Pick up a book


By Frank Wessling

It’s an old-fashioned idea that young people may dismiss quickly, but a summer reading program has value. It keeps the mind engaged with mental journeys. It stimulates the imagination, can arouse new interests, introduce us to authors who might become lifelong companions.
In a healthy mix of summer or vacation time activity, reading should have a part. If done right, it refreshes the spirit.
To modern youth, reading that extends beyond a tweeted sentence or two seems to be considered a chore; something associated with school or work. This may be due at least in part to the notion that the sole purpose of an education is to get a job. If life is only about finding a job and doing some kind of paid work, it’s best to keep the focus on things with immediate payoff.
What a dreary, constricted view of both education and life. But that view is false. We are meant for more.
Too much in our culture says that a spirit of inquiry should not be pure and interested in discovery for its own sake. It must be kept pointed toward profit. To pursue the good, the true and the beautiful, each for its own sake, that feels unsettling; a waste in some way.
It is, in some way indeed, a waste, but not of ultimate values. Contemplation, or simply sitting quietly, has been called wasting time with God. What good is that? Also, allowing ourselves to gaze enthralled at the beauty of a sunset is dangerously subversive of the profit motive. It can release wonder in the soul, and one never knows where that might lead.
At the least it makes one’s personal world expand.
Reading can be like contemplation – when we open the pages of something that lifts the spirit or challenges in some way. We all want to grow better in different ways but it’s so easy to settle into a rut. Get up, get out to a library or bookstore or pick up an old anthology of stories.
Best, and most radical of all, read and reflect on the Gospels. Pay attention to the actions and words of Jesus. Go slowly. Make a summer of it.
None of us knows Jesus well enough. Few of us know him as well as we could if we gave the Gospels a little concentrated attention. Summer can provide that extra time needed to know what it can mean to say we’re Christian and Catholic.
Try wasting time, a little at a time, with Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. Then it’s interesting to see how different people carried out their affair with Jesus in life. Pick up, or look up, the lives of a few saints. Many are fascinating; all of them lift us out of the ordinary. Who knows where that might lead?
Also, reading good stories and good writing is an effective antidote to boredom.
So, put down the smartphone, the iPod, the iPad, the Xbox and pick up a good book. The effect lasts longer and makes us stronger, more well-rounded persons.

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on