Praised be Jesus Christ! Once in a while I come across a quote that strikes a chord and so I save it for either a homily or an article. Given that it’s winter and people are more inclined to curl up with a good book, the following quote issues a timely reminder: “The art of not reading is a very important one. It consists in not taking an interest in whatever may be engaging the attention of the general public at any particular time. When some political or ecclesiastical pamphlet, or novel, or poem is making a great commotion, you should remember that he who writes for fools always finds a large public. A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short,” (Arthur Schopenhauer). This insight rings true in that we need the gift of discernment if we’re to ultimately grow in wisdom and love. In the case of his quote, the main point is that for every good book there are many that are not and read- ing them would be at best a waste of time. Let me provide one recent example in my life: A friend passed on to me the book All the Light that We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. After thoroughly enjoying that book sometime later I found myself in a Barnes and Noble bookstore and there in the middle of the store was an attractive display featuring Doerr’s book. Next to it was a new release titled The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. The display said that if you enjoyed Doerr’s book you were sure to find the Hawkins book downright delightful. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. The Girl on the Train was a trashy book that I should have stopped reading many times (I did confess it later on). But sometimes we get sucked in and then the unhealthy curiosity in us takes over, wanting to know how it ends and who does what to whom. Read- ing trash is like eating junk food – it’s fun for a while but later on one feels dirty and unhealthy. And as Schopenhauer points out, our life on earth is finite, so why spend a moment of our limited time on garbage when there is so much greatness to consume? The ancient Greek pedagogy for education was to put a child’s mind in contact with the transcendentals of goodness, beauty, and truth, believing these realities to be formative of a person’s mind, heart, and soul. If you are not a reader, there are other sources of these things: great films, beautiful music and time spent in the great outdoors. If you are a reader, developing the skill of discern- ment leads us to material that ennobles us while simultaneously protecting us from the kind of bad ideas that damage us in ways that sometimes only later on become apparent. My parents were protective of what we watched on TV because they rightly under- stood that the innocence God gives children can easily be dam- aged. Living in a world that grants access to terrible images and ideas just by clicking a mouse button means that we must be all the more vigilant. This is never easy, especially when there are parents who abdicate their moral authority and allow their children to watch whatever they want. Our children are influenced by this and it will cost us if we’re going to establish a higher standard. Some years ago an article took issue with the mantra, “It’s not that bad” that we hear so often as a justification for the garbage we watch, listen to, or read. The response was an intriguing one: what if your Mom ran out of chocolate chips while baking cookies and decided instead to just mingle in a little of the canine fecal matter that she resourcefully found in the yard? It would only be a small amount and the rationalization of “It’s not that bad” she hoped would still be convincing . . . would you eat those cookies?! But without the gift of a moral compass (i.e. a well-formed con- science) we essentially eat these cookies when we indulge ideas and images that lead us away from God. Schopenhauer was right about life being short – let’s help our children use their limited time on earth in a way that best prepares them for eternity with God.
May God lead us to sources of goodness, beauty, and truth, and may He protect us from their many counterfeits!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin
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Welcome to Christ the King Catholic Church! Ever since 1938 this parish has been assisting souls in their quest for deeper union with God. Our mission statement is essentially found in the stained glass window above the main altar: “For Christ our King.” Insofar as God made us and we belong to Him, we have come to... Read More