Fr Kevin Neal
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a keen reader of the spiritual truths. I’m still reading them today and now I listen as well, to audio books.
In the late 1960s, I began my journey of faith as a de la Salle Brother in Sydney and was busy from the start.
There was so much to learn and do but underlying it all certain things were immovable. One of these was spiritual reading. No matter how busy the day or how far afield we had gone, there was always half an hour spiritual reading before tea – more if we liked – and I loved it.
I would bury my head in the lives the saints and for half an hour I would be somewhere else.
There were the lives of the brothers who had gone before us – St John Baptiste de la Salle and our favourite brothers such as St Benildus. They were tremendous role models.
There were saints like Francis and Catherine, Ignatius and Martha.
Then there were the follow-up lectures in theology at which I had to work pretty hard. Learning didn’t always come easily to my fairly agricultural brain. But we had our regular half hour of studying the word every day.
No matter what the day brought, I kept the reading going and, as the world of listening grew, I would listen to tapes which became CDs as technology marched on. I’ve always known that there’s so much to be gained from other people’s experiences.
At the end of the 1980s, I went to the seminary and reading and studying again became serious pursuits for a number of years. There were university papers to sit and everything had to be read.
That passed and I was ordained. I could easily have found excuses to stop reading – we were very busy every day after all – but the good habits were well ingrained. So the reading continued.
I’ve never been a bookworm and I never stopped reading fiction either. I’ve just read or listened to a small amount each day.
When I had a stroke the reading and listening stopped for a while. The whole thing went back to the beginning and slowly the task of being informed could begin again. This meant that certain books, tapes and CDs would have to be revisited. It’s taken time, but now I have plenty of that.
I have my favourite authors and speakers and I set aside time each day to read or listen. I keep fiction and non-fiction on the go even though now I can read for only about 15 minutes at a time – but I wouldn’t miss it.