When we are ordained as permanent deacons in the Catholic Church, the ordination ritual includes these words: “Believe what your read, teach what you believe, practice what you teach.” This is our call to service as deacons by the bishop. For the remaining days of Lent, I want to focus on the three sections of that statement. Today, let’s focus on:
“Believe what your read”
Spiritual reading is an important way of feeding your mind and soul. But what are the “good” things that help nourish us on our life-long journey of holiness? Look at my last blog, “Truth? What is Truth?” for insight on selecting an appropriate Catholic study Bible. Here are some suggestions for selecting other literature to help you in your reading.
Look for the “Seal of Approval”: If looking for books or pamphlets that are consistent with Catholic doctrine and moral teaching, look for an Imprimatur at the beginning of the book. This “seal of approval” is an official declaration that the document is free of doctrinal or moral error. You find this information at the front of a book, along with other publishing and copyright information. This is one way to assure you can believe what you are reading.
Read the Introduction to Books: I remember a college professor giving me this advice: “Read the introduction to your text books to get a better understanding of what the author is trying to teach.” He was right. The introduction to a spiritual book can help you understand the background of the author. It can also help understand the author’s purpose (or agenda) for publishing the book. They say “You can’t judge a book by its cover”, but you can by its content and the Introduction is a good way to understand what you will be reading.
If you begin reading things that are contrary to what you understand about your faith, you might question the validity and value of the book. Some books may be good at stretching your mind and understanding of your faith; others may distort or damage your understanding and beliefs. When in doubt, I would refer to a priest, deacon or other person with training in Catholic theology, doctrine and Tradition. My thought is this: If you are going to read something to help you grow spiritually, you may as well stick to the “good stuff.”
Go “Deep” as well as “Wide”: I am in no way suggesting that you only read Catholic publications or that spiritual reading is the only valuable reading. I enjoy all types of reading (novels, murder mysteries, cloak and dagger, etc.). I think it’s important that we expand our minds culturally as well as spiritually. And I enjoy spiritual reading from non-Catholic authors (some of my favorites are Parker Palmer, Max Lucado and C.S. Lewis). This type of reading helps me go a little “wider” in my faith, by opening myself to other perspectives and experiences. A lot of times when I read these types of books I find myself asking if the author’s viewpoint is the same as the Catholic viewpoint. That’s when I appreciate the value of going “deep” into our faith.
As Catholics, we have the benefit of over 2,000 years of writings from the early Church Fathers and their deep wisdom, to more contemporary Catholic authors like Matthew Kelly and Scott Hahn that help us look at our faith in new and vibrant ways. A lot of these writings are also available on audiotape and CD. So there are lots of opportunities to get in some good spiritual reading.
These are just some ideas you can use to help you find solid Catholic literature to help you in your faith journey. If you have other suggestions, please leave a comment on this page to share with others.
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