Friday, December 1 2023

By: Sr. Cathy Garcia, RSHM
Los Angeles, California

I remember hearing that when Pope John Paul died so suddenly that he had a Time magazine on his nightstand.  It was replaced with a Bible because the magazine was not seen to be appropriate reading for a Pope!  This anecdote has amused me because I have often wondered what reading material will be strewn around my bedroom at the time of my demise. 

My brother, Lou, died unexpectedly six years ago.   Well aware he was a lover of books, we were still surprised to discover in the bookshelves installed everywhere  that he had collected between 4500 to 5000 books.  He was a city administrator but the topics of his books ranged from city government and planning to biographies and history to art and cooking.

I realize that I myself am usually relating to four or five books at a time often of very diverse topics.  This Christmas, even with the onset of electronic readers, my family exchanged 15-20 books among us.   My Mom at 95 is no slouch either.  Every 3 weeks I take out six large print books from the library for her.  She usually has them read before the three weeks lending time is up!!  

 I suspect that we were infected by this love of books from my Dad. As a child I remember Dad bringing home books from used bookstores.  He loved history and lives of the saints.  But the symbol of his love of books remains in our family home.  He very lovingly built a bookcase on the wall in the den.  Today it hangs over my mom’s flat screen television.  Bookstores are disappearing but books still hit us in the face every time we enter Mom’s house.  

While the anecdote about the Pope and Time magazine has amused me, it also has annoyed me.  Reading books, magazines (and the internet) provides a lwindow for individuals isolated for a variety of reasons to engage the wider reality. Those surrounding the Pope could have learned a lesson from my Dad who gave us through books a wider view of the world and reality to which we were sent to give and receive life.

Two books  I have recently read are “I Am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai and “My Beloved World” by Sonia Sotomayor.  The early lives of these two women have been limited by gender and cultural issues.  While Malala with great support from her father is a young and  courageous advocate for the education of all girls, Sonia, the first Hispanic Chief Justice of the United States, is living proof of Malala’s dream.  We read that Malala never wanted to be apart from her school books and Sonia highlights how her mother made the Encyclopedia Britannica a financial priority in their low income household.  Both had parents who valued education and knew that books were essential in the lives of their children.   

Dad, thanks for bringing home “new” used books and for building that beautiful bookcase!

By: Sr. Cathy Garcia, RSHM
Currently, Sr. Cathy is teaching English classes at South Central Los Angeles Ministry Project (LAMP) in Los Angeles, California.


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