Chapter 5 – On Reading

V On Reading (click to download pdf)

           Now, I know you are only yet a little child, maybe just beginning to go to school; or, supposing even you have been going to school already for several years, yet you are hardly old enough to be allowed to read the Holy Scriptures.  When you are older, and can better understand, then nobody will forbid you to read the Bible.  You will even be admonished to do so—to read the Catholic Bible, and to study it, and to draw all the fruit from it that you can for your soul.

I suppose your parents have a Bible at home?  Maybe it is a fine, large book, and has many beautiful pictures in it; and your parents allow you sometimes to take the book, and go through it, and look at the pictures.  Well, remember, the Bible is the holy word of God.  It tells you about Jesus, and how you are to become His disciple and follower.  It is, therefore, a most holy book; and you must take care to handle it with the greatest and deepest respect.  St. Charles Borromeo, I believe, it was, this great saint in the Catholic Church, that always, in humility and out of respect, opened and read the Holy Scriptures kneeling.  But, in the meantime, study your Bible history well, and thus prepare yourself to read the Bible when you are older.

But there are other good books, and papers also, easier than the Bible, that you may and should read, even now, while you are yet a child.  You do not need to wait till you are grown up and have a better understanding.  It is even very important that you should acquire a relish and love for good reading while you are young, living in the days of your childhood.  Why?

You want to become a follower of Jesus while you are yet young; you do not want to wait till you are old, do you?  You have been told already that it is Jesus Himself who will teach you how to become His followers.  One way that He teaches you, is:  He speaks to you through good books and papers.  But you cannot hear Him speak if you do not read those books and paper, or somebody else does not read them to you.

There are many good books printed, and quite a number of excellent, little story papers given out, any of which would be very good and just suitable for you.  I trust, your parents have already bought several such books for you, and they are getting at least one such paper.  If they have not, why, then you must ask them to do so.  Sure, if you tell them you want to become a follower of Jesus, they will buy you some good books, and get you a good little paper.  But what use to make of your books and paper?  That is the next question.

Here are a few rules:  First, always have a good intention when you read.  You should read for God’s honor, and for the welfare of your soul, and not read merely out of curiosity and to while away the time.  Secondly, you must have more regard for what you are reading, that is, for the truth of what is said, than for the person who wrote it, or the way in which it is said.  Do as The Following of Christ directs:  “Inquire not who may have said a thing, but consider what is said.”  Thirdly, do not let the reading hinder you in doing something else that is your duty.  “Katie,” a mother said to her daughter, “take out this feed to the chickens.”  “Oh, ma, wait a minute, till I have finished reading this story,” said the little girl.  Do you see?  That was wrong.  This girl should have put her book or prayer away immediately, and done what her mother wanted her to do.  Obedience goes above everything else.

Fourthly, do not be too greedy.  A boy was reading a story-book, and he stayed up late, and kept on reading and reading, and his parents could hardly get him to go to bed.  And then he neglected to get his lessons for school, and he did not say his night prayers half well enough, and he even dreamed about what he had read.  You know well enough, such reading is wrong.

Lastly, never read what is bad.  Do not try to smuggle books or papers into the house, and read them privately, when you know it is a sin for you to read them, and your parents would burn them if they knew you had them, and they could get hold of them; and they would punish you, besides.  “Tell me,” says St. Chrysostom, “what sort of company a person goes into, and I will tell you what sort of a person he is, because he is sure to be like the company he keeps.”  Books and papers are company, too, are they not?

“If thou wilt derive profit,”—words from Thomas à Kempis, –‘read with humility, with simplicity, and with faith, and never wish to have the name of learning.”

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