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Asking the Clergy: What is a good read for the long days of summer?

From left, Msgr. Charles R. Fink of Seminary

From left, Msgr. Charles R. Fink of Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, the Rev. Marjorie Nunes of Hicksville United Methodist Church, and Rabbi Yakov Saacks of The Chai Center. Credit: Charles R. Fink; Newsday / Steve Pfost; Howard Schnapp

August’s long days, leisure and sunshine are ideal for catching up on beach or backyard reading. This week’s clergy discuss literature that offers lessons and insights for the faithful.

Msgr. Charles R. Fink of New Hyde Park

Retired rector, Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, Huntington

I like to tell parishioners who find themselves stuck listening to me that they should not die without having read certain Catholic authors, one such being Boston College philosophy professor Peter Kreeft, who has the rare gift of being able to explicate the faith in an arresting and accessible manner without dumbing it down. Anything he writes is worthwhile, but if you’re new to him you might try "Before I Go: Letters to Our Children About What Really Matters" (Sheed & Ward, 2007). The book consists of 162 very short lessons he wanted to leave his grown children. "Before I Go" is breezy, entertaining and thought-provoking, wise and witty, a good summer-read and an excellent conversation starter.

If novels are your thing, Michael D. O’Brien is popular and prolific, but you generally have to invest a lot of time to get through his nearly 1,000-page narratives. An exception is "The Lighthouse" (Ignatius Press, 2020), at only 200 pages. It’s the story of a reclusive young lighthouse keeper with a mysterious past who through a series of chance encounters and catastrophic events regains a sense of meaning in his life. And with a title like "The Lighthouse," how could it not be a perfect beach-read?

The Rev. Marjorie E. Nunes

Hicksville United Methodist Church

Summer is the season for basking in the warm sun and rejoicing in the freedom of vacation. But the summer of the year 2020 proved to be completely different because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting period of social isolation.

Along with the pandemic, our nation continues to be challenged by racial unrest and reckoning, civil unrest, an economic downturn, an increase in gun violence and much more. Now here we are in the summer of 2021, hoping for better times, and yet it seems that we are going backward or at a standstill. Everything seems so confused and difficult to deal with — messy, if you will.

In the midst of all the messiness, the faithful must continue to find hope. Jake Owensby writes in his book "Looking for God in Messy Places: A Book about Hope" (Abingdon, 2021), "We need a shift in thinking about hope. Hope is a visceral confidence that life is worth living. And that makes hope a matter of life and death."

I highly recommend this book about hope for those who feel weary from and burdened by the unforeseen, constant crisis.

Biblical hope gives us reasons to live — no matter how messy and harrowing life gets.

Rabbi Yakov Saacks

The Chai Center, Dix Hills

As a rabbi, I don’t know if I have a summer book vs. a fall book, or any book for a particular season. We are taught that as part of preparation for any Jewish holiday, we need to familiarize ourselves by reviewing the story, rituals and requirements.

Well, this year Rosh Hashanah is literally in the summer! Therefore, I would suggest that we prepare mentally, emotionally, ritually and practically for the big day. You see, if one comes to services unprepared, Rosh Hashanah becomes Rush Hashanah. There are myriad ways to prepare, and one of them is getting one’s spiritual accomplishments and failings in order so that one will know what needs improvement in the upcoming year and what resolutions need to be made.

One of the best books on the subject, in my opinion — aside from my own book, "The Kabbalah of Life: A much deeper look into our surroundings" (BookBaby, 2021), of course — would be a masterpiece called "60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays" (Kiyum, 2003), by Rabbi Simon Jacobson. Jacobson takes readers through a fascinating journey of honest self-introspection and shares many insights to make one ready to take on the year.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com.

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