by Father Mark Goldasich
“Jesus came to take away our sins, not our minds.”
I’ve loved this statement ever since I first saw it a couple of years ago on a church sign in Kansas City, Kan. It’s a great reminder that our faith is something living. The Lord wants us to “grow” our faith by developing our minds. And one of the best ways to do that is by reading and reflecting, especially through Catholic newspapers, magazines and books.
So, how’s that for a lead-in to Catholic Press Month, which we’re celebrating all through February? In fact, this is the 100th anniversary of the Catholic Press Association, which has some 600 members in the United States and Canada and reaches over 26 million people.
With the increasing use and popularity of the Internet and e-readers, though, people might wonder if there’s still a place for the “press” in today’s world. Don’t these new media spell the end of printed newspapers, books and magazines? I don’t believe so but, honestly, nobody has a clue! For me, the situation is best expressed in ads that I’ve seen in print publications of late. Basically, the ads say that just as instant coffee didn’t replace “real” brewed coffee (Starbucks, anyone?) — or TV did not make radio obsolete — so e-readers and the Internet will not replace the printed word. They are just different means for getting a message across.
I agree with that. Take me, for example. My house is full of books and magazines, and every morning I trot down the driveway to pick up the newspaper to read with my coffee. I relish the smell of books, their heft, and the fact that they don’t require batteries that need periodic recharging. I appreciate the convenience of being able to flip quickly through an entire newspaper, skimming articles that don’t interest me much and lingering over those that do. I love the feel of a pen on paper as I do my crossword puzzles and Jumble.
But I’m also a devotee of iPads, being one of the 7 million people who’ve bought them since they first came out last April. And I have no issue with reading on it. I love the ease with which I can download books in seconds, especially new hardcovers at about half the printed edition’s price. Since my iPad is almost always with me, I’m never at a loss for something to read when I find myself unexpectedly waiting somewhere.
And the iPad has enhanced my appreciation of books. The other day, for example, I came across an unfamiliar word in a mystery novel that I was reading on the device. A tap on the word popped up its definition (and pronunciation) in a box at the bottom of the iPad screen. A few pages later, one character mentioned a song that he always played: “Kind of Blue,” by Miles Davis. I set a bookmark on the screen, tapped another couple of buttons, opened up YouTube, and found several videos of that Davis song, which I then listened to. When it was finished, I tapped back into the book and continued reading . . . with that song lingering in my head.
I’ve always been an “interactive” reader, tackling books with a pencil, highlighter and Post-It notes in hand. For me, reading is like having a conversation with the author. Happily, devices like the iPad encourage that interactivity. A tap here or there on the screen will let me highlight a passage or even type up a note or comment, which I can then save for later rereading and reflecting. Also, many authors now include a Web site where you can contact them. I’ve done so on a number of occasions and have gotten responses from them, which is cool, to say the least.
So, how can you best celebrate Catholic Press Month? By reading some Catholic material, of course, in whatever format you choose. Just for fun, explore a different way to read. If you’re primarily an Internet user, go the old-fashioned route and pick up a “real” book (as opposed to a virtual one). And if you’ve never seen an iPad or e-reader, ask around — young (or young-at-heart) people will be more than happy to show you one. The important thing is not only that you read, but that you interact with the material in some way: Make notes, write down memorable quotes, ponder a bit, look up unfamiliar words, drop a note to the author.
And you’re never too old to learn or try something new. One of the books on my Catholic Press Month reading list is “Technology Tools for Your Ministry,” by Tim Welch. Even though I’ll always love the printed word on real paper, I’m also enthralled by all the resources and possibilities that are available at my fingertips through the new media.
So, find a warm corner and a comfortable chair this month and curl up with some Catholic reading. Not only will your soul thank you, but your mind will as well.