Entering a spiritual oasis via reading

THE HONG KONG Book Fair takes place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from the July 15 to 21. With Inspirational and Motivational Reading as its theme, this year’s event hopes to be a spiritual oasis for people.

In past years, Catholic organisations launched new books and conducted activities at the book fair. However, due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, diocesan organisations have withdrawn from this year’s event. Instead of a Catholic Zone, they will identify alternatives and conduct small-scale book fairs. Individual Catholic publishers, however, will still take part in the Children’s Zone this year. 

In the face of the current pandemic and social agitation, people hope to discover a way out and yearn for a spiritual oasis. How can Church organisations respond to the needs of society and bring comfort to wounded hearts?

Enriching ourselves through reading can be a way. Catholic organisations can promote reading by organising book exhibitions and reading clubs and making use of religious books to help people to grow. The development of a spiritual oasis should help people make books and reading part of their daily lives.

In response to a reading culture that emphasises effectiveness and speed, Lancelot R. Fletcher, a scholar, advocates “slow reading,” encouraging readers to ease the pace and savour the material. People can even reflect on how the words impact our faith.

Recently, the Hong Kong Publishing Professionals Society (HKPPS) released a survey on local reading habits. Out of over 2,000 interviewed, 37 per cent had not read a physical book over the past year. Apart from lacking the habit, the main reasons were “lacking the time or too busy with work.” However, during the pandemic, another 27 per cent of respondents said that they had read more. The society encourages people staying at home to reduce stress by “slow reading.”

Slowing down is not easy because the contemporary era has already assigned a new meaning to reading. This implies a high-speed search on the Internet on a mobile phone and finding the most concise answer. Although slow reading may not be welcomed by the mainstream, it may help people realise the beauty around them and find a spiritual oasis. 

Slow reading needs to satisfy various conditions. First, it needs “a leisurely and carefree mood” or “room in our hearts.” Faith books and magazines contain the Word and witness of faith. Christians slow down their thinking and meditate on their own life experience or pause to pray.

Slow reading also requires “accompaniment.” Many parishes a library corner. People can make use of these books and share their thoughts. Catholic families can pray together as well as read together. The newly-published Chinese version of YOUCAT for Kids can be an interesting book for families to pass the faith.

The spiritual oasis needs a “guide.” Pastors can share the spiritual books they frequently read. The faithful who are good writers can write book reviews to share their insights.

May this reading season be one of formation and care to comfort the wounded and tired hearts of our city. May all of us, illuminated by faith, find our own life direction in books. SE

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