Be Careful What You Read

What sort of books do you read?  Do you ever think about how they affect your thoughts and your actions?  Listen to the stories of four people whose lives were forever changed by what they read.  The first one is a soldier, a real “man’s man” who came from a wealthy family with lots of political contacts.  Their influence could have kept him behind the front lines, but he loved being in the heat of battle and so he fought.  He was seriously wounded in one of those fights and was forced to spend many months recovering from his injuries.  Bored and restless as the weeks went by, he asked for something to read to help pass the time.  He was given a copy of “The Life of Christ” by Ludolph of Saxony, a German priest.  In reading it, he found himself transformed and lead to read the Gospels with a new and deepened understanding.  When he was back on his feet, he didn’t return to the life of a soldier, but instead devoted himself to a life of prayer and service.  Later, he was called to religious life and he founded the Society of Jesus—the Jesuits.  St. Ignatius of Loyola heard Christ calling to him through reading His life story.
As a child, she loved reading stories about missionaries who spread the good news of Christ in far-off lands.  She went on to become a nun and a schoolteacher, teaching the daughters of wealthy families in exotic India.  One day, while taking a train trip she experienced God’s call to serve the poorest of the poor in the streets of Calcutta.  She founded a new order of sisters called the Missionaries of Charity and today they work in slums and inner city neighborhoods around the world.  Her selfless love of the poor earned her the Nobel Peace Prize.  We know her as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
His father was a city bureaucrat who never went to church.  As he grew up, his mom never stopped praying for him, but he liked drinking and staying out late with his friends.  Still, he was a good student and he got a job teaching at a prestigious private school.  He lived with a woman for many years and they had a son together.  After reading the life story of St. Anthony of the Desert, he had a conversion experience and was called to the priesthood.  He later became a bishop and Doctor of the Church.  St. Augustine’s best-known work is his life story, his “Confessions.”
She was born into a Jewish family but had become an avowed atheist in her teenaged years.  On a vacation one summer, she read the biography of St. Teresa of Avila and was called by Christ to a life of faith.  A few years later she became a Carmelite nun, like St. Teresa.  The Nazis came to power in her native Germany and in order to protect her from them, her order sent her to a convent in the Netherlands.  When the Nazis invaded, she was taken to the death camp at Auschwitz where she was murdered in the gas chambers for being born a Jew. Edith Stein, who had become Sister Teresa Benedicta was martyred in 1942 and made a Saint of the Church in 1998.
Words have power.  What we read can affect us in deep and powerful ways, even if we might not be aware of it at the time.  Feed your mind with words that nourish and sanctify you.  But be careful what you read—you might just become a saint.


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