Choosing Books

Father Guibert gives advice on choosing books that foster one’s spiritual development. He writes: “In order that your reading may be thus beneficial, you will choose books that are less intellectual than spiritual, and that appeal rather to your soul than to your mind. Works of the intellect only may be learned, but they are lacking in life; on the other hand, books that come entirely from the soul are certainly not wanting in what can illumine the intelligence, but they possess the incomparable gift of awakening or of arousing life by kindling the heart.”

“Amongst all books, you will particularly be devoted to the Holy Scriptures and especially to the Gospels. There you have the true word of God, and it comes to you by the Apostles and the Prophets, or from Jesus Christ Himself. Let the Gospel hold the first place in your library. I should like to see no day pass in which you did not draw near in spirit to this glowing centre of your Master’s words.”

Other beneficial reading material may be divided into three classes: (1) the lives of the Saints, “which show us sanctity in practice, and thus persuade us that it is within the reach of human strength and lead us on by example to become better”; (2) treatises on spiritual subjects; and (3) books of devotion.

Father Guibert concludes: “Whatever books you read, do not store them in your memory or make use of them as if it were for some learned work. Inhale and live in the pure warm air of their pages. Have recourse to them, not to obtain knowledge, but to get from them a more intense and a higher life. Keep your soul under their influence, like some newly-turned ground beneath the hand of the sower or the rain of heaven. Without making any effort, and with nothing but your inward silence, you will become enriched and made fruitful. You will leave off different from what you were when you began. This change of condition is the true result to aim at in the religious use of books or men.”

Quotations from Jean Guibert, On the Exercises of Piety (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1911).

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