I am a very big advocate on studying and reading the works of the saints. In fact, most of my reading now is exclusively limited to scripture, the saints, and well-grounded holy authors who are not yet canonized. While scripture is of the highest importance, I have profited greatly from the works of the saints. The primary reason is this: like the Blessed Mother, the saints guide and direct us to Jesus Christ. This is evident in scripture:

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world – John 1:29

St. John the Baptist’s whole life was focused on directing people to Jesus Christ, not himself. He is simply preparing the way to Jesus Christ, who should be our primary focus. I find that like St. John the Baptist, the written works of the saints are intended not to glorify the saint or to lead people to them. No, they are always geared towards glorifying God and leading others to Jesus Christ.

There may be some who say that they prefer to read scripture exclusively. That is fine, I see no harm in that but just as we need guides or directions as we set off on an uncharted path, we can benefit greatly from those holy men and women, who, being moved and transformed by grace, are the most excellent guides to Jesus Christ. I would say that studying the works of St. Alphonsus, St. John Chrysostom, and others has lead me to appreciate and love scripture all the more. This is where I see their works not merely as some pieces of paper, limited to scholars perhaps, but rather they are almost like a physical manifestation of God’s grace, and a tangible good fruit yielded by a holy soul. Their works are a benefit to ALL souls.

I have heard the following analogy quite often and I feel it is applicable here. The journey to Jesus Christ is equivalent to journeying up a ladder. Jesus Christ is at the top and we are at the bottom. The way to God is through Jesus Christ alone, however, to go from the bottom of the ladder to the top can be challenging without having additional steps. The reason why we as Catholics constantly seek the intercession of saints, and especially the Blessed Mother is because they are the steps that lead us to Jesus Christ. Therefore, to not utilize their help is almost reckless, even showing lack of prudence. For if we would never refuse advice given to us if we were lost and near the point of death in the wilderness, why would we refuse the advice of those who, by grace, are able to guide us safely out of a wilderness of sin?

Stay close to the saints and they will lead you to Jesus Christ. By engaging our intellect and studying the works of the saints, this will excite our will in order to desire to be a saint, to be perfect like our Heavenly Father. I think you will find yourself reading scripture more frequently as you engage and read about the saints. That is expected and is a most excellent fruit resulting from learning from the saints. Why else would God have allowed their works to exist? For their glory? No! It is for His glory and He desired to use them as His instruments in order to direct souls constantly to Him throughout time.

You may wonder if your reading should be exclusively limited to the saints and well founded holy authors. While I have profited greatly from these works myself, I am not saying you should avoid any material that is written by people still living, for as far as I know, these people may be saints one day! However, I caution you to be weary of anything you read without testing the content and author first, for in our post-modernistic age you will find many authors who will interweave poisonous thoughts in their works. Just be cautious and prudent in your choice of reading. Consult with a holy friend often about your reading material.

Now for some practical advice. This advice is contingent to where you are on your journey towards perfection. For those that find reading easy to do, spend some time finding a saint who speaks to you and get their book. Read it, and use it as a source of meditation, if you find yourself moved by it. For those that do not like to read, I recommend you find yourself some audio book and try to make the words of the saints something you hear often. Soak yourself in their wisdom because Jesus Christ is in them. For those that perhaps are struggling with mortal sin frequently, it may be difficult to excite the will by reading/listening to the works of the saints. Test and see what works for you. If you find no satisfaction in reading or listening to their works, perhaps it is not yet time to eat more solid food. You may still be required to drink milk and that is fine. Seek the intercession of the Blessed Mother during these trials. Leave everything to God’s will.

Blessed Mother, pray for us!

JM