It’s not always easy, finding a book to read that doesn’t insult either our intelligence or our moral standards. I write that with equal amounts of frustration and compassion. After all, I used to be unable to leave the library without at least one “bodice ripper” under my arm. What can I say? I love romance. That was before I turned to Christ, though, and then Christ turned me towards Him through the Catholic faith. Once my feet hit that path, it was difficult to look at all that flesh on those tattered covers and not wonder how serious Jesus was about that whole Matthew 5: 27-29 thing.
In his 1999 “Letter to Artists,” our Blessed (Saint!) Pope John Paul II wrote, “…true art has a close affinity with the world of faith, so that, even in situations where culture and the Church are far apart, art remains a kind of bridge to religious experience. In so far as it seeks the beautiful, fruit of an imagination which rises above the everyday, art is by its nature a kind of appeal to the mystery. Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, artists give voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption.”
We want redemption. We want to be valued and loved and all our conflicts resolved. We want beauty and goodness and love. Sure, we could read nothing but the Bible all day, every day. Still, we ache for story, new stories, stories in which we can see our own virtues and vices playing out in the laboratory of imagination. As a Catholic striving to live a life of sacrament, I am confident that there is no ache God allows us that cannot point us back to Him.
So, can our reading of fiction glorify God? Can a paperback point our eyes toward His goodness? There are more than fifty shades of novel out there that fill our imaginations with thoughts about people other than our spouses and turn our worship to anything but God. Where are the stories that show us how to live in the world but not of it, or that show us what happens when we don’t? Did all those stories die with Chesterton and O’Connor?
::Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mother, and lay Dominican who lives with her family of vertebrates somewhere out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. Her short writing has appeared in Canticle Magazine, The Catholic Standard and Times, Parents, The Philadelphia City Paper, The White Shoe Irregular, Outer Darkness Magazine, and the newsletter of her children’s playgroup. She has been a guest blogger for the Catholic Writers Guild, and she blogs about year-round meatless Fridays at Mrs. Mackerelsnapper, OP. Her other professional experiences include acting, costuming, youth ministry, international scholar advising, and waiting tables. She has been voted “Best Speaker” for her chastity talks at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania’s Newman Center. She is the founder of Warriors of Lourdes, an organization that unites people in prayer against child abuse. When Erin is not writing, cooking or parenting, she can be found reading, singing a bit too loudly, sewing for people she loves, or gardening in spite of herself.
Both of Erin’s books are available on Amazon.::