Well-read Catholics are contagious Catholics. It’s no surprise that St. Josemaria Escriva claims, “Reading has made many saints.” Today, I will continue with some tips on how you can develop your summer game plan, outlining why spiritual reading matters and offering some reading suggestions.
Remember: How you spend your time this summer is important. Summer is often a time when people fall out of routine and give in to laziness. It’s easy to sleep in, fall away from good habits and not turn to God in the midst of your leisure. I’ve fallen into this dangerous pattern time and time again. It’s good to rest and get a little extra sleep, but you must have a plan and be intentional. If you drift, you may just end up drifting to a place you don’t want to go.
Your rest is a time meant for you to understand God’s purpose for you more, to make plans for the future and to encounter friends and family in “carefree timelessness,” as Matthew Kelly says. Rest should aid you in becoming saints, not set you back in your pursuit of holiness.
This is why spiritual reading is so important for you this summer. Your spiritual reading will transform your rest from idleness to purposefulness and will incorporate the deeper vision of God’s purpose for your life. Your spiritual reading will fill you with hope to be lights to all whom you meet.
So, what should you read? The titles below don’t make an exhaustive list — so feel free to ask a priest, a religious sister, a FOCUS missionary or a good friend whom you trust for spiritual advice to share other titles of worthwhile reads. There are many great books out there, but here are ten suggestions that are definitely worth your time.
1. The Bible
This is the most important book ever written. When I take at least five minutes to read the Bible every day, I know I am encountering God’s own Word that has been passed down through the generations. A great way to start is to read the Gospels this summer, working through them slowly by putting yourself in the scenes and asking Jesus to speak to your heart.
2. Any book by Fr. Jacques Philippe
Fr. Jacques Philippe is able to put the basics of prayer, surrender and our call to holiness in a simple but profound way for those of us in the modern world to digest. I have read all seven of his books and I highly recommend them.
3. He Leadeth Me
This book is filled with spiritual reflections from Fr. Walter Ciszek, who was held captive in communist Russia. Fr. Ciszek’s words are perfect for building your perseverance in hard situations and for those who need to trust more in God’s plan for your life.
4. Set All Afire
If you would like a jump start in your missionary zeal, this is an easy but powerful read by Louis de Wohl. It will give you the kick you need as you learn about the amazing life of St. Francis Xavier.
5. I Believe in Love
This is a spiritual retreat inspired the life of St. Thérèse the Little Flower. It will challenge you to a deeper trust in God’s mercy and call you to be bolder in sharing your faith with others.
6. The Screwtape Letters
The devil is real. This spiritual classic written by C.S. Lewis gives you great insights on how the devil tries to tempt you to fall away from your true purpose and your relationship with God.
7. Letters to a Young Catholic
George Weigel will take you on you an adventure through the Catholic world of literature, art and church history. This is a great and easy read, geared particularly towards young Catholics.
8. In Conversation with God
This is a great prayer series based on the daily Mass readings. It helps the Gospel come alive with quotes from popes, saints and the Scriptures. It has been the bedrock of my daily prayer for many years now.
9. St. John Paul the Great, His Five Loves
Jason Evert has made the story of Pope St. John Paul II come alive in this short biography about our late pope. Pope St. John Paul II has called all of you into a New Evangelization. This book gives you the foundations of his teaching and ministry.
10. Treasure in Clay
This is the autobiography of a modern American bishop, Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, who had his own TV show in the 50’s. His story is inspiring, and this book is filled with his wisdom and humor.
This list barely scratches the surface of the many great classic and modern spiritual works that are out there. By making the commitment to start some spiritual reading this summer, you will allow God to guide you on a spiritual pilgrimage that will help you to encounter Him more deeply and to bring others to Him with greater zeal and hope. This world is in need of people like you and me to be committed to Jesus Christ and the Church — to know their faith inside and out and to have deep lives in Christ who are beacons of hope for all to see. Your spiritual reading will give you what you need to be saints in this world.