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A Community Reading Experience

I just finished reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. It is a very interesting and inspiring book. It recounts the amazing mission of Greg Mortenson as he builds one school after another in the remote reaches of Pakistan. There are many thoughts to ponder after reading this book: Fear of failure should never stop us from trying to minister to the needs of others. We cannot impose humanitarian aid upon others. Rather, we must offer it within the context of their culture. The road to peace requires a universal respect for human dignity.

The reason I happened upon this book is that Rice University sent it to all the incoming freshmen so my daughter received a copy. The intent is to have all the freshmen read the book before arriving at Rice so that they will all have a common experience. This reading experience will cut across ethnic, gender, and geographic boundaries in the hopes of forming a stronger community.

A common reading experience by itself is probably inadequate to change community dynamics, but I do appreciate the principle behind this initiative. In fact, I think a parish could benefit from something similar. I envision the parish designating a book as a parish reading project. Everyone in the parish is encouraged to read the book, including the priests. Hopefully the priests could work the reading into their homilies every now and then. An occasional reflection about the book could be put in the parish bulletin.

If I were going to pick a book for my parish to try for such a project, I would begin with Peter Kreeft’s Because God is Real. I’ve written how this book is being thoroughly enjoyed by thirteen and fourteen year old boys. My seventy-something father picked it up this past week and found it a worthwhile read as well. Therefore, this is a book that will span the age ranges and speak to a wide variety of parishioners.

I know that the designation of a parish book is not going to suddenly turn our parishioners into religious bookworms. But I do think this project may pick up a new reader or two. It may be just the baby steps we need to foster a culture of adult religious education. As I stated above, fear of failure should not stop us from trying.


phbrown said…
You mean, besides the Bible?

Barb, sfo said…
It IS a good idea. My son's school is doing "One School, One Book" this year and compared to the garbage fiction (not classics) they usually have them read over the summer, this will be a good thing.
A few years back, a former pastor used to give each parish volunteer the same book at Christmas. One year it was the life of St. Anthony; another year it was the life of St. Francis of Assisi. I know that many people did read those books and talked about them with their families--so it can and does work!
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the comments on the book "Three Cups of Tea" which Rice University had your daughter read this summer. Your idea to have churches have a 'One Book' common read sounds great. Beyond bible studies, pot lucks, weddings and funerals, a 'One Book' experience would help church members come together and share their ideas and faith in a unique way. It would help our society to do a little more reading instead of getting everything from TV.

God bless. Susan Reed
Catholic Mom said…
Good point, Peter! I mean in addition to the Bible. Certainly we are all united by Scripture and the Sacraments, most especially the Eucharist. But it is easy to become complacent. Too many Catholics in the pews haven't really contemplated or studied their faith since their eighth grade Confirmation. I'm looking for a way to nudge them to stretch their spiritual muscles a little bit.
Erika S. said…
I too found Three Cups of Tea a great read. I am really intrigued by the whole Pakistan/ Afghanistan area of the world. I am now reading The Punishment of Virtue and that is also a good book, so far. I wish more people knew about Three Cups of Tea.
Pax Christi,

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