April 20, 2023 — For many of you listening, the idea of spiritual reading is probably a familiar concept. You might have a book or two on your bedside that you pray with each night: something on the lives of the saints or new insights into old spiritual practices. Next to that pile of spiritual books might be a bible, and each day you read a passage, slowly, prayerfully.
It’s not hard to look for the Holy Spirit at work in books you find in the spirituality section of your local bookstore. But what about in the other sections: fiction, sci-fi, romance and memoir? Is the Holy Spirit at work in those books, too?
Our guest today, Dr. Jessica Hooten Wilson, says yes – to a degree. Her newest book, “Reading for the Love of God: How to Read as a Spiritual Practice,” challenges us to look at all our reading through the lens of spirituality. How is God inviting us deeper into our vocation, deeper into the mysteries of creation through the texts we spend our time with?
Jessica is the inaugural Visiting Scholar of Liberal Arts at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. She previously taught at the University of Dallas. She’s the author of several other books that explore this topic of saints, sinners and texts — both those considered holy and those less so. She speaks around the world on topics as varied as Russian novelists, Catholic thinkers and our topic today: a Christian approach to reading.
As you listen to this conversation and reflect on your own reading habits, consider Ignatius of Loyola. He, too, provides us with a helpful approach to reading. Recall that during his recovery from his cannonball wound, he wanted to read books on knights and courtly romance. Instead, he was given what we would consider spiritual reading: a book on saints and one on the life of Christ. God spoke to Ignatius in part through these texts; they were pivotal to his conversion.
Even so, Ignatius goes on to insist that God is to be found in all things — not only the spiritual and religious texts but every aspect of life.
How might you approach your own reading through this Ignatian lens? What might God reveal?
AMDG is a production of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.