If you look at the centerfold in this issue, you can see we’ve officially hit our summer stride. We wanted to do something that was in keeping with the recreation and renewal associated with the season, so the staff decided to take you on several of our favorite Catholic car trips, some within the archdiocese and some outside, all within a two-hour ride. We each plan to personally make at least one of those visits, and we hope you do too.
If you take us up on the offer, please be sure to send us a postcard or an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the subject line Catholic Car Trips to let us know how your day trip turned out.
Many people also use the more leisurely pace of the summer months to catch up on their reading. We hope you haven’t fallen behind on reading your Catholic New York issues, but if you have, please bring a couple with you wherever you’re going this summer. As editor, I have no excuse for failing to read every page of every issue before it heads to press, so back issues are not on my summer reading list. The coming issues, and planning for the months ahead, will undoubtedly take up the bulk of my time.
I’ve got a couple of books set aside for vacation time, and I’ve already read one that I’d like to share because I think many of you would enjoy it. It’s called “Five Years in Heaven,” and I read it soon after the Christopher Awards ceremony in May, where it was one of the winners.
The 276-page tome, written by John Schlimm and published by IMAGE, beautifully captures many essentials of the Catholic faith through the “unlikely friendship” between the author and an 87-year-old nun forged through her creation of ceramic works in her shop at the Benedictine convent where she lived for many, many years.
As the friendship unfolds between Schlimm, who is more than half a century younger than his counterpart, and Sister Augustine, the reader goes on a thoroughly enjoyable journey that sees both develop in unexpected ways. At the outset, we learn that Schlimm is a writer who has grown frustrated looking to publish a cookbook that draws on his family’s long beer-brewing history. A Harvard education and a career as a publicist for well-known entertainment celebrities show Schlimm is no slouch, but he comes home to the town of St. Mary’s in rural western Pennsylvania to discover many important truths about himself through his interactions with Sister Augustine.
The book is written in a fresh, upbeat style that flows from the relationship between its two central characters. Upon entering Sister Augustine’s shop, Schlimm finds a kindred spirit whose artwork inspires him to reach into his promotional background to find ways to reintroduce her to people of the local area through the convent’s annual Christmas open house. It is heartwarming to share moments when they so evidently lift each other to heights that they may not have achieved on their own.
Because of Schlimm’s background as a writer, publicist and an artist himself, he develops an overwhelming appreciation for Sister Augustine’s talent and her spirituality. It shines through in her humor and in her homespun reflections, some of which will likely strike the reader deeply, as the following comment of hers did to me.
“It’s always a blessing to be present when someone is born into this world or passes from it. It’s in those amazing moments that God reveals His grace to us. And sometimes, He calls upon us to help in that process by letting someone we dearly love know that they can go.”
I’m sure many of you can recall a grace-filled moment like that in your own life.
The friendship of Sister Augustine and Schlimm offers many other remarkable moments. It was a personal reminder not to be so consumed with the daily grind that I miss unexpected treasures and friendships along the way.