Sister Jeanne d'Arc Kernion

My ministries continue to be centered on books, perhaps because that’s all I know. English, especially literature, was my field of study, and is what I taught for most of my teaching years until I retired from the seminary college at age 81. So, I have continued to lead book discussions at Mount St. Scholastica, both with a group of Sisters in Dooley Center and another in the monastery.

Again with books, I help in the library with processing new books before they are available to the community. And, since one cannot just sit and read all day, I help with some of the chores essential to our life in community. And I write a little.

What I do could be, and is, done by anyone interested in and with some knowledge of books. But essential to my sharing the knowledge of books, especially of fiction, is my considering good fiction as a form of theology and spirituality. My monastic formation with its emphasis on community contributes to this viewpoint.

I believe that every piece of fiction worth reading has something to say about our relationship with God and with others. When I taught the modern novel course to college seminarians, I always reminded them of John Henry Newman’s quote that there cannot be a sinless literature about a sinful people, and since they would one day sit in the confessional and hear people’s sins, reading and understanding good literature would help them to understand and be compassionate.

This is also true for all of us. We are called to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. So we, too, need to understand ourselves and others, why we do or do not act in certain ways. We can learn a lot from the people we meet in literature.

I am aware that there are many books that don’t fit this category, ones I would refer to as “airplane” books, and these have their place. For me, though, my choice is a book that has some wisdom and depth.