Something to Share (with a Smile): International Buy a Nun a Book Day

Today, the anniversary of 9/11, with the world holding its breath about Syria and in the sad knowledge that many other parts of the globe are experiencing tragic wars, I thought I would delay writing a more sombre post and give you something to smile about instead — not because I’m being insensitive, but because I know others will provide better reflections on the day than I can. So,

International Buy a Nun a Book Day
International Buy a Nun a Book Day: design by Endre Kormos

Yes, 17 September, the feast of St Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church and polymath, who, among other things, devised an alternative alphabet, is International Buy a Nun a Book Day, when you are encouraged to search out a nun or sister and give her that most precious gift, a good book (preferably asking her first what she’d like). It doesn’t matter whether it’s printed or an electronic download or a voucher to spend in a bookshop. Hopefully, you’ll get to meet some nice people and maybe find a few of your ideas about nuns need revising. We ourselves will be posting a Wish List on FB and here on the blog, which is rather angling of us, but then, did you know that the first book in English on fly fishing was written by a Benedictine nun? Or that one of Britain’s finest Private Presses was run by Benedictine nuns? Books and nuns (especially Benedictine nuns) go together.




Each of us carries within a personal calendar: this day is important because I met so-and-so, because I did such-and-such, because something or other happened. Despite the proliferation of social media and the ease of sharing online, these personal calendars tend to be very private. Earlier this week a friend asked me to pray for his mother on 29 October and I said I’d have no difficulty remembering because today is also the anniversary of my own mother’s death. He was immediately contrite, as though he should have known, but why should he? He was empathizing with me from the way he would feel had the situation been reversed. That was generous. It was also kind, literally, expressing kinship with me.

Clock time and emotional time do not always coincide, nor do we always know why someone who is usually bright and bouncy is a little sad or subdued. Sometimes we need to ask; sometimes we don’t. The one thing that is never out of place is kindness and a prayer.


Significant Anniversaries

Yesterday was the forty-eighth anniversary of Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII’s important encyclical on world peace and justice; today is the fiftieth anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s space-flight. Half a century ago we worrying about a nuclear conflict between the west and the Soviet Union but we had great faith in the ability of science to help create a better world.  We still believed in progress. Today we are worrying about nuclear leaks from Fukushima and watching the violence in Africa and the Middle East with an uneasy sense that maybe, just maybe, climate change and the pressure on natural resources may prove to be even more damaging to human life and happiness. We are not sure what we believe any more, are we?

I am tempted to say that I suspect it has always been so, that every generation has its own fears and dark terrors that may look a little exaggerated to the next. The twentieth century should have brought peace and prosperity to more people than ever before in history. It didn’t; it brought war and death and deprivation on a scale previously unknown. I am sceptical about the way in which we recall some events, the way we pile up anniversary on anniversary without necessarily distinguishing between them. ‘Those who do not learn the lessons of history are fated to repeat them.’ Perhaps. Sometimes I wonder whether the trouble is that we are too busy marking and partying in the name of celebration to do the learning.