When I joined the novitiate more than forty years ago, our schedule each day held one half hour of spiritual reading. It made perfect sense because spiritual reading had been encouraged for centuries. St. Ignatius Loyola, famously, was converted through spiritual reading by being forced through boredom into reading the lives of the saints and the life of Christ while recuperating from some brutal surgeries.
But we did not think about how innovative spiritual reading once was. Until the advent of the printing press, spiritual reading was virtually impossible for large numbers of religious people. As books spread through civilization, religious people could begin to read some of the works of great spiritual masters. The spiritual discipline of spiritual reading was born.
I believe we are seeing the beginning of a new spiritual discipline: spiritual viewing. Through the internet, thousands of wonderful videos about the spiritual life and spiritual topics are now available to people. Whether through YouTube, Facebook, internet sites dedicated to daily prayer or profound spiritual reflections, or sites that collect movies with spiritual themes like formed.org, we are seeing a wonderful cascade of possibilities for viewing content that uplifts, challenges and instructs our spiritual lives. As with everything on the internet, one has to approach the search for this material with care and discretion but the search is well worth it.
Why not set aside some time every day or every week to watch something that will move you to love God more or serve others with greater joy! If it is a longer video, break it into pieces and watch and savor it over several viewings. Maybe pray a little before, during or after watching. You may find that this new spiritual discipline proves to be an enjoyable way of growing in faith!
Fr. John Auther, SJ is a Jesuit for 42 years and a priest for almost 30 years. In his pastoral ministry he has devoted a good deal of time to Spanish-speaking work, detention facilities and retreats. He began working at JRC in January 2020.