What did you read this past summer or during the “Great Shut-down”? Do people still do such reading in these days of virtual, livestream, and onDemand everything? I hope so, but I know my own reading is not nearly as prolific as I’d like. It is just easier to sit and watch the screen. I get it. I do it too! But reading, and reading something other than Tweets, blogs, FB, Instagram… that is, those things that are said in 144 characters or less, might just help us be clearer, better, deeper thinkers – even more human. We all know everything we encounter – at least every person – is much more complex mystery than 144 characters. Reading novels and biographies has been shown to help a person better empathize with others. So what do we read to enhance our own selves – intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. As you can imagine, I am particularly curious about what we read for our spiritual life. There is no shortage, but not all is equal or worth the while. Matthew Kelly commented in his book The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, “In 2007 only 1 percent of American Catholics read a Catholic book” (100). If Catholics are not reading books that are Catholic – catechetical, spiritual, historical, Catholic fiction – then is it any wonder we don’t see the world like Catholics? So, I thought, what have I been reading?
Early summer, I re-read a book by Monsignor Albacete called God at the Ritz. It is a book describing what he wishes he would have said to some of those who asked him questions about why believe in God and what sense can one make of God in a post-9/11 world after being asked such questions while attending a conference at the Ritz Carlton. His style is a bit zany and off the wall. And yet, he speaks to the deep presence of and deep reasons to believe in God simply by an honest and open eyed look at the world and the human person themselves. In fact, it is only with God that real beauty, real love, real relationship have any meaning whatsoever, rather than just random, unconnected experiences of life.
I was given a copy of a short book on prayer and spiritual life just before the shut-down – Fire & Light: Eucharistic Love and the Search for Peace by Fr Jacques Philippe. I had just finished and enjoyed another text by that same author about a month before I was gifted this text. It seemed Providential that this second book landed in my hands. Sometimes the Lord speaks through my parishioners (ok, often He does so!). So I read it. I’m now currently re-reading Fire & Light as a discussion text with the parish staff. It is not the final word on prayer, but it is a sound, useful, and fruitful discussion. Fr Philippe has a great interest on the tension of creating space for the Holy Spirit, so that every Christian can truly grow in Faith, Hope, and Charity. He has some practical insights on how.
I’m halfway through Jesus Christ: Fundamentals of Christology by Fr Roch Kereszty. I had a whole course in seminary on this topic, and this has been a great refresher while bringing other things into better focus. This is billed as an introduction to Christology. And it is a good read for those who like such things. As a priest who has had to help many a person understand the Christian Faith, I have frequently come back to the profound truth – ‘If you get Christ right, you will get the Faith right.’ Much of Christian theological history is the pursuit of ‘getting Christ right’ and setting aside those understandings that do not truthfully, accurately, and properly capture the profound Revelation of the Father’s Love in sending the Son to be our Savior. How we understand who Christ is and what He has accomplished tells us everything about our Faith and about the very purpose of human life.
And just so you don’t think Father’s reading is only spiritual, I’m working my way through Sir Author Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Other Stories. Most of these are short stories, which makes for good bedtime reading… It typically takes me 2, and sometimes 3 nights, to make it through a story. My eyes are weary by the end of the day. Sherlock loved truth and loves to observe closely. These are two interestingly, beneficial pursuits for a Christian. Looking closely and acknowledging there is Truth will draw each of us nearer to God and neighbor!
Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, & Joseph, Pray for us.
~ Fr Jeremy M. Gries