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Am I experiencing intellectual gluttony? – Part III of III

November 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Capital Sins, Fr. Bartunek, Sin

Dear Father John, there is just too much to read! I feel like I should be reading more about my faith and the spiritual life, because I want to grow more. But I am so frustrated, because even if I would spend all day reading, I feel like I would barely be scratching the surface. So I get tense, confused, and then I don't do anything. What's going on with me, and what I should I do about this?

In our first and second posts in this three part series, we discussed the spiritual gluttony of frustration and ways to recognize how to develop our intellects in a Christian manner. We examined frustration and also how we need to learn how to experience God's love for us.

One Step Enough for Me”

Third, the next-step factor. The practical trick for keeping this healthy desire for greater knowledge healthy is to think in terms of the next step. Don't look at the 3.3 million volumes in the Hesburgh Libraries at Notre Dame. Rather, look at the two or three books that you really feel drawn to right now – and dip into them, and work through them, seeking to increase both the breadth and the depth of your knowledge. As you are working through these books, other titles will come onto your radar screen. Put them on your wish list. When you are ready for another book, you can look through the list and see which ones draw you most intensely. This is how the Holy Spirit guides us, often – he will draw us to certain titles or courses, and we kind of follow along. He knows what will help us most in each moment and each season of our journey, and he will guide us in subtle, gentle ways.

Another approach, if you are a planner and an organizer, is to set yourself some goals for each liturgical season, or for each year. Plan ahead what you would like to study and why, then get all the materials on your active bookshelf, and work through it gradually, enjoyably, peacefully. You can have a goal, for instance, of reading four or five books on prayer this winter, or making your way through five great Catholic novels in the spring, or reading all the works of St. Francis de Sales this year. As more items and ideas pop up on your radar screen, put them in your wish list and pile them onto your inactive book shelf.

Attitude Management

If you find yourself worrying about whether you made the right decision as regards which books to read right now, watch out. Most likely, that is a distraction (unless it persists and persists and persists, then maybe the Holy Spirit is trying to get you to switch channels). Trust that if you are truly seeking to get to know better God and his plan for your life and for the world, he will make use of whatever you dive into. In fact, you will find yourself utilizing things you just read in conversations the very same day or week – God loves to multi-task, so he loves to create situations for us to use what we learn to help others.

Be grateful for the good, holy desire in your heart – the desire to know better and better all that God has revealed to us about himself, this world, and the way to live our lives to the full. Keep acting on this desire, but do so with the childlike humility and joy that Jesus values so much. We will always have more to discover as we venture towards the Father's house, and that should fill our hearts with delight, not frustration.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

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