we just say, this reading plan offers a cornucopia of Catholic literature and thinking? Enough to keep anyone reading for a lifetime?
Catholic authors and Catholic books
Within its covers, Fr. McCloskey offers a huge range of authors and works from the popular writings of St. Therese, the Little Flower, and St. Francis to literary giants like Dante and Chaucer, and on to G.K. Chesterton and Evelyn Waugh. I love the short biographies that provide a glimpse into the writer and the accompanying quotes and commentary. The lists of writers and their books provide a lot to think about. Perhaps this says it best:
“Everything we read stimulates our mind to think, and what we think determines what we desire, and desires are the seedbed for our action. Given this iron law of human nature—from reading to thinking, to desiring, to acting—we are shaping our destiny by the ideas we have chosen to have enter our minds through print. […] The secret is to know what to read.“Fr. John McCloskey
Don't only confine your choices to nonfiction. Many fiction works present a Catholic world view. You might be surprised at the number of past and current writers who work their craft from a Catholic perspective. Perhaps you've heard of Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, P.D. James and Flannery O'Connor? Certainly today, J.R.R. Tokein and C.S. Lewis remain popular and are known for their fantasy works, but what about Dean Koontz?
Begin with a plan and a promise
At the start of a new endeavor, I make a plan and a promise. The key to both is to be realistic in my expectations. What is my aim or goal? How much time do I really have? How can I carve out more time? What can I do differently? Am I eager to do this? I must be realistic or the plan is doomed from the start.
Some years I flit from book to book, author to author, while other years I choose to take a deeper dive into an author's work or a well-known book. You can traverse the Catholic literary landscape in any number of ways.
For the promise, I make it two-fold: to myself and to God. I need to understand the why. Why am I doing this? What is motivating me? After I've written out the why, I start my list. Often, I begin a new journal or notebook and make the why my first statement on the opening page.
When my reading suffers, I suffer. Reading is not simply an escape or leisurely pursuit, it's akin to meeting and having a conversation with the author. In my mind, we engage. The author offers a premise, a statement, a belief, a vision, and I experience, engage, and often encounter. Much of this happens within the pages of my journal or notebook. Other times, it's simply a pencil scribbling in the page margin. Rarely do I throw a book across the room.
Is my Catholic reading plan the sum of all I read?
Heavens, no! That's probably an impossible task for me. I mingle books from the Catholic reading plan with other new books discovered along the way. Sometimes a new author crosses my path, and I'm on the hunt again.
As a Catholic convert, I love reading conversion stories and when they are about writers, I enjoy them even more. Recently, I began reading Joseph Pearce's Literary Converts. I am particularly eager to read about Flannery O'Connor, Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkein, and even H.G. Wells, a favorite of mine during my teenage years. Exciting times are ahead.
Now, tell me, what authors and books are you anxious to read?
Cover image of MHH St. Thomas Aquinas journal, go here.