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Sunday, 31 May 2020 14:54

Things worth thinking about when sitting quietly

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I suspect that many of us, although we are finding plenty to keep us occupied during our time at home, are coming up with lists of things we want to do when it will be possible to circulate socially again.

I am finding plenty to keep me occupied. Besides this column, I do a lot of writing. Long ago, I enthusiastically affirmed the statement of the 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Well, he may have been exaggerating in blaming all problems on this inability. But I do believe that the ability to sit quietly offers many advantages.

We can think about how much easier it is for us to sit in a room alone than it was in Pascal’s time. He had books, and so do we. In addition, we have information and entertainment coming at us from all directions.

Even when it comes to prayer, there are numerous online resources. The Liturgy of the Hours, the official daily prayer of the church, is available from many online sources. I did try an online service for a while, but I had to go back to my original four volumes which I bought in 1977. I have had these books rebound, repaired, and reribboned. I have also created my own thumb-index tabs. I keep a pencil in hand for the sake of underlining Scriptural passages which strike me, and for a number of other purposes.

So, to get back to those lists. Here are a few things worth thinking about:

The UNESCO World Heritage Site closest to home: I believe that, once or twice, I have visited Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, near Collinsville. At the time of those visits, many years ago, I had no idea how large the Mound Builder community was. I have recently read that, in its flourishing years (around 1250), the Mound Builders’ city was larger than London was at the same time.

A Marian shrine I was unaware of: Father Jeremy Paulin, OMV, of St. Mary’s in Alton, informed the priests of the Alton Deanery about the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rivers at Portage des Sioux, Mo., across the Mississippi River from Elsah, Ill. Now, many of us are familiar with Our Lady of the Highways, originally established in the 1950s by the Catholic Youth Organization in Raymond to grace U.S. Route 66; the shrine remains visible from southbound I-55, north of exit 63, and is a reminder to motorists to pray, and if motorists can’t remember the Hail Mary, it is supplied! Our Lady of the Rivers, in the territory where the Illinois and Missouri Rivers flow into the Mississippi, makes reference to the traffic of the waterways. More information is found at

And, always, books! Last time I told you of a biography which began in St. Louis. Now, I am reading a history of St. Louis, The Broken Heart of America by Walter Johnson, which examines the development of the city and environs from the perspective of race. And there is plenty to examine.

We can use our time at home to distract ourselves — and we need this, somewhat. We can also use this time to focus, in prayer, and in study, on the things we care most deeply about. Maybe a child of yours is sitting quietly. She may be coming up with a cure for a disease.

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