Spiritual Reading & Theological Virtues

Source: District of Asia

Almighty and everlasting God, grant us an increase in faith, hope, and charity, and so that we may deserve to obtain the goods you promise us, make us love what you command. In this beautiful prayer, which is that of the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, the Church asks God for an increase in the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.

The benefit that God has bestowed upon us by granting these three supernatural virtues is invaluable. Without them, we could not be saved, and they completely change the horizon of man, allowing him to know, hope, and love the only thing that should matter to us in this life: the eternal possession of God Himself.

However, these virtues, like grace, which always accompanies them, have been granted to us in the form of seeds. In other words, while God bestows the benefit of possessing them upon us, He leaves us with the obligation to cultivate and make them grow. This means that what is His gift can be increased by our corresponding to His graces.

Theology teaches us that infused virtues, such as the three theological virtues, can only grow through divine infusion. In other words, only God can make them grow in us by infusing new vigor, new intensity, and by making each of these virtues take root in us. However, this infusion is communicated through actual graces, to which we can either willingly submit or resist. We have certain habitual channels for these actual graces, and these are our practices of piety, through which we become particularly receptive to God's graces in order to increase supernatural life within us.

Among these spiritual practices, spiritual reading holds a very important place in increasing the theological virtues. This involves reading books related to the realities that God has revealed to us, aiming to nourish our understanding with knowledge of the supernatural world, ignite in our souls the ideal of holiness, and kindle in our will the supernatural love of God and the goods He provides.

1st - The necessity of spiritual reading

What do we usually read?

1. In our beginnings, during our formative period, we are compelled to read: school, university, all of it demands reading, and a lot of it. When we love the field of study we pursue, reading eventually captivates us—whether it's law, medicine, history, literature—absorbing us and leading us to multiple readings, initially to gain basic knowledge and have an overview of the discipline, and later to delve deeper into what we already know in general. Even after obtaining the degree and practicing the profession, reading remains an imperative duty to maintain acquired knowledge or stay updated with new developments in the field.

Well, the great business of our soul is the eternal salvation of our soul through union with God. All other businesses are for a few years, while this business determines our eternity. So, what is this business about? Read. Who is the God whom I must know, love, serve? Read. Why has He created me, and how can I achieve that goal? Read. What mysteries does He command me to believe, what things does He command me to love, what kind of life does He command me to lead? Read. What supernatural life has He deposited in my soul, and how should I develop it? Read. What examples do I have to imitate in order to inspire prayer, virtue, self-denial, sacrifice, and love of God? Read.

2. We also read beyond studies and careers about things that we like and find interesting. Love feels curious about what it loves. To satisfy this curiosity, it never tires of asking and seeks all available means of investigation.

Well, nothing in this life should interest us more than the supernatural world in which we must live eternally. Our love for God must eagerly absorb everything He has chosen to reveal to us about Himself; we must study the revealed truth to scrutinize it, gather all analogies that translate it, conveniences that explain it, and authorized commentaries that elucidate it, in order to find nourishment that simultaneously nurtures faith and love.

We must awaken this interest through reading, especially in our time, one of whose most deplorable evils, according to the warnings of the Popes, is religious ignorance. This ignorance leaves in darkness not only hundreds of millions of pagans for whom the light of the Gospel has not shone but also millions of Christians. Most educated Christians are almost ignorant of everything concerning revealed truth. Even those who have remained faithful to religious practices usually retain from their past instruction only some practical moral notions but few or no dogmatic truths that feed their spiritual life. Becoming lawyers, industrialists, doctors, merchants, teachers, or artists, they think and act truly as such, showing themselves as Christians only to fulfill some external duty of religion. But since their adolescence, they have had almost no real contact with revealed dogmatic truth; they have never thought about it and have not placed Christ at the center of their soul and personal life. Thus, their religious instruction and Christian life are far below their general culture and professional training, resulting in a natural invasion at the expense of the supernatural. Their Christianity, without light and consequently without strength, cannot have a real influence on human thought and activities.

