On Spiritual Reading
Thomas Dubay, a writer I much admire and am much in awe of, wrote a book some time ago that it has taken me a while to get hold of. While at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, I stumbled across it and knew that among the many treasure there, this was one that I had to have for my collection. The book, published in 1993 is Seeking Spiritual Direction and it is filled with the usually profound, subtle insights that mark all of Fr. Dubay's work.
I rarely read a nonfiction book completely linearly, and spiritual books are such that I find myself dipping in at intervals even as I read straight through. Last night I looked up a subject of particular interest to me--Spiritual Reading. After a great deal of very interesting, helpful discussion Fr. Dubay gets to the "short list" of what he calls A-1 reading. His point throughout is not to waste your time on "mediocre" spiritual reading--the stuff of much of the marketplace now--but to confine spiritual reading to the A-1 tried and true proven classics. He implies that the longer the list of spiritual reading, the more likely that less worthy works are somewhere on it. Father Dubay's Short list follows:
from Seeking Spiritual Direction--"Can I Direct Myself?"
Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M.
Input on contemplative prayer is essential. Ordinarily, one begins with one or two sound introductory works and proceeds on to the masters. At the head of a short list of masters would be Saints Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, probably in that order. somewhere early in one's serious pursuit of God should be read Imitation of Christ and the major classics written by other saints: for example, Augustine's Confessions, Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life and Treatise on the Love of God, Thérèse of Lisieux's The Story of a Soul, Newman's Sermons, and French spiritual writer Dom Chautard's Soul of the Apostolate Periodically one should intersperse among didactic works the lives of the saint for all the reasons we shall now consider. (pp. 145-146).
This list certainly seems a worthy starting point for great spiritual reading, and everything on it certainly seems required reading for those actively seeking closer union with God. (One note: the Bible is, of course central on this list, but it is treated much more fully elsewhere in the book). But I am certain that it is not the complete list of helpful reading. What I would like to solicit is discussion on what might constitute a fuller reading list. I still want only the A-1, best of the best, top of the line classics. If you would be so kind as to leave a list of two or three books that have profoundly moved you and helped you toward a closer walk with God and a brief description of the contents thereof, I would like to compile these into a longer list.
Additionally, please help with any insights as to where to start with writers for whom Fr. Dubay has indicated an Opus, but not identified a "starting work." For example, those better acquainted with Newman could help all of us with suggestions as to which group of sermons to start with. I will be happy to provide some insight into which works of Teresa and John I would recommend, as well as which editions might best aid the reader.
Later I will add to Fr. Dubay's list works from the protestant tradition that everyone of solid Catholic Background could easily profit; however, for the time being, let us consider only mainline Catholic works and their influence on you. Thank you so much for any contribution to a project that I think would benefit the entire community of St. Blog's.