Photo by BigBrotherMouse (own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

With a bit of reluctance, let me leave for a while the topic of movies from my previous posts. Let’s now shift to something else (but still in connection with youth ministry and research, as always). I’m talking of books and reading.

Something triggered me again regarding this. It’s actually an old book (copyright 1915!), which I recently downloaded from an e-book webpage. It definitely brought about in me a surge of memories. You know, it was one of those Christmases of my childhood . . . . I must have been Grade Five or Six back then. And since Christmas is equated with gifts, it was the first time for me to receive books — yes, books (in a marked departure from toys, cash, clothes, and candies) — as a gift.

It was from my mother. (God bless her soul — for she too was a youth minister!) Both I and my brother were the lucky recipients of that kind of gift from her, which for me opened the proverbial doors to whole new worlds. I can only recall and guess at my late mom’s motives for giving us her sons such a gift, but I am forever grateful to her.

What were those books specifically — as in, what were the titles or who were the authors? I still have them “embedded” permanently in the archive of my heart and mind. They weren’t fiction or story books at all. One was by Andrew Greeley: yes, that noted Catholic priest/sociologist/novelist. I still have it with me, in fact, occupying a permanent place in my personal youth ministry library. It’s entitled And Young Men Shall See Visions, and it consists of letters to a young man about the Catholic Faith and the spiritual life.

The other book (yes, I received two!) is Talks to Boys, by Joseph Conroy SJ. This is the book I was referring to above, in the second paragraph of this blog entry. The actual book I got is now lost. But thanks of course to digital technology, these classics are made available nowadays — and that’s how I have it now!

Was it by any way prophetic for me that those two books I received were both “youth ministry” books? But I guess it’s not so much what’s inside the book itself (its subject matter, contents, and what not). Even this is surely subject to the ravages of time. It’s really more “the thought that counts,” as we often say. Yes, thanks to my wonderful mother, it was a “trigger” to launch me off to a life’s journey. A book, after all, is “a frigate to take you to lands away.” But it is also a time machine which can take you back, in memory and nostalgia. This is because in the first place, it is a rocket ship which hurls you to a lifetime of adventures.

Incidentally, here’s a pay-it-forward tip from the reading journeyman that is me right now: why not give books as gifts to others this Christmastime — and yes, to kids as well? As someone long ago put it (the source escapes me this time), “Unbreakable, non-toxic, no assembly required, needs no batteries, too big to swallow . . . easy to wrap too!”

I should know. It sure got me started into a lot of reading voyages — and they’re still going on.

MartYM or Fr. Martin Macasaet, SDB, SThD is a professor of Youth Ministry. He received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome.

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