Sr. Mary Dean Pfahler SND
Parish Ministry Director / Spiritual Director
St. Bartholomew Catholic Church
Long Beach CA

Books let you know they want to be read….

I was in South Carolina as the house guest of Denise, a friend of Springbank Retreat Center for Ecospirituality and the Arts.  While dicing vegetables for her detox salad recipe, I noticed Joan Chittister’s slim volume Friendship of Women: The Hidden Tradition of the Bible lying at the other end of the kitchen counter.  Denise recommended it, having shared its treasures with a women’s book study group at the nearby Lutheran church.  I made a mental note of the title in case I would have a chance to read it alone or with others.

Now here at St. Bartholomew’s in Long Beach, California, I have that chance.  The Women at the Well book study group will be inviting Lydia, Prisca, Deborah, Miriam, Esther, Ruth, Elizabeth, Mary Magdalene, Martha and other biblical women into the conversation we women will be hosting.

Not only that, another likely candidate for the book study was sitting on the parish secretary’s desk yesterday.  Gina Loehr’s The Four Teresas had been on my wish list for some time.  In fact, I was about to buy a copy on with a gift card received at my 50th anniversary celebration.  When I saw The Teresas on Chris’ desk, I had to find out more.  She was about to donate it to the “Little Library” an Eagle scout had just constructed at the edge of the church property.  I will move it in that direction after a slight detour!

Another surprise surfaced at the St. Bart’s Women’s Council book sale in early June.  I had heard about metaphorical theologian Sallie McFague at Springbank but had not had a chance to read her.  Then Brother Don Bisson FMS mentioned her name in a CD talk I was listening to on the commute to work.  Wouldn’t you know it?  A donated copy of Super, Natural Christians: How We Should Love Nature appeared at the book sale.

See?  Books get in your face and don’t give up until you read them.
What book has been stalking you?


Editorial Note
I just checked the website for BetterWorldBooks and all three of these books are currently available. The prices are great and shipping is free within the USA. Besides that, for every book you purchase BetterWorldBooks will donate a book to a Literacy Program. Can’t beat that!!

A couple walked into the parish office and said they had phoned ahead to ask for a meeting space.  As I was showing them the community room, the wife excitedly told me that she was going to meet her birth mother. Some time ago the wife had graduated from our parish elementary school and was later married in our parish church. Now they were living in South Dakota but had been able to locate the birth mother still in Ohio. They thought our parish would be an appropriate place to meet. I told the couple that our parish was honored to be chosen for such an occasion. I showed them the community room and the nearby flower garden, and then I waited at the main entrance.  A few minutes later I heard a shout. Using another door, the birth mother and daughter had found each other. The wives with their husbands spent two hours talking and taking pictures  and then left aglow with joy. Our parish has many blessed moments, as we celebrate the Eucharist and other sacraments, as we open a food pantry weekly, as we share faith in many ways—and in the unforeseen delights that dot a parish’s day.

Summarizing Two Great Books in One Word:  Relationship

This past week I began reading two books.  The first The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr was one I’ve tried to get hold of since its publication in 2016. The second is Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship by Gregory Boyle, author of Tattoos on the Heart.  At first glance these two books could not be more diverse, but they share the same theme: relation, relation, relation. William Paul Young, author of The Shack, calls Rohr’s book “a celebration of Relationship,” the relationship within the Trinity and our relationship with God and one another. I’ve been reading about God as a “fountain fullness” of love always pouring out the flow of divine love. Barking to the Choir has stories on every page about the individuals from gangs that Boyle has helped through Homeboy Industries. Every story warms the reader’s heart with its focus on belonging and “the holiness of second chances.” Boyle writes: “In all my years of living, I have never been given greater access to the tenderness of God than through the channel of the thousands of homies I have been privileged to know.” Both books bring God closer. Both books delight. The reader smiles in the midst of abstract truths made accessible through humor, malapropisms, slang, and clever expressions. Among the intriguing titles of Rohr’s chapters are “Tide Boxes at Kmart,” “Paradigms Lost,” “Transcendence Deficit Disorder,” and “Metaphors Be with You.” God is with us. Both books make God incredibly close and infinitely open to us. When we are in need, God is there. Or as Boyle in the language of one of his Homeboys writes: “The Dude shows up.”