Life-Changing Reading Program

Life-Changing Reading Program


I teach a course called “Foundations of Prayer and Union with God” for the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation. In this course, I have had the great blessing of watching hundreds of God’s good people grow more deeply in their prayer and union with God. During the course, a number of the students asked if I could provide a list of spiritual reading that might help them continue in their progress. The graphic and list you see below is what I prepared for them.

I have given an order of priority to the list in terms of what might be most meaningful at each stage of the three-fold path of spiritual growth (purgative, illuminative, unitive). Of course, there are spacial limitations to this approach. Beyond that, there are more books than I could ever fit in! So, I had to compromise and provide a list that will still keep anyone busy for at least a few years.

There are a few more distinctions about the list that might be helpful. The books in red are works that I believe every Catholic should read at one time or another for various reasons.

For instance, Fr. Thomas Dubay’s Prayer Primer is a must-read even for those advanced in prayer. Why? Because there is much by way of false teachings on prayer spreading around the Church. This work, coupled with Part Four of the Catechism on prayer, will provide a firm foundation and understanding of the life-changing prayer in the authentic tradition of the Church.

The books in blue are recommended for daily meditation, daily spiritual reading, or lectio divina. The Better Part is by far the best daily meditation book for those who are new or relatively new to a daily practice of meditation because it is completely focused on the person and work of Christ in the gospels. The Better Part provides reflections on every passage of each of the gospels focused on Christ as our teacher, our friend, our Lord and then Christ in our life.

For the soul that has spent at least a year in scriptural meditation on the life of Christ, I strongly recommend Divine Intimacy for additional daily meditation or lectio divina. This work is a treasure of the interior life that will keep you spiritually challenged for decades. It will also expose you to other spiritual masters and mystics along the way.

With respect to a reading program, my prayer is that you will just pick up one of these books and launch into an adventure with God that you would not have otherwise known.

By the way, if these reads seem a bit heavy, I might recommend two resources that would be on the fun side. One is on the list, a devotional by my friend Teresa Tomeo: Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag. This book was written for busy women in a style that is pithy and relevant to the daily challenges women face. The other is a bit more serious – a fictional account that reveals authentic wisdom regarding how the enemy seeks to derail our ascent to God: the Screwtape Letters.


Art for this post on a reading program: graphic with Dan Burke’s recommendations provided by Dan Burke, copyright, all rights reserved. Feature Image Art: Old book bindings at the Merton College Library, Oxford, England, Tom Murphy VII, 25 August 2005, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons.

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