I'm still catching up on so much from the summer, including this little piece about about bookstore memories from America magazine (issued while I was on retreat, so I'm kind of validated in not having read it until now). Here's my Catholic bookstore memory. (What's yours? I'd love for you to share it!)
The fact is, I owe the discovery of my vocation to a bookstore. (You can already see where this is going, can't you?)
It was March, I think, of my senior year in high school. I was planning to major in communications in college, in view of a career that would somehow bring together the media and my Catholic faith. I wanted to give the Church more of a voice in the world of communication, but wasn't sure if the best way to go would be to focus on Catholic media (the only kind I knew of was the diocesan press) or to be a faithful Catholic in secular media. My godmother had all kinds of connections in the New Orleans TV scene, so I was pretty confident she could help me get an entry-level position somewhere in that world. So there I was, getting ready to graduate and looking at the future, while the little girl across the street, the child of a "mixed marriage" (her Mom was the only Jewish person I knew), had her tenth birthday.
Since my sisters used to play with Lacey, Mom was heading to the store to get a birthday present. But she wanted to support Lacey's Catholic upbringing by adding a religious gift to the fun gift my sisters would bring to the party. She walked by me dangling the car keys: "I'm going to the Catholic bookstore to get Lacey a present. Do you want to come with me?"
Bookstore?! I was in.
So there I was, browsing the shelves of the "St. Paul Catholic Book & Film Center" (now known, in case you haven't guessed, as "Pauline Books & Media") in our New Orleans suburb. While I stacked up a few lives of saints, a book on the Rosary and some other good reading, I had no idea that I had come under the approving gaze of one of the nuns who ran the place. She played it cool, even when I brought the toppling pile over to the check-out counter.
"You know," she began, "We sisters print some of these books ourselves."
"Oh, that's nice." I wanted to be polite. (She was a nun, after all.)
Then the Holy Spirit swooped in. Sister continued, "It's our mission to put the media of communication at the service of the Church."
Media?! Church?! Not just in one sentence, but in the same life?! I wasn't the only person who had this desire? I was amazed: a life seemingly tailor-made for me!
I have no idea which of the sisters was at the counter that day; at the time they were all nameless nuns to me. But that one visit to a Catholic bookstore set the course of my entire life from then on.
As Paul would say, "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!"
Now what's your Catholic bookstore story?