John Henry Newman vs Maisy

My weekend off. So I get up at my usual 6 am. I read a quote a long time ago that farmers, if they want to loaf, get up early to do it. I guess I’m in that league.

Both days I got up and made a cup of Earl Grey tea and sat on the couch in the kitchen and read more of a biography of John Henry Newman. I got the book through interlibrary loan (a little esoteric for my hometown library’s taste). I wanted the book for two reasons:

1 – John Henry Newman is a dang interesting guy. One of his best friends was Henry Wilberforce, without whom Hollywood would not have been able  to create a movie about the song “Amazing Grace.”

2 – The book was written by Father Zeno, who sounds like either a minor part in a Star Trek episode or a character in the third sequel to “A Canticle for Leibowitz.”

Fortunately Father Zeno is a good writer and the book has held my attention well enough that I now owe a fine on the book because I’ve kept it too long. I get about a half-hour each morning (if I’m lucky) to read through what is at the same time dense and enlightening.

So for the past two mornings I’ve gotten up, made tea and read. And each time shortly after I sit down Jasper (my 3-year old son) has come down, snuggled up to me and asked me to read him a story.

Do I say no to a 3-year old in order to increase my spiritual growth and the awareness of God’s grace around us?

Nope. Maisy it is.

First, “Maisy Goes Camping.” Then “Maisy Drives the Bus.” Then Maisy Goes Shopping.” We end up with the magnum opus, “Where Are You Going, Maisy?”

I’m not a bad storyteller. I’ve learned to do voices and encourage kids to read along, leaving moments in the book where they can say the words they think are on the page. This, of course, gives me time to try to synthesize the trials and tribulations of John Henry Newman into the Maisy books. So the questions in “Where are you going Maisy?” become spiritually rhetorical. Newman’s persecution and perseverance are reflected in the simple words and pictures of a children’s book. And the joy of a 3-year old in the timeless moment with a father is Newman’s realization that we are at times given glimpses of heaven.

And certainly, at 6:30 in the morning sitting in the kitchen with my 3-year old son, I have a similar feeling.

I owe 25 cents a day for keeping the book too long. I really want to finish the book. Is this the price of paradise?


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