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.