By Christopher White, National Correspondent
NEW YORK — Everyone seems to be reading more since the COVID-19 pandemic – even Pope Francis. During his interview in March, the pope ticked off references to Virgil’s “Aeneid,” Alessandro Manzoni’s “I promessi sposi,” and several titles by Dostoyevsky.
Recently, a Twitter craze led to individuals tagging six friends to post pictures of books currently on their desks or nightstands. In that same spirit, we reached out to six Catholics across the country to see what they’re reading for spiritual growth or pure escapism:
Sister Theresa Aletheia
Daughters of St. Paul and author of “Memento Mori: Prayers on the Last Things”
Like a lot of people, especially during this time of quarantine, I am reading a lot of books. I finally have begun to read Mark Twain’s “Joan of Arc.” I’ve always wanted to read it because Twain said it was his best book and I am fascinated with Saint Joan of Arc and with the people who were fascinated with her. I’m also rereading parts of Edith Stein’s Essays on Women because I am interested in trying to articulate women’s unique role in society and in the Church without reducing it to stereotypes. And I am tackling “Analogia Entis” by Erich Przywara with a friend. I love reading dense, frustrating books with other people; it makes it so much more enjoyable!
Jordan Denari Duffner
Author of “Finding Jesus among Muslims” and a PhD student of Catholic theology and Islam at Georgetown University
I’m currently reading “Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism” by the late Jesuit priest Jacques Dupuis, as preparation for an upcoming PhD exam on Catholic approaches to religious diversity. A Belgian who spent much of his life in India, Dupuis received considerable scrutiny by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for this book, in which he sought to hold together faith in Christ with a more positive view of other religious traditions.
In recent days, I’ve also revisited the poetry of David Whyte (“Everything is Waiting for You”); Naomi Shihab Nye (“Kindness”); and Marie Howe (“Magdalene – The Seven Devils”). I’m part of an Ignatian prayer group with lay Catholics in Washington, DC, and last week our group reflected virtually over these three. After my exam, I’m looking forward to digging into The Lover by Laury Silvers. It is the first novel in her series of “Sufi Mysteries,” and it follows a Muslim woman named Zaytuna through her life in tenth-century Baghdad.
Father Michael Trail
Associate Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Chicago, Illinois
Currently I am reading “Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an Age of Forgetfulness,” by Jeffery Arthurs. I take homiletic preparation and delivery very seriously and it is something that I work hard to constantly hone and fine tune. While preaching is a craft that takes a lifetime to work at I always enjoy learning different styles, techniques, and different approaches to preaching the Word of God. As Covid-19 has forced Mass online, it has been a fun exercise to get feedback from a wide audience on my preaching and to see how my reading and techniques gets incorporated into my preaching.
Susan B. Reynolds
Assistant Professor of Catholic Studies at Candler School of Theology, Emory University
I’m currently home with my three kids under age six. The patron saint of our quarantine is children’s author Mo Willems. Willems’ stories are tender, zany, and relentlessly emotionally honest about the drama of childhood. Recent favorites are “Knuffle Bunny, Nanette’s Baguette,” and “Let’s Go for a Drive.”
In the remaining minutes, I’m working on a book chapter that has me closely re-reading “Gaudium et Spes,” Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. In these days of anxiety, that famous opening line – on “the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish” of humanity – lands differently. The Council’s vision of a church in solidarity with the world feels as radical today as it did 55 years ago.
Steven P. Millies
Director of The Bernardin Center and associate professor of Public Theology at the Catholic Theological Union
I resisted picking up Camus’s The Plague for weeks when this all got underway, but I relented in week four. The truth is, mostly I have picked at books-dipped into them. My concentration hasn’t been up to more. I looked at Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day after the President’s phone call with Catholic leaders because those leaders remind me so much of the fading aristocracy Ishiguro depicts. Like another book I’ve been picking at – The Thirty Years War by Peter H. Wilson, it depicts a world struggling with a transforming calamity. When the crisis passes, we are forced to ask again who we are and who we want to be.
Religious Formation Coordinator for the Catholic Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Persons of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles
I’m currently re-reading “The Church of Mercy”by Pope Francis. This book is a collection of some of Pope Francis’ most inspiring speeches, homilies, and papers, detailing his vision for the Catholic Church. I’m re-reading it because his words give me hope for a Church that is closer to the heart of Jesus, to the poor, the marginalized, and the vulnerable; which is needed now more than ever. As a Latina, I can identify the parts of the Pope’s theology that are the result of him being close to the poor in Latin America. As an LGBT Catholic, I feel the Pope’s call for us all to become a Church of Encounter, A Church of Listening, and a Church of Accompaniment is a roadmap for us all to realize, wholeheartedly, that the marginalized are also part of the Body of Christ.