Thank God for Books!

Sean Coghlan S.J.

God has been very good to me. He has been good to me in giving. He gave me good health, a good education and a stable family. He has shown to me the beauty of birds, the hills and the sea. In all of these I find joy and consolation.

God has been good, too, in caring for me. I have found a constant strand of His loving care running through my life. I am convinced that God cares for me in a special way by letting me find the books and articles I need just at the time I most need them. These books and articles encourage me, enlighten me and gently challenge me.

Normally I do not find that meetings, sermons, discussion groups, workshops and seminars help me very much. Sometimes they are too slow moving, sometimes they may be too threatening.

But reading! That's another matter. Over and over again the right articles and books have almost thrust themselves into my hands. I cannot now doubt that God loves me because, without fail, He leads me throughout the written word in the way that suits me best.

What I have read has changed me. Not all, by any means, of what I have read is directly spiritual or religious. But it has all, or nearly all, been "human", or better, "humane" reading.

Biographies, novels, essays, poems that open up the richness of our personalities, the wonders of the world; that come down on the side of life; that attempt to answer the anguished cries, "What is it all about?", "Why should I bother to keep on?"

For me reading has pointed out the road to holiness and wholeness. It has shown what can be done with God's grace to achieve that rather rare combination. I cannot plead ignorance for being so little advanced along that two-lane highway.

Reading forced me to re-examine some of the assumptions or "truths" that I had been living by. It has forced me slowly and reluctantly to give up habitual ways of doing things which may have made me feel more secure hut which cut me off from a more practical, more exciting and more honest experience of life.

Reading has helped me to pray by giving me the necessary raw material for the essential business of forging links with God. I do not read during prayer. However, if I do not read long and often before and after prayer, I soon cease to pray, or indeed to find much meaning or relish in life.

It seems to me that reading has important advantages over the other media. It gives us time to think, to reflect and to argue in our minds. We can challenge the writer. Reading is a very intense medium. It engages only one sense -- sight. One is not distracted by sound or left behind by movement.

One has time to ask, "Is it true?", "Is it valuable?" One can put aside a piece of writing for months, or even years, and come back to find a truth that may be unpalatable and even a bit frightening, but which is, in the end, stimulating, consoling and strengthening.

Thank God again for the care He has shown me through the written words He has so tenderly slipped into my hands at important moments in my life.