St. Francis wrote, “Our Lord receives our words of prayer according to the way in which we receive His words in teaching.” “Listening” is an important element in the spiritual life, and spiritual readings provide us the opportunity of listening to the Word of God.
What to read?
Among spiritual readings, Holy Scripture, especially the New Testament, holds the first place. St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Reading Scripture helps us to encounter Jesus Christ and to learn about His life and teachings. Lives of the saints are very helpful to our spiritual life, as are writings of the saints such as: the Rule of St. Benedict, the Letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch, City of God and Confessions of St. Augustine, the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, and Virtue and Christian Refinement by St. John Bosco. The spiritual classics also include: The Conferences of St. John Cassian; Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, The Ladder by St. John Climacus; the Ascent of Mount Carmel, Dark Night of the Soul, and Living Flame of Love by St. John of the Cross; and Twelve Steps to Holiness and Salvation, The Passion and the Death of Jesus Christ, and The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus Ligouri. There are also: Way of Perfection and Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Spiritual Conferences of St. Vincent de Paul, An Introduction to the Devout Life and Treatise on the Love of God by St. Francis de Sales, True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort, Sermons of the Cure of Ars (St. John Vianney), Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux, Journal of a Soul by Blessed John XXIII, Divine Mercy in My Soul by St. Faustina Kowalska, and The Way by St. Josemaria Escriva. It is a good practice to spend 15 minutes each day in spiritual reading. In the first half of the 15 minutes read a page from Holy Scriptures. I warmly recommend the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. In the second half of the 15 minutes read from a spiritual book.
St. Francis de Sales defined “inspirations” as “all drawings, feelings, interior reproaches, lights, and intuitions with which God moves us by His fatherly love and care; awakening, exciting, urging, and attracting us to goodness, to heavenly love, to good resolutions; in short, to whatever tends to our eternal welfare.” The saint explained, “In contracting a marriage, the bride must be a party to three separate acts: first, the bridegroom is proposed to her; second, she entertains the proposal; and third, she gives her consent. “Just so, when God intends to perform some act of love in us, by us, and with us, He first suggests it by His inspiration; second, we receive that inspiration; and third, we consent to it: for, as we fall into sin by three steps: temptation, delectation, and consent, so there are three steps whereby we ascend to virtue: inspiration, as opposed to temptation; delectation in God’s inspiration, as opposed to that of temptation; and consent to the one instead of to the other.” During the course of our day, God might give us holy inspirations during spiritual reading, prayer, or work. It is important for us to consent to those inspirations and strive to put them into practice. However, St. Francis de Sales also cautioned that, “before consenting to inspirations which have respect to important or extraordinary things, guard against self-deception, by consulting your spiritual guide, and let him examine whether the inspiration be real or no.” “Stop to consider, ponder, and relish the truths that make greater appeal to you, in order to fix them in your mind, therefrom to elicit acts and affections,” said St. John Eudes.
聖人解釋：相若於完整的婚約，新娘必要完合三個步驟 —— 首先，新郎求婚，其次是新娘答允慎重考慮，最後是新娘完全予以同意。天主首先在我們之內種下善行的意願，然後我們答允慎重考慮，最後我們完全予以同意。不過，犯罪三步曲似乎與此相似：誘惑、喜愛、同意。