I’ve mentioned before that I love reading letters of spiritual direction from godly men and women of the past. The quotation below comes from a collection of letters by Jacques-Benigne Bossuet (1627-1704). He was a contemporary of Francois Fenelon (1651-1715) and Madame Guyon (1648-1717), two writers whose works have helped me. Bossuet opposed them because he felt they were guilty of quietism similar to that of Spaniard Miguel de Molinos (1628-1697). Enough history lesson.
I share this quotation because I am so tempted to tackle and conquer a spiritual writing, rather than reading it as Bossuet suggests:
“We must not neglect spiritual reading, but this, too, must be undertaken in a spirit of prayer and simplicity, and not for reasons of mere research and curiosity. If we read the right way, the spiritual lights and impressions that our reading gives us will bear fruit in our souls, influencing us rather on account of God’s presence than because of our own industry.” (Jacques-Benigne Bossuet. Letters of Spiritual Direction. Trans. by Geoffrey Webb and Adrian Walker. London: The St. Austin Press, 1958, p. 44.)
When we read something written to nourish and guide our spiritual lives, we need to read with a spirit open and receptive to God through Christ. It just doesn’t work to read out of detached curiosity. Like any spiritual discipline, spiritual reading bears fruit in our lives when we receive what God has for us in it.