Secular Writings- please help me on this!


I heard a story about a saint or a monk who enjoyed reading Cicero. One night, God approached him in a dream, and when He asked who he belonged to, the man responded “I am a Christian”, to which God replied “No, you are a Ciceronian.” And then I heard that he stopped reading secular writings and only read Christian ones.

Is reading secular/non-Christian books sinful? Or is this story just saying that we need to not let secular works draw us away from the Lord?

Edit: This was St. Jerome. God released him from his dream only after he swore off reading pagan literature. Is this a necessary step for every Catholic to take? Jerome later says “What communion has light with darkness?” he continued. “‘And what concord has Christ with Belial?’ (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). How can Horace go with the psalter, Virgil with the gospels, Cicero with the apostle? Is not a brother made to stumble if he sees you sitting at meat in an idol’s temple? (1 Corinthians 8:10). Although ‘unto the pure all things are pure’ (Titus 1:15), and ‘nothing is to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving’ (1 Timothy 4:4), still we ought not to drink the cup of Christ, and, at the same time, the cup of devils (1 Corinthians 10:21).” Wouldn’t this mean that he considers pagan literature sinful to read?



Also, I’d assume you have scruples, and, as such, find a SD or parish priest.

Pax vobiscum!


What does that mean?


I think this story is about St Jerome. Not sure though


All of the writings that I’m reading and quotes from St. Jerome himself say that reading pagan literature is sinful. However, the Catholic Church has no official say on the matter.

What do you say? What do you think about Jerome’s Scripture quotes?


Nearly all of the Catholic Universities, from the time printed books were available, had their students reading the classics, such as those penned by Homer, Cicero, Virgil, and Ovid. Why would the Church allow that for hundreds of years (those places of higher education were completely controlled by the Church), if it was sinful? I think you probably need to stick with some firm and solid catechesis and stay away from sites and sources that are problematic for you.

Dear one, you have shown a great deal of distrust, uncertainty, and scrupulosity since you starting posting here. You need to find yourself a spiritual director that can assist you with this. Otherwise, you will have no peace in your life and will be looking for sin from the moment you awaken until sleep finally takes over in the evening.


Most of the Church fathers read pagan literature, like Plato, Plotinus, etc. In fact, Greek philosophy helped Christian theologians to have the ideas and language to teach theology and spread and explain the faith. I am currently reading a book about Hans Urs von Balthasar, possibly my favorite theologian after Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and he had a lot of praise for Greek drama, especially Homer and Virgil. There is nothing wrong with reading pagan or secular literature. What I do suggest is that you commit yourself to studying and staying faithful to the Church’s magisterium. Also, as others have suggested, pray for a solid spiritual director. Ask God to help you stay faithful to the magisterium and lead you to a good spiritual director, and you will do well.


Oh, for heaven’s sake. Read whatever you enjoy reading.


Can someone please explain the meaning of the verses that St. Jerome quoted? That’s the one part that I’m still having trouble with. Especially 1 Corinthians 10:21.


Read the entire chapter. Paul’s meaning is pretty obvious.


If God speaks to me about it, then I’ll worry about it.

Stories about what allegedly happened to Saint Jerome are not binding on us.


Oh, I see! So this passage is just about the plain meaning of not participating in idol feasts?


It may be that these writings presented a particular challenge to St. Jerome which they do not present to the average reader.

This is not uncommon, as different people have different crosses to bear. Because of this, an action may be a near temptation of sin for one person while not being a near temptation of sin for another. This is where personal discernment comes into the picture.


If reading pagan literature is always sinful, how do you explain the quotes from pagan literature in the New Testament itself, such as in Acts 17:28 and Titus 1:12?


That’s a good point…


And how do you read this forum?


I took Russian Literature in seminary. The college section had a regular liberal arts curriculum and had to take English classes where they would read novels. And everyone has to have the equivalent of a bachelor’s in philosophy before advancing into theological studies to prepare for Priesthood. Obviously it’s okay to read secular writings. I’m reading a few right now. Sometimes I reference them in homilies.



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