What Have You Been Reading Lately?

by Melannie Svoboda SND on October 26, 2020

If I asked you, “What have you been reading lately?” what would you say? I imagine many of you have been reading news about the worsening pandemic, the upcoming election, the plummeting economy. I’m sure many of you also have been reading books or magazines of a religious nature–including this humble little blog.

Today I’d like to share with you a few excerpts from things I’ve been reading lately. They come from a variety of sources.

1. From the November issue of U.S. Catholic comes this story. Jimmy MacDonald, a drug counselor, was kayaking on Lake George near Albany, NY when his kayak capsized in the choppy water, leaving him floating alone hundreds of yards from shore. He thought, “All right, I think I might die today.” And he prayed to “my lord and savior Jesus Christ for help.” Moments later a boat came to his rescue and hauled him aboard. But it wasn’t an ordinary boat. It was a floating Tiki bar hosting a retreat for Paulist priests and seminarians! MacDonald found the whole thing ironic. He said, “How funny is it that I’ve been sober for seven years and I get saved by a Tiki bar?”

(all photos from Pexels. This one by Nancy Guth)

2. Do you have problems with your spell-check? One writer, the wife of a minister, says when she types pastoring, her spell-check tries to change it to pasturing or pestering. I know when I once typed Sacred Heart, my spell-check changed it to Scared Heart.

3. From Let in the Light by my good friend Pat Livingston. “A woman is sitting in a big chair reading a book to a child on her lap. On the cover of the book, the title is Fairy Tales. Across the bottom of the cartoon is the sentence the woman is reading aloud: “And they lowered their expectations, and lived happily ever after…”

4. Scott Russell Sanders writes this in Earth Works. “Whatever the story of the birth of Jesus might mean religiously, what it means mythically is the in-breaking of ultimate value and significance into the humblest of circumstances. The words humble, homely, and humility all derive from the Indo-European root meaning dirt, earth, soil. The same root gave us human. A reasonable translation of Homo Sapiens would be “dirt able to know” or “wise earth.”

5. “The message of Christ is not Christianity. The message of Christianity is Christ.” (Gary Amirault)

(Photo by Simon Matzinger)

6. From Alice Camille’s God’s Word Is Alive! “Discrimination is an almost inescapable aspect of group dynamics…I have struggled myself with those who are not gifted with pleasing personalities, wanting to keep them out of the groups I was in. The poor, the crazy, the smelly, the boring, the whiners, the non-stop talkers: it is all too easy to find ourselves setting up walls to keep out the marginal folks… But Jesus ate with undesirables, chose smelly fishermen as his closest companions. He did not say: the kingdom of God is not for the whiners and the boring. Jesus said the kingdom of God was a dragnet, and everything at the bottom would be raised to the light.”

7. “Religion is not what a person does with his solitude, but what a person does with the presence of God.” (I Asked for Wonder, Abraham Heschel)

8. Facts about Vatican Council II from the book, What Happened at Vatican II? by John W. O’Malley. Vatican II Council “was quite possibly the biggest meeting in the history of the world” (p. 18)… “On July 15, 1962, the Vatican Secretariat of State sent out about 2,850 invitations to persons with a right to participate fully in the deliberations of the council–85 cardinals, 8 patriarchs, 533 archbishops, 2,131 bishops, 26 abbots, and 68 superiors-general of religious orders of men. All but a few hundred, impeded by ill health or their governments’ refusal to let them attend, showed up for the opening of the council” (p. 21)… By the third session of the council there were 21 laymen as auditors; three actually spoke at the council. “Also at that session, women auditors were admitted for the first time, though the seven lay women and eight women from different religious communities did not address the council” (p. 27).

(Photo by Gabby K)

9. From Barbara Brown Taylor’s The Preaching Life. “Holiness may be lurking inside a green leaf, a clay cup, a clean sheet, a freshly sawn board; it may be just below the surface of a key, a clock, a shiny stone. To draw a line around the seven sacraments for which the church has rites is to underestimate the grace of God and the holiness of creation” (p. 34).

10. And finally, this is a little prayer from my latest book, The Grace of Beauty: “Thank you, God, for beauty, for harmony and proportion, for order, symmetry, and balance… Thank you for the pleasure beauty gives to our eyes, ears, nose, touch, and taste… Thank you for oceans and snowflakes, for giraffes and ladybugs, for watercolor paintings and clay pots, for movies, plays, photographs, and dance… for chirping birds and grand symphonies, for the scent of roses and the smell of rain, for the feel of clean sheets and a toddler’s hug, for the taste of hot coffee or a cold bottle of beer…Thank you God, for beauty in all its forms… for we believe that all the beauty we experience is but a faint reflection of you, O Most Beautiful One. Amen.

For reflection:

Did any of these excerpts stand out for you? If so, which one(s) and why?

What have you been reading lately? Would you like to share a quote from something you’ve read recently?

PS #1: I want to thank you for your prayers for the virtual retreat I facilitated last week for the Benedictine Sisters in Fort Smith, Arkansas. What a beautiful community they are! I want to thank their prioress, Sister Kimberly, for inviting me (and for being my “disc jockey” during the week!) and Sister Cecilia for assisting me in countless little ways!

PS: #2: I will be giving a virtual Advent retreat day on Saturday, December 12, 2020 entitled “Unwrapping the Gifts of Advent: Peace, Courage, Beauty, and Hope.” It is sponsored by the St. Francis Center for Renewal in Bethlehem, PA. The day runs from 9:30 am (Eastern time) to 4:00 pm. The cost is $60. Check their website for further details. I’d love to meet some of you online!

PS #3: I want to thank my cousins, the “Mach girls” (Carol, Donna, Janet, Karen, Kathy) for inviting me to lunch outside on the deck the other day! Both the food and the company couldn’t be beat!

I chose a simple, gentle, contemplative song for today. It’s called “There is a Longing” by Anne Quigley. Here it is sung by the group Blest and Broken. The petitions, to me, seem very appropriate for our current times.

At this writing, I don’t know if my blog will be fixed and allow you to respond. If it does allow you to comment, I invite you to do so below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the reflection, the photos, the song, or the other responses.

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