01 July 2008

Summer reads

I didn't start reading for pleasure until five years ago when I was pregnant with my son. Up to that point, almost everything I read had been a text book or technical journal, so my leisure time consisted of anything but reading. Reading was work. As a child, I never read the classics or learned to enjoy reading. Considering that both my parents were avid readers and strongly encouraged my brother and me to read, I never acquired the interest and subsequent joy of reading for pleasure.

Initially, when I was pregnant with my son, I was far too sick to do anything. Half way into my second trimester, things finally settled down enough that I was able to relax; then I discovered reading. Most of the things I read were junk -- they still are. If I'm going to read for pleasure, then it has to be something that occupies my mind, but doesn't tax it. Anything beyond a trashy mystery novel is too much, it's drudgery. Trashy novels are a quick read; I'm too impatient to spend more than a few days with a book. I have a strange aversion to reading things that might actually require concentration.

Since I hope to provide my children with a more classical experience, saturated with "great books," I've been trying to read the classics myself. Some of them, like Dickens and Austen, I thoroughly enjoy. Others, like one of my current reads, Crime and Punishment, are truly well-named. In the few weeks this book has sat on my head board, I've only managed to trudge through four chapters. I want to know what happens and be done with it, I just don't want to have to read it.

However, I did manage to read one of Scott Hahn's books (I went from reading zero books for decades, to reading several books at once). I had always kept Scott Hahn's books at an arm's length. I can't even explain why. Part of it was I just didn't know what to think of the man. It seemed he was trying too hard. Plus, since he is a professor, I assumed his books would be dry and "professorial."

I was in the middle of reading Mark Shea's, Making Senses Out of Scripture, when I was pulled off-track and inexplicably checked to see if the library carried any of Scott Hahn's books. Given the subject matter, I never thought the public library, of all places, would actually carry this book given our non-establishment and politically correct ideas. But, they had several of Scott Hahn's books. I even managed to find, "The Lamb's Supper" sitting right on the shelf.

The book really wasn't what I thought it was going to be. First, it's actually a quick read. That's a positive in my estimation. And, it wasn't at all dry or professorial. It is an easy read, however, I didn't really get a lot out of it. This surprised me. Really surprised me. Those who have been reading my blog know that I'm a poorly catechised cradle Catholic. There's been a huge learning curve in my attempts to fill in the gaps of my knowledge. I thought reading Scott Hahn would really boost me up the curve.

Maybe it's because I'm getting further up the curve that I expect more, I need more, than a book that seems to have Protestants as its target audience. It could also be because I've read books by others in this "apologist frat" that Scott Hahn seems to be part of and have heard much of this before. I did appreciate how he shows the connection between the Mass and the book of Revelation in a little more detail than I had known. I hadn't previously heard about the connections between Heaven and Mount Zion, so that was interesting.

I know Scott Hahn can think circles around me and I guess I assumed that this book would do that. Maybe it's good he's able to articulate these ideas down to my level, but I still was left feeling a little disappointed that I didn't get a lot out of the book. Bible study this fall is on the Book of Revelation, so that should provide some more in-depth information to elaborate on what Scott Hahn touched on.

I am glad that Scott Hahn corrected my thinking on what the Second Coming might be like:

Consider, for a moment, Jesus' Jewish contemporaries and their worldly expectation of the Messiah: He would establish the kingdom of God by military and political means -- conquer Rome, subjugate the gentiles, and so on. We know that such hopes were dashed away. Rather than marching on Jerusalem with His armies, Jesus waged a campaign of mercy and love, manifested by the meals shared with tax collectors and other sinners.

And we all learned our lesson, right? It doesn't seem that way. Because, today, many Christians still hope for the same messianic vengeance as the first-century Jews. Though Christ came peacefully the first time, they say, He'll come back with a holy vengeance in the end, crushing His Foes with almighty force.

As Scott Hahn points out, Jesus is called the Lamb of God in St. John's gospel and in the Book of Revelation, not the Lion of Judah. It doesn't sound like a lamb is coming to kick butt. Interesting point.

Next up, something I want to get under my belt before the Miles Christi retreat is, The Three Conversions in the Spiritual Life, by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP. I got this book for Christmas and haven't gotten around to reading it. It's quite short, but I think it will take more concentration to get through it. I've put down my book, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, until I attend the retreat. That book did mention that I would experience discouraging thoughts about attending the retreat, but so far I'm pretty jazzed about it. My spiritual life has been stagnating and it's really time to take a step forward.

In between, I'll still read my trashy mystery novels. I've got a back-log of about three Patricia Cornwell's to tackle. Her stuff isn't really trashy, neither is Anne Perry's, but Janet Evanovich's...ei yi yi.


ArchAngel's Advocate said...

You might enjoy Mitchner's The Source, for a couple of reasons. It links the history of the Holy Land with (then) current events (of the 80's) from an lasped Catholic archeologist's POV, but does it as a series of linked "mini-dramas". I found it enlightening from a spiritual and a intellectual viewpoint as well.

swissmiss said...

Thanks for the recommendation, AA. I just added it to my list of books to read in Facebook. I'll probably even get a copy and read it before my Cornwell books...and probably finish it before I get to chapter 6 of Crime and Punishment. Nails on a chalk board, I tell ya!

ArchAngel's Advocate said...

Its those d**n Russians. They're not happy unless they're unhappy :p

Terry Nelson said...

The Source is terrific - one of the major influences in my coming back to the Church in the early '70's - believe it or not - after I stopped wanting to be Jewish.

gemoftheocean said...

Try Dorothy Sayers for some well written mystery novels. You won't have to put brown paper bags on 'em. ;-D

I know...those Russkies...heavy..and I studied Russian privately for a few years.


Christine from Maryland said...

Trying to fill in the gaps in your Catholic knowledge, huh??!! Good luck! It'll take longer than your lifetime. I decided to ease up on that quest many years ago, choosing to learn as the Holy Spirit moved me. Fewer headaches that way. Have you ever read Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, or Anthony DeMello? I enjoy Joseph Girzone, even if critics call him heretical. All four authors (all are priests)have an excellent grasp of the message of Jesus. At this point in my life, living the Word is what's important.

swissmiss said...

You've mentioned Sayers before. I really need to look into that. I've been reading all the books certain authors have written, so am working on Perry and Cornwell right now. I've read all of Grafton and have a few Barnes to go.

Thanks for the recommendations. I know I could never read everything. My father left me a large library of great Catholic books and I know I will never get to all of them :) Just trying to be a half-educated, sort-of-good example for my kids, partly because I plan to homeschool. I've read a little Merton, but none of the others. I read way more fluff than good stuff. I go through periods of reading some Catholic books, as I am now, and then go months without ever having any desire to pick up another one! I agree about living the Gospels. That's a large part of why I want to participate in the retreat this fall. My husband's family is Lutheran and the only way to "evangelize" them is by example. I've known them for over 20 years now and they haven't converted to Catholicism...think my example could use some work ;-)