Catholic classics make great summer reads

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As the warm and sunny days of summer envelop us, many of us find ourselves with a bit more leisure time, an opportunity to relax and rejuvenate. But what will we do with that time?

The German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper writes, “Leisure is not an escape from reality, but a deeper engagement with it, a way to savor and appreciate the beauty of existence.” True leisure, leisure taken at its best, prompts us to engage the wonders of life that often go unnoticed amid the everyday. Leisure for Pieper is an oasis, a sanctuary from a world that exalts busyness and productivity. Leisure opens us to explore life’s mystery and is a healing balm.

For Pieper, leisure is both an activity and a condition of the soul, an attitude of the mind. With that in mind, this summer we invite you to consider incorporating into your schedule a very specific act of leisure: that of reading one (or several) Catholic spiritual classics. Reading a spiritual classic is not just a pastime; it is an encounter with the richness of our Catholic heritage and a means of deepening our relationship with God. Spending time with a spiritual classic opens our mind and heart to a treasure trove of wisdom that can profoundly impact our faith journey.

Rediscovering the depths of our Faith

Reading a Catholic spiritual classic invites us to slow down, reflect and meditate on truths that transcend time and culture. These works provide a counterbalance to the noise and distractions of modern life, allowing us to enter the tradition and be inspired by the saints.

“Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes,” writes C.S. Lewis. “We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”

Reading a Catholic spiritual classic invites us to slow down, reflect and meditate on truths that transcend time and culture.

The summer season, with its slower pace and longer days, provides an ideal opportunity to engage with these texts. Whether you are on vacation, enjoying quiet evenings at home, or taking a retreat, a spiritual classic can be a faithful companion, drawing you upward to transcendent horizons from the flat perspective of our own day.

Nourishing the soul

Catholic spiritual classics are not just intellectual pursuits; they nourish the soul. These works offer timeless spiritual food that can guide us through the trials and tribulations of life, providing clarity and comfort.

Consider the transformative power of “The Imitation of Christ,” a book that has been a spiritual guide for countless saints and laypeople alike. Thomas à Kempis’ reflections on humility, detachment from worldly goods, and the love of God challenge us to live more Christ-centered lives. His simple yet profound insights can lead us to a deeper conversion and a more intimate relationship with Jesus. Before he became Catholic, Thomas Merton read this work at the suggestion of a Hindu monk, and St. Thomas More read this work in the Tower of London while awaiting his execution.

Similarly, “The Interior Castle” by St. Teresa of Ávila takes us on a journey through the stages of spiritual development, likening the soul to a castle with many rooms. St. Teresa’s vivid descriptions of the soul’s progression toward union with God provide a roadmap for our spiritual journey, encouraging us to persevere in prayer and seek God’s will in all things.

Practical advice in the spiritual life

Reading a Catholic spiritual classic can also serve as a source of inspiration and guidance in our daily lives. These works are filled with practical advice on how to live out our faith in concrete ways. St. Francis de Sales’ “Introduction to the Devout Life,” for example, offers practical counsel on how to cultivate virtue, practice prayer, and live a devout life in the midst of worldly distractions.

These classics remind us that the pursuit of holiness is not reserved for the few but is a universal call for all the faithful. They challenge us to strive for greater holiness in our everyday lives, offering examples of how to integrate our faith into our daily routines and interactions with others. In reading these works, we are reminded of the saints who have gone before us and are encouraged to follow in their footsteps.

This summer, we urge you to take up a Catholic spiritual classic and allow it to transform your faith journey! Whether you are new to these works or revisiting an old favorite, you will find that they offer a wellspring of spiritual riches that can inspire, guide and nourish your soul. Let this be a season of spiritual growth and renewal as you immerse yourself in the timeless wisdom of our Catholic tradition.

Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board

The Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board consists of Father Patrick Briscoe, OP, Gretchen R. Crowe, Matthew Kirby, Scott P. Richert and York Young.