23 July 2007

On the nightstand

Currently, I am reading, "The Story of a Soul," the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, and "Surprised by Joy," the autobiographical conversion story of C. S. Lewis.

Since I haven't been too much of a reader, I hadn't read them, although they have been on my bookshelf for years. My parents were voracious readers, but I hadn't picked up the fascination of reading until lately. I have an entire bookcase of my father's religious books and have only begun to read them. The two books I mentioned are some of the first I've opened. Maybe you've read them.

It is odd that I picked the two that I did, simultaneously. I'm only half way through both and almost abandoned Lewis' book since it is, in my opinion, very dry. But, thinking about it, that's probably the point he's trying to make. His life was dry, it had little joy. His mother had passed away when he was young and his father was a remote figure who sent his sons to boarding schools despite their lack of quality. Lewis had few friends and didn't mix well with other children. From a review of the book:

The subtitle of the book, "The Shape of my Early Life," succinctly captures the scope of Lewis's autobiography; it deals almost exclusively with his adolescent search for "joy" and those events leading up to and just subsequent to his conversion at age thirty-one. It comprises what Lewis himself would refer to as "spiritual autobiography," but not in the genre of "Confessions" like those of St. Augustine or Rousseau. Lewis views himself in Surprised by Joy as no more or less a sinner than anyone else, but it is chiefly his intellectual journey that needs charting; his is not a grand repentance from fleshly indulgence but a recovery of a child-like wonderment at the world and its mysteries.

On the other hand, St. Therese is filled with joy at every little thing, the common things. Like Lewis, her mother dies when she is a child, but her sisters and her father display so much love, affection and guidance, that her life is the complete opposite of Lewis'. Unlike Lewis, however, Therese was obviously in God's hand at an early age. Reading her autobiography is humbling and inspiring, while at the same time, quite a challenge for the reader. How anyone could be so Christ-centered at such a young age provides such a contrast to Lewis AND to one's own life. Although I can't identify completely with either, they both provide insight on how one finds God. For Therese, it was an all-consuming thought; for Lewis, the path went from atheism and, catching him off-guard, veered off into Christianity.

No wonder my father had a bookcase full of these types of books. In reading one, it presents so many ideas to explore, so many tangents that intrigue. I already have a list of books I want to read after these.

In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. . . . God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.
From Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis

2 comments:

:o) said...

I haven't read that book by CS Lewis but I did like his Screwtape Letters. I've always found St. Therese annoying (I'll probably get verbally smacked for that!) and hard to relate to.

swissmiss said...

I've read Screwtape Letters and it is much better than Surprised by Joy and an easier read. St. Therese is very hard to relate to since she probably only had a handful of sins in her entire life, knew her vocation when she was three and was so united to God's will, that for someone like me, it's hard to find any similarities!