my Goodreads page, you know that I read a bit.
Still, you might be surprised to learn the one thing I’ve obsessed about, when planning for the 26-day road trip dead ahead:
I keep thinking about what books to bring. That and whether this old gray head is going to get any sleep at all, given 26 different beds on 26 successive nights.
“L’Arche Across America” launches on Tuesday, May 9, and for twenty-six days I will be traveling 8,000 miles by van with five fellow members of my L’Arche Boston North community. Three of them have lived with intellectual disabilities their whole lives.
All three of these “core members” have gifts, but only one, Woody, shows any sign of reading much, and Woody’s reading is mostly confined to the labels on records and discs in his massive collection of vintage rock music.
Woody can tell you the name of the song and the length of the track, in minutes and seconds, on most of the tens of thousands of tracks that make up his collection. Any way you slice it, that’s a gift.
But reading, as in books—that’s irrelevant to the daily lives of Woody, his wife Doris, and John (seen in the group photo above, along with Jane, Todd, and myself, the three “assistants” accompanying them on an 8,000-mile odyssey to the West Coast and back).
So what’s the deal with obsessing over turning the van into my personal bookmobile?
The deal is, obviously, that I’ve made an idol of reading. As Rod Dreher notes in The Benedict Option, anything we make an end in itself risks becoming an idol. The more I think about it, the more my inner altar is jam-packed with idols.
I am idol-rich. You know what Jesus said about the rich of any kind.
Not far from the center of my personal altar stands the idol of spectator sports. I gave up watching, listening to, and reading about spectator sports (Red Sox, playoffs for the Bruins and Celtics) for one week during Lent. Could I have survived longer than that? I felt empty, lost, bereft, not knowing whether my teams had won or lost. How could they possibly win without my attention to their needs?
Another idol on my altar is sleep. (See above.) On the Camino de Santiago, I was sleep-deprived for long stretches; yet I arrived in Santiago de Compostela the picture of physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Go figure.
So here I am taking a vow. During our road trip, I will do everything to identify and sweep aside these idols. I will be out of touch with Boston sports radio and daily TV spectating. Check. I will almost certainly feel sleep-deprived at one time or another. Check.
And I will read— What will I read? I’ve decided that my core book will be The Liturgy of the Hours. Many hours in the van—at least half of them as a passenger—will invite me to walk a bit more slowly through the Divine Office, in ways that my jet-propelled life at home never seems to allow.
And, ok, I may also bring along a couple of books. But let’s say, rather, that I bring a saint along: St. Catherine of Siena, in the form of her Dialogue, and (on my Kindle, when I can’t sleep at night) Raymond of Capua’s biography.
That’s all, I promise. St. Catherine—who made idols of nothing—pray for me.
Brother St. André, pray for us all.