According to reports, and I’m sure that those of us who are actually at World Youth Day can back this up, il Papa Benedetto has announced that he will declare St. John of Avila a Doctor of the Church. My thoughts, of course, immediately went to another Doctor of the Church from Avila: St. Teresa. I have been reading Interior Castle by St. Teresa and I am a fan. This announcement by His Holiness got me to thinking about the place of Spiritual Reading in our daily lives, but not only our personal lives but also in our Catholic Cultural Experience. When people think of World Youth Day, they often think of a) a Festival b) Charismatic Expression c) Music c) Action d) Youth Ministry etc. Although the reality may be a lot different, these are the perceptions from the outside. It is a Party. But I think the Pope has challenged us to see it as more (I’ve never actually been, which is why I say the reality is probably a lot different from the perception). He has introduced the idea of Spiritual Reading into the otherwise pretty enthusiastic atmosphere. Spiritual Reading has always been important to the life of Catholics which is why the Church provides us with especially good sources…the Doctors of the Church. In designating another Doctor, the Pope is emphasizing the importance of this practice. Of course the primary source of reading for Catholics is Sacred Scripture, but there are also secondary sources for spiritual enrichment. I myself have found these particularly edifying having a philosophical and intellectual bent.
I think that B16 is calling us to reclaim the contemplative aspect of our spiritual lives. We are a generation of action and oftentimes we forget to slow down in our desire to spread the word. This is an admirable attitude but with almost all attitudes, it can not keep itself up without nourishment. This attitude of Catholic Action is strengthened by the contemplation of truth through reading. And this is something that can be done on our own time without having to travel halfway around the world to see the Pope.
Now, I’m going to be in Rome all of next year for study abroad and so I will probably see the Pope quite frequently. However, as much as I am inspired by being in the Eternal City with the Heart of the Church mere minutes away, in order to truly grow in relationship with Christ and in order to grow a Catholic Culture, I will need to take a breather: silent prayer and contemplation on the Word of God and the words of his saints