Columnists Mark my words

I hope that you’ll read into this column

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

The other day, I was chatting with a childhood friend from Strawberry Hill. He said, “I remember that your folks wouldn’t let you play with the neighborhood kids.” After a brief pause, he added with a smile, “And that was probably a great idea!”

Well, to set the record straight: 1) My parents never said I couldn’t play with kids from the neighborhood; 2) Although they could at times be ornery, the kids weren’t bad at all; and 3) There was something that I wanted to do more than play, especially during the summer months.

That “something” was reading. Thursday was my favorite day in grade school because that’s when we headed to the school library to check out a book. The summer months were glorious because I could walk to the public library whenever I wanted and check out several books at a time.

For a while, I even thought it would be cool to be a librarian because — and I’m really dating myself here — they got to use a pencil with that date stamper on the end of it and stamp the due-back date on the little card in the back of the books. Heaven!

As I’ve gotten older, my book “addiction” has only gotten worse. There’s not a room in my house without a stack of books. My “to-read ASAP” pile, balanced precariously on top of a CD holder, stands at over 25. My Audible (audiobooks) library has some 175 titles and I shudder to think of how many e-books are on my Kindle. I try to keep three books going at the same time: one for pleasure, one for spiritual reading and one for listening to in the car.

Sadly, many people don’t seem to read because of negative impressions from school based on books they were “forced” to read. Happily, outside of school, there are no limits to the types of books to explore.

Reading has so many benefits. It increases knowledge; reduces stress; expands vocabulary; enhances creativity and imagination; improves concentration, focus and memory; builds critical thinking skills; helps communication skills, writing skills and mental health; and, best of all, it’s fun!

Reading can also expand one’s view of the world. It’s a cheap way, for example, to see the world by exploring travel books to exotic places. Reading can touch one’s heart and conscience and inspire positive action.

In my life, reading “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson helped me to understand the injustice and horror of racism. The book “This Tender Land,” a captivating novel by William Kent Kreuger about four orphans on the run from the Lincoln Indian Training School in 1932, prompted me to support a ministry to Native American children in South Dakota. Reading “The Song of the Bird” by Jesuit Father Anthony de Mello nurtured my love of stories and desire to share them.

Summer is an ideal time to cultivate a habit of reading (especially in kids). And it doesn’t have to be expensive. Get a free public library card and explore the stacks — of printed books, audiobooks and even books you can check out online.

And don’t forget to indulge in some spiritual reading as well. Start with The Leaven and then raid your parish’s library.

If you’re at a loss as to where to start, ask your local librarian, your pastor or any reader. They’ll be happy to suggest their favorites.

I’ll close with this line from author J.K. Rowling: “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.”

Use this summer to remedy that.

About the author

Fr. Mark Goldasich

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