Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Developing a Taste for Spiritual Reading

The Catholic Church of Korea asked Catholics to read 33 spiritual  books a year during the three years from 2005 to 2007. The second phase of the program will start this coming June, during the Year of Faith, with the same goal: reading 33 books a year for three years--the 33 referring to the years of our Lord's life. For the third year another book was added to make it 100 books for the three years. The reading will not only benefit the person but also promote our religious tradition and culture, as the the Catholic Times' latest issue points out in its cover story.

The results of the earlier program were very satisfying; it helped develop the habit of reading, formed book seminars and clubs and, less formally, parish discussion groups. Books were seen as a means of continuing pastoral care of Christians, and of correcting the misunderstanding that Catholics do not read very much. The Catholic Times, with the help of the Seoul Diocese, took a poll of the readers to determine the effectiveness of the program.

One of the main reasons for the program can be summed up in the phrase: To read a book is ultimately the process of reading life. In other words, what we read is going to determine what we put into our heads and hearts, which will largely determine what actions will follow. Consequently, the first step is to prudently decide what to read. However, in our digital society many have difficulty setting aside enough time to read because of easy access to hypertext information, which militates against deep thought and examination. Rather than reading to search for meaning and values, we often prefer to read whatever provides the immediately useful. To eliminate this difficulty, a book selection committee will select two or three books each month for those interested, and set up programs to encourage meeting with others to discuss what was read.

The poll of 241 Catholics showed that 30 percent read from 3 to 5 spiritual books during the year; 25 percent read 1 or 2 books; 19 percent read more than 10 books; 16 percent read 6 to 10 books, and 10 percent read nothing. Several reasons were given for not reading: not knowing what to read (30 percent),
difficult to understand (28 percent), difficulty finding suitable spiritual books (27 percent),  books were not interesting (15 percent).

Korea has a community of Christians that is sufficiently united, making possible this type of program, with expectations of achieving positive results. Even though the Christians are being asked to do something many will find difficult, there will be many who will participate, making for a deeper and more mature level of faith life, along with developing the leaders of the future. 

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