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Books As Prayer

March 26th, 2012by Dan Thomas

One of the pleasures in life I most enjoy is reading a good book or essay.

When I began my work as a Director of Religious Education (DRE) at Immaculate Conception Parish in Dayton, my office was in the school between the two second-grade classrooms. After nearly a year there the two teachers and I were talking and one said to me, “You know, Dan, that for you the initials D R E means ‘Dan Reads Everything.’” I realized that they were speaking a truth that described me well: I love to read, to talk about what I read, and hope to learn much from what I read.

Recently, I came across one of those good books entitled Growing Up Amish: A Memoir by Ira Wagler. It is the personal story by a fifty-year old man looking back at his struggle first to grow up period and secondly, whether that growing up would be in the Amish community into which he was born. The book is an incredibly powerful story of one man’s struggle with his Amish faith and with faith itself.

The author is brutally honest, facing his own failures and difficulties within a community that feels to him a denial of who he is and is called to be. At times, his writing was painful to read due to the raw emotions he shares. He spares no truth about himself and his struggles. Even those who were obstacles in his journey are not treated as enemies, but as persons like himself with different perspectives and values. His respect for his father continues despite the challenges the father presented as Wagler searched for his future and his life’s meaning.

His journey is one from faith as meaningless practices done for the sake of avoiding hell to a deep conversion facilitated by a friend who opened him to the experience of a loving God.

Books like this are for me a significant form of prayer. I search for books that I think will be meaningful. I ask myself if there is something in this title or description that is attracting or challenging me, something I need to wrestle with and grow in. I like to take time to reflect as I read and let the book speak to me, pray with it.

The above book was especially prayerful for me because I was challenged by the willingness of its author to face himself as fully as anyone I’ve ever read. I hope to be able to do the same in my own life and writing.

The book can be purchased through major book sellers. The author’s blog can be found at http://www.irawagler.com/

Dan Thomas

Dan Thomas is a retired Director of Religious Education, living in Dayton Ohio. His education includes graduation from Chaminade HS and the University of Dayton (MA in Pastoral Ministry). He is married with two adult sons and is a parishioner at St. Helen, Dayton.