Reading With New Eyes

I suspect that lots of people who love reading have a sense there is something spiritual about it.

I suspect that lots of people who love reading have a sense there is something spiritual about it. That was my hunch when I started thinking about "a spirituality of reading." The hunch was based on two simple observations. One, that the acts of reading and of contemplation share many of the same characteristics: Both are usually done alone, in silence and physical stillness, our attention focused, our whole selves - body, mind, and hearts - engaged. And two, that reading scripture and the lives of the saints played a significant part in the conversions of St. Augustine and St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. I wanted to explore the spiritual value to be found not so much in reading "holy books," however, but in good books of all kinds - novels, poetry, biography, history, short stories.

By spirituality I mean not only the prayers we say in private, how we worship, doing good deeds, or working for peace and justice. And I don’t mean only our search for a relationship with the divine, the Transcendent Other, in heaven or somewhere "out there." I mean, primarily, the quest for the "God in you as you," the startling phrase I encountered in the writings of theologian John Dunne years ago. For "the true self," as Thomas Merton termed it. For discovering who you are and who you are meant to be.

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Sojourners Magazine December 2004
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