Yesterday, was “Read Across America” day in our nation’s schools. We here at Sacred Heart are avid readers. Almost everyone usually has a good book going – spiritual reading, of course, but also good literature, biography, science, current events, history, theology, poetry… At any given time you can find almost any literary genre bookmarked somewhere in the monastery.
A quick survey of just a few Sisters this afternoon yielded the following books in progress: Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, by Joan Weaver; The Mystery of Christ, by Thomas Keating, OCSO; Bess Truman, by Margaret Truman; The Selected Poetry of Maria Rainer Rilke; Carry Me Home, by Diane McWhorter; St. Edith Stein’s The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts; and Words for the Journey: A Monastic Vocabulary, by Edith Scholl, OCSO. And that’s just a quick survey of a few of us.
Reading is a fundamental monastic activity. Our primary text, of course, is Sacred Scripture. We hear scripture read throughout the day at Eucharist and in the Liturgy of the Hours. Each of us also reads scripture as part of our personal prayer and study, as well as daily praying with scripture using the ancient monastic practice of Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading). Our reading of scripture is complemented by spiritual reading of various sorts, and reading in other genres helps us grow and become balanced and whole individuals.
In addition to our personal reading, we also read as a community. Whether table reading at supper during Lent, or an assigned book we each read and then gather to discuss, spiritual reading in common is one of the ways in which we seek God together and grow as a community. Right now we are all reading Michael Casey’s Strangers to the City: Reflections on the Beliefs and Values of the Rule of St. Benedict. Each Wednesday night we gather to discuss the chapter assigned for that week, so tonight, after the supper dishes have been washed and put away, we will all gather, books in hand, to “read across the centuries” of our Benedictine tradition.
Postscript on Thursday: As I was reviewing this post, a Sister walked into the office to pass a book back to me. Passing good books back and forth around the monastery is a common practice here at Sacred Heart as we share “good reads” with one another…