Sharing the “Meet a Reader” feature that appears on the book page of The Catholic Post every other issue.
How you know me: I have served as a priest in the diocese since 1999, primarily in Peoria (St Philomena, Peoria Notre Dame, and St Mark’s) and, most recently, in Champaign as chaplain at St John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois. I also write songs and release music CDs occasionally, and I recently started a website/blog called Pastoral Quotient.
Why I love reading: It’s been said that who we are in ten years depends on two things: the people we spend most time with, and the books we read. I strongly believe this!
The mind is like a field: we can let it grow wild, or we can intentionally cultivate it. One way or other, it will put forth. So why not be intentional? Proverbs 24:6 says wise guidance leads to success in battle; and through an abundance of counselors, there is victory.
Reading lets me tap the wisdom of many counselors, most of whom I will meet only through their ideas. Reading is an antidote preventing me from being a lame priest, always a fear of mine (prayer and friendship are two other antidotes). The people of God deserve thoughtful and wise shepherds, and intentional, consistent reading keeps me growing toward this goal. And growing makes me happy! Good reading enhances my pastoral intelligence and makes me a better priest, so I can serve people better.
What I’m reading now: I just finished Unlocking the Heart of the Artist
by Matt Tommey, a Christian artist from North Carolina who is part of a Christian artists’ guild. The book is a beautiful meditation on the spirituality of artists in God’s Kingdom.
I also recently read Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink, a remarkable author who combines extensive research with journalistic readability in his books on many topics of contemporary cultural concern. Drive discusses the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation — and why the latter is proving more and more to be the superior “operating system” for human motivation in business and in education in today’s creativity and knowledge economy. I think the book has profound implications for pastoral ministry as well, which I am thinking through.
I am currently reading Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge by Dr Henry Cloud, a neuro-psychologist and high-level professional business consultant. Dr Cloud helps leaders lead more effectively by understanding how to steward the emotional climate of an organization in positive ways that actually honor the God-given ways people’s brains were meant to perform.
Next in my queue: A book on Flannery O’Connor’s spiritual journey by Lorraine Murray, which was given to me as a gift recently by the author herself after I collaborated with her husband, Jef Murray, at a recent Tolkien conference at Urbana Theological Seminary. On my website, I have a “Resources” page sharing a lot more detail about books and podcasts that have helped me.
My favorite book: The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. People make fun of me because I talk about Tolkien so much! I taught a class at Peoria Notre Dame for almost a decade on LOTR, which was some of the greatest fun I’ve had in all my priesthood. I have actually written a book on the Catholic themes in Tolkien which is currently under consideration for publication.