As I mentioned below, Dom and I are working our way slowly through the Pope’s new encyclical, reading a section or two a night. We read a bit and always we stop and talk about other things that it makes us think of.
That’s the great thing about reading with someone else. When you read by yourself, especially a document as dense and rich as this one, it’s easy to be overwhelmed or to have your eyes glaze over and start skimming. This shared reading what I miss most about being in school: the more people you have conversing about a text, the richer your experience of reading it, the more connections you make and insights you have.
But here, spontaneously, online, it’s happening. In the past week it seems like many of the bloggers I follow are currently reading it. And as they find passages that speak to them, they post them with little reflections or stories. Or connect them with other things they are reading.
My favorite so far was Willa’s today at In a Spacious Place, where she connects it with a conversation with her five year old son:
When I was cuddling him to sleep a bit later we got started talking about grandparents. He is fascinated now with relationships. Who is Mama’s Dad and mom? Are those the ones you went to see in Alaska? Who are their mom and dad? Somehow the hidden truth about our lives came out. Grandma and Grandpa’s mom and dad are dead. Old people die. In fact, everybody dies eventually.
This was when I really saw him as not-a-baby-anymore. His face flushed, his eyes got bright with unshed tears, and the corners of his mouth turned down. He twisted my hair in his fingers as he questioned vehemently. Why do people die? What happens to them after they die? What if they don’t want to die? Why do they have to go away from their homes, especially if they LIKE their homes? He asked big questions, the ones that have haunted the race since before Homer’s time. He asked them in such a way that it was clear that he had some idea of the significance of the “rage against the dying of the light.” He was not satisfied with the stock, soothing, limited parental answers; he brushed them aside, and I felt a bit silly for offering them….
…Paddy, too, had bigger concerns than the answers I tried to frame to his level of maturity. Finally, he turned away abruptly and put his head under the covers and subsided into sleep.
In sleep now, his eyelashes are long and his hands are still soft and gently curled like a baby’s. I wish I could have given him better answers. I wish I could have explained to him that living forever in temporal sequence would be a curse—the Flying Dutchman. That’s something that a slightly older person could understand. It is one of the themes in Pope Benedict’s Spe Salvi…
It’s nice to be part of the club.