Saturday, September 25, 2010

Discipline...to Nourish Our Spiritual Life

After I was ordained in 1963 I visited a Catholic store. Even then, I was always looking for good books to read. I am sorry to say you could not find too many books to choose from. Today go to any bookstore and you will find row after row of books on the spiritual life and journey. There are also books on the lives of those who have gone before us. They are the men and women who are looked at as the guides and trail blazers. Spiritual reading is now commonplace. Why? Here are some of the thoughts of Henri Nouwen:

"An important discipline in the life of the Spirit is spiritual reading. Through spiritual reading we have some say over what enters our minds. Each day our society bombards us with a myriad of images and sounds. ..words yell and scream at us; "drink me, buy me, hire me, look at me, talk with me. But do we really want our minds to become the garbage can of the world? Do we want our minds to be filled with things that confuse us, excite us, depress us, arouse us, repulse us, or attract us whether we think it is good for us or not? Do we want to let others decide what enters our mind and determines our thoughts and feelings? Clearly we do not, but it requires real discipline to let God and not the world be the Lord of our minds. But that asks of us not just to be gentle as doves, but also cunning as serpents! Therefore, spiritual reading is such a helpful discipline. Is there a book we are presently reading, a book that we have selected because it nurtures our mind and brings us closer to God? Our thoughts and feelings would be deeply affected if we were always to carry with us a book that puts our minds again and again in the direction we want to go. There are so many good books about the lives of holy men and women, about remarkable examples of peace-making, about communities that bring life to the poor and the oppressed, about the spiritual life itself. Even if we were to read for only fifteen minutes a day in such a book, we would find our mind becoming less of a garbage can and more a vase filled with good thoughts. The great value of spiritual reading is that it helps us to give meaning to our lives. Without meaning, human life degenerates. The human person not only wants to live, but also wants to know how to live. A life that is not reflected upon eventually loses its meaning, and becomes boring."

It does take discipline to do what is necessary to preserve and nourish our spiritual life. It also demands that we be generous with ourselves when deciding how we are to spend our time. How many when they look at their day will put aside time for themselves FIRST? This is time that is going to be spend in a way that nothing is going to show up in the area of power, property or prestige? We are so programmed to want to see results that we lose sight of what the scriptures warns about, " What is seen is transitory, what is unseen lasts forever".