Reflection Masthead
Issue 141 - Books  - August 2016

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  The civil war in Syria has already lasted nearly five years. As many as 250,000 people have been killed. Some 11,000,000 people have fled their homes.
  For me, and (I suspect) for many of you, the news of the ongoing conflict in Syria is little more than background noise. I pay more attention to sports and the weather report. That is, until I heard the BBC report discussed in our columns. The report gave voice to everyday people, trying to live their lives under horrific conditions, facing each day with courage and dignity.
  As Elie Wiesel said, the opposite of love is not hate - it is indifference. May God keep us all safe from indifference to the massive suffering of the Syrian people.
  By the way, since the BBC report aired, at least one of the voices heard in the report has been silenced. Omar Abu Anas was killed just days after the report aired.

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Past Issues


2-Creating Sacred Space

3-Leaving Footprints


5-Ordered Life

76-Vanier Visit

87-Wondrous Fear, Holy Awe

91-Crater Lake


101-On Reflections 

102-Morning Moments

108-NBA Championship

110-On Freedom 

112 Robin Williams 


116-Kentucky Epiphany 

119-Christmas Mystery  


121-Radical Amazement 

122-St.John's Bible 

124-Botanical Garden 

126-Call of the King 

127-Living Our Stories 

128-Pope Francis 

129-Saint Francis 


131-The Way of Peace  

132-Danube Reflections  

133-Want Happiness? 

134-Our Uncertain Certainties 

135-Corita Kent 



138-Daniel Berrigan 



Link to all past issues     


The Soul Needs Books
"Just like the body needs food, the soul needs books."
To some, that might sound like a superficial platitude. But when the speaker is someone who has literally risked his life to help organize a secret underground library in the besieged Syrian city of Darayya, those simple words carry great weight.
A few days ago, I heard a BBC World Service broadcast about the secret library of Darayya.  In this besieged city, in the midst of Syria's unending civil war, a group of local citizens have assembled a library of some 14,000 books in a hidden basement. Volunteers rescue books from abandoned, bombed-out buildings, sometimes risking sniper fire to do so.
You can read about the library in the BBC's online magazine, but the audio report is even more moving. The reporter could not safely reach Darayya, and all the interviews were conducted by Skype. During the interviews, one occasionally hears explosions or small-arms fire in the background. After one nearby explosion, the reporter anxiously asks if it is safe to continue the interview. "There is no place safe in Darayya," comes the casual answer, and the interview continues.
In the midst of chaos, the library is not simply a storehouse of books. In the words of reporter Mike Thompson, it is a "repository of peace, learning, and hope." Volunteers at the local hospital search the medical books for guidance on treating the wounded. Soldiers borrow books to take with them to their posts. Children find books to distract them from the baffling violence around them.
Only two aid convoys have reached Darayya in the last four years. Thompson asked one of the volunteers if food was not a higher priority than books. That is when Abdulbaset Alahmar answered, "In a sense the library gave me back my life. It's helped me to meet others more mature than me, people who I can discuss issues with and learn things from. I would say that just like the body needs food, the soul needs books."
With all of the good books so readily available to most of us, how often do we turn there for the nourishment of our souls?
                                                                              --by Bill
Soul Food
        "When a place has been besieged for years..." so begins the BBC article on creating a safe place for books in an underground library protected from daily shells and barrel bombs in Damascus's besieged suburb of Darayya. We see horrific Syrian violence daily on the news with evidence that citizens enjoy little more in life than the basic human needs of food, water, clothing, and safety, if that much. Yet, Anas Ahmad, one of the libra old-book-spines.jpgry founders, was aware of the essential human need to feed the mind and the soul.
          "In a sense the library gave me back my life... just like the body needs food, the soul needs books," library user Abdulbaset said. Abdulbaset gave me pause - my soul having been besieged for years by societal violence, media rancor, and, yes, negative 'friends', the presenting question now is: how do books feed my soul?
         Aside from the spiritual books I open every day, while considering this BBC article I happened to think of some of the most important books that truly fed my soul. They are the Roman histories I translated from Latin to English: Cicero's orations and writings, Virgil's Aeneid, and The Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar. I still remember the opening line: " Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres..." These books are monumental because they serve to situate who I am, historically, in the universe. If I were to create a secret library I would want these works preserved for all times. That said, if I were allowed only three books in my library they would be my bible, The Collected Works of John of the Cross, and my journal.
          What books would be in your library? Which books feed your soul?                                         --by Jan

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Sincerely,  Bill Howden & Jan Davis
Soul Windows Ministries