How to Start a Good Catholic Library – Part 1

Diocese of Thunder Bay Crest

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to read. The Holy Spirit worked through books to bring me closer to God. In my mind, books have changed my life. I recently listened to an amazing new podcast, The Burrowshire Podcast with Brandon Vogt, from Word on Fire, and Fr. Blake Britton. I know many of our subscribers do not listen to podcasts. Therefore, over the next few weeks I will share with you some of the wisdom from these two men, as well as some must have books!

Why Catholics should have good libraries?

1.  The preservation of knowledge has been part of the Catholic disposition towards truth since the very beginning. It led to the rebirth of the infrastructure of education and of wisdom within western Europe that eventually became the foundation of the university system, schools, places of music, oratories, and monasteries. This history of Catholicism is very much needed in this age of technology. We need the deep passion of books and the preservation of knowledge in an incarnate physical form, and to share that form with those who come after us. After Vatican II, not because of Vatican II, there was a spirit of anti-­‐intellectualism. There was a stronger emphasis on experience rather than catechetics and the intellectual life. Many Catholic libraries were swept away. The rise of anti-­‐intellectualism and the technological revolution collapsed the infrastructure of education. At least 2 generations have lost an appreciation for primary resources. How many of us read an account of Dante’s Inferno as opposed to reading Dante’s Inferno? There has been a gap between our encounter with knowledge and tradition, and our personal experience. That gap needs to be bridged. This can be done with the reacquisition of libraries in Catholic homes. It connects us to the Church’s prestigious history of preserving knowledge, great works of literature, philosophy and theology, to the next generation.

2.  When you are in a room surrounded by books, they beckon you to read them. Few things will increase the reading activity in your own life and your family’s life more than having books around. A study was done in which the literacy level of children was compared based on how many books were in their homes growing up. Kids that had books in their house growing up read significantly more than kids who did not. Surprisingly, it did not matter if their parents read the books or not, but only if the books were visible in the house. A key component of theological anthropology, the study of the human person as created in the image a likeness of God, is that we are incarnate spirits. Tangibility, physicality, our ability to see, smell, touch is absolutely vital to our acquisition of knowledge and our encounter of truth. That is why the perfect mediation of truth is Christ, the Word made flesh. It is the same thing when it comes to libraries. As beings made in God’s image and likeness who are embodied, having these physical reminders of truth, goodness, knowledge, and beauty, inspires our souls.

3.  You own the books. We pay more attention to books we own. We are more committed to them. There is something substantially different when you own a book, rather than borrowing a book. It also allows you to mark the books. Using, pencil, pen, highlighter whatever your preferred method of annotation. Being able to make notes in the margins, highlighting and underlining improves your retention of what you read. When you write in your books, you have something to pass down to children, friends, and readers a hundred years from now. People can read along side you. It shows others what you thought was important. We pass on a dialogue from generation to generation. By the annotating of the text, we continue the great conservation of philosophy, theology, the great endeavor to actualize the full potential of our humanity as God’s likeness and image.