Rev. Prof. Laurent Touze
Reading for Spiritual Formation
Fr. Touze gave a talk on the first day of the Spiritual Formation Workshop entitled “Reading for Spiritual Formation”. Above all, the Bible is essential for a Christian to read and he quoted the famous words of St. Jerome, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
An important source for the “classics” of spiritual reading and devotional practices is the book Modern Devotion (Devotio Moderna) which is not modern by today’s understanding. It was written in the late fourteenth-century. Thomas à Kempis’ book The Imitation of Christ uses principles he found in this earlier book, stressing a personal connection to God and showing love toward Him, particularly in the Blessed Sacrament.
More than a book, Modern Devotion was also the name of a religious reform movement calling for an increase in pious practices such as humility, obedience, and simplicity of life. One devotional method taught in this movement was to project oneself into the imagery of a Bible scene to participate in the life of Jesus. The “Spiritual Exercises” of St. Ignatius of Loyola, as well as the teaching of St. Teresa of Avila, use this method of mental prayer.
Fr. Touze echoed the advice of the saints to set aside a fixed time for spiritual reading. Among the saints to promote spiritual reading was St. Josemaría Escrivá who wrote: “Don’t neglect your spiritual reading. Reading has made many saints . . . In my spiritual reading I build up a store of fuel. It looks like a lifeless heap, but I find that my memory, of its own accord, will draw from it material which fills my prayer with life and inflames my thanksgiving after Communion.” (The Way, n.116-117)
In his talk, Fr. Touze said that books can be among our best spiritual directors. Although reading intellectual books is essential for a priest’s education, reading the Fathers of the Church along with devotional classics is also important.