A Blog by Rev. Susan Smith-Allen

Some years ago a colleague asked me whether I liked “Who-Dun-Its.”  I replied, “Sometimes.”  He then asked “Do you know how many priests read mysteries?”  “No idea.”  “Well, you’d be surprised, lots of priests read mysteries.”  This left me with no information whatsoever about percentages of priestly reading material; but several questions about the subject.  Why would a notable number of priests demonstrate a preference for mysteries?  Whose research was this?  A mystery, one supposes.  And scariest of all:  What did this penchant for reading mysteries say about folks in the priesthood, or for that matter, about all sorts and conditions of humanity

After making a few surreptitious inquiries among my colleagues – somewhat discreetly, I hoped – I found that my collrague was correct, many priests did in fact enjoy reading mysteries, I considered a few possible reasons, but arrived at no definite conclusion.  For example, had those years of undergraduate and graduate study left the poor souls mentally numb and searching for less challenging reading material?  Well, perhaps, but on the other hand almost all of them remained successfully functional in living out their call to serve the Lord our God, and the children of God.   Was this a form of post-graduate study intended to assist them in their search for Truth, both for their own satisfaction, and for the sake of their sisters and brothers in their respective parishes, and/or institutional ministries?  A mystery, indeed.

Not, of course, the sort of everyday mysteries that all we children of God commonly encounter; to wit:  Where was my cell phone when last I used it?  Or, wherever did I put my glasses?  (The frequent solution to this is simple – on top of one’s own head.) Or even, why does only one of a pair of socks vanish in the laundry? If one has grown children, the mysteries become more complex.  Grown children occasionally lead one to ponder, “However did I raise this child without her/ him being old enough to tell me how to do it?“  Truly mysterious.

Therefore, the solution must lay elsewhere.  The answer must be where all answers lie.  With the Most Holy.  We all solve puzzling mysteries each day, simple, vexing, irritating questions that arise in the course of daily life.  We also are confronted with issues that confound or confuse us, but we search out information that clarifies whatever it was that troubled us; or which leads us in the direction of a solution to the difficulty.  We like to consider ourselves resourceful.  But from the time we were children, we have questions for which there are no easy answers.  We are taught by those who love us, including our pastors, that many of these answers lie with God.  We live, always, with unanswered questions, we adhere to precepts we cannot fully explain, we believe many things for which we have no demonstrable proof.  We hear the phrase, ‘Holy Mysteries.’  And we are much reassured that though some things remain inexplicable to us, we are confident that we worship the Mysterious Holiness that is so profoundly more than we are.  We depend upon the mysterious Grace that renews and sustains us in the Eucharist.  And that, I believe, is at least a portion of the attraction of ‘mystery’ for us; that the unknown is not necessarily fraught with danger, but lies, as does all else,  within the purview of the Lord our God,  where we are eternally secure.

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