A 'Bookie' from Birth
Back in 1945, when my mother was nurturing me in utero, Dr. Spock said nothing about the benefits of reading to your unborn child, a notion quite accepted today. But, nonetheless, I have been a book person virtually since birth. The first books I remember were the "Little Golden Books" my mother regularly purchased for us. An early eye for art drew me to those illustrated by Eloise Wilkin like the version of "Hansel and Gretel" shown here. I was delighted to see so many covers I remembered when I googled her name - a walk down memory lane.
There were lots of bookcases in our house. My father, still a great and eclectic reader at the age of eighty-seven, was pursuing an engineering degree at the time. While technical textbooks piled up so did modern and classical literature. When I began to read in school I thought it cool to announce my achievement by carrying around my young uncle's cast off high school history book in which I had underlined every word I could read - all monosyllabic. I am told that I had a hard time really getting the hang of reading. I also know that my teachers in second and third grade could not match the one I adored in first. Could there have been some resistance there? Fourth grade was the hook - great teacher and more independence at the store front public library in my Brooklyn neighborhood. Our classes walked to the library. I discovered the biographies, the Landmark and Signature series of middle grade bios. I walked out with, of all titles, "Robert Fulton and His Steamboat" just right for our unit on local history which is still in the fourth grade New York State social studies curriculum. After that day life was not the same. It was on to Louisa May Alcott (not just "Little Women" either), Nancy Drew, Sherry Ames Student Nurse, etc., etc. If a teacher said to me, "Extra credit for book reports," I was in my glory.
Is it any wonder that literature was always a big part of my primary grade teaching years and that I eventually became a librarian? I am still an avid reader and have very broad interests - biography, mystery, spirituality, scripture, poetry, arts, memoir. Reading of the lectio divina variety is essential in monastic life not only to feed the soul but also the mind. Contemplatives, nuns and monks, need to dip into the treasured record of human experience with the divine. They also need to allow awe at the providence of God to penetrate them by way of literature, history, science and the complexities of the human experience.
Monastic Wisdom Series by Cistercian Publications
A few years ago Cistercian Publications began this new series, now boasting fifteen or so titles. The general editor is Patrick Hart, OCSO and the advisory board includes Michael Cassey, OCSO, Lawrence S. Cunningham, Bonnie Thurston, Terrance Kardong, OSB, Kathleen Norris and Miriam Pollard, OCSO. Here are some titles I heartily recommend:
Secret of the Heart: Spiritual Being by Jean-Marie Howe, OCSO
Thomas Merton: Prophet of Renewal by John Eudes Bamberger, OCSO
Centered on Christ: A Guide to Monastic Profession by Augustine Roberts, OCSO
A Monastic Vision for the 21st Century: Where Do We Go From Here? by Patrick Hart, OCSO
Four Ways of Holiness for the Universal Church: Drawn from the Monastic Tradition by Francis Kline, OCSO
As a 21st century contemplative nun, I have appreciated reading recent works so timely and full of wisdom yet rooted in the very ancient traditions of this vocation, continuing to profess monasticism as an effective expression of the human call to search for God alone.