In summary, it is a law of our life that we cannot love except what we know. The will is a blind faculty that only loves what intelligence presents to it. It is impossible to love God, impossible to aspire to the goods that God promises us if we do not know all of that beforehand. Faith, hope, and charity demand, for their growth, the nourishment of revealed truth.

The example of the saints provides abundant instances of the importance of spiritual reading. St. Augustine decides to take the definitive step towards his conversion after hearing the voices of children singing, "Tolle, lege: Take and read." Taking the Epistles of St. Paul and opening them at random, he comes across the passage that would lead him to take the step he hesitated to take due to the strength of his passions. St. Ignatius of Loyola owes his conversion, the beginning of his holy life, to the reading of edifying books, even though he had never had a liking for reading, being a man of arms. St. Teresa of Jesus initiated her journey towards interior life thanks to her fondness for spiritual books, confessing that she owed her constancy in prayer to them.

2nd Selection of spiritual readings.

Regarding the selection of readings, it must be inspired by this fundamental truth: that all spiritual knowledge is contained in Christ, in whom it has been revealed to us. Spiritual books cannot and should not explain anything other than Jesus Christ to us. Spiritual reading is only beneficial to the extent that it communicates the knowledge of Christ.

The decision to encounter Jesus Christ leads us, first of all, to Sacred Scripture, giving it preference among the books to be read and meditated upon. Its incomparable merit lies in having God as its principal author. The Holy Spirit has used the human and free activity of an inspired author to tell us what He wants and how He wants it. God's veracity, which cannot deceive itself or deceive us, guarantees both the proposed truth and its expression. The inspired word thus offers us the same divine truth in its purest and most perfect translation into human language.

All the faithful must particularly nourish themselves with the lives of our Lord, which admirably illustrate the Gospel. These readings familiarize us with Jesus, create a favorable atmosphere in the soul for a life of prayer, and are a particularly effective preparation for it.

And why not consider as spiritual readings those of those teachers who abundantly use Sacred Scripture, especially the commentaries made by the Fathers of the Church? In this way, we will learn to know the riches that the Bible contains and how to benefit from them.

1st CHRIST AS TRUTH: dogmatic books (Faith). It is also advisable to have a thorough knowledge of the most important truths of our Faith, trying to penetrate the revealed mysteries to enlighten our minds with new truths. To do this, we must use books that accurately present the teachings of the Church, relying on the Fathers, the Magisterium of the Popes, and the teachings of reliable authors.

2nd CHRIST AS WAY: lives of the saints (Hope). The lives of the Saints are the most stimulating reading of all because the living examples of their heroic virtues arouse admiration and stimulate efforts towards holiness. "Words move, but examples drag," says the proverb. In these lives, we can observe how the saints lived the truths of Faith, took them as a guiding norm for their entire lives, and feel encouraged to do the same.

3rd CHRIST AS LIFE: teachers of the spiritual life (Charity). Finally, it is necessary to have some books on hand that explain to us the precepts of Christian life and the evangelical counsels, specify the requirements of virtues and the means to practice them, all by accomplished masters of the spiritual life. The writings of the Saints, in which they explain the structure of the spiritual life and the laws that govern it, devotion to Our Lord and His Passion, devotion to the Virgin, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the means to initiate oneself into interior life, the ways of prayer, etc., are the most beneficial for kindling charity.


It is necessary for every Christian to make the resolution, if they have not already done so, to dedicate time to spiritual reading, to personal formation in matters of faith through reading. We cannot content ourselves with always being infant Catholics; religious education must grow alongside everything else. We cannot neglect the eternal by dedicating ourselves solely to the things of this life.

Two pieces of advice for this spiritual reading:

1st: Be constant. Even if the time we can dedicate to it is short, much will be learned if we read with perseverance.

2nd: Let it be accompanied by prayer. Because reading can be likened, as we have said, to food. But for that food to be beneficial, it must be digested and assimilated. Prayer is precisely what allows us to ruminate on the knowledge acquired through reading and transform it into light for the understanding, aspiration for our lives, and love of God for the will.