The following reflection was written by Sr. Teresa Beltrano, a Daughter of St. Paul serving in our bookcenter in Palermo, Sicily, Italy. She shares what it was like to close the bookcenter, what it has been like to be closed these past two months, and how it has made her think about the value of books, of our bookcenters, and of the Pauline mission of evangelization. To see the bookcenter where Sr. Teresa serves, visit “Libreria Paoline Palermo” on Facebook.
In this unexpected and almost undefinable time, many sectors of our social and economic life have been forced to close their doors, for their health and the health of others. Essential services like grocery stores have remained open, but not bookstores. Bookstores were not part of the essential category, and although we have adhered to the closure, without “buts” and without “ifs,” I have asked myself whether books are not something—I’m not saying essential the way food is essential—but just as substantial for nourishing the mind, the heart, and the soul. Books, like music, art, and every form of creative expression, have always been important for our growth and for our personal, social, cultural, and Christian identity.
It was not easy to close the doors of our bookcenters…. Many physical bookstores have equipped themselves to be able to offer their customers a new selection of books, and the opportunity to have books sent to their homes. We, too, have done this…. So many in this time, among the many things there are to do at home, have chosen to read. In the name of a passion, of a mission, and of a profound conviction, bookstores and books remain an important “lighthouse” in our cities. We Paulines, who live and operate our bookcenters as a mission, as an important form of communicating values both human and evangelical, will continue to seek ways to do this!
Our bookcenters are about living, listening, touching, and tasting…. The bookcenters are made up of people who counsel, who listen, who offer direction, who serve as mediators between the editor, the author, and the text. They are made up of who come in and who enrich the bookcenters with their own experience, knowledge, and research! This is what we have missed in this time of isolation and of being closed. Our bookcenters are familiar places, in which people encounter each other, exchange experiences and share what they have lived humanly and spiritually. They are places of formation and not just bookshelves of books and music and movies!
We will continue to believe…in the value of books as places of encounter, of relationships, of listening…in people with their stories who have come to our bookcenters for years and who are a part of us…. The bookcenter is not a “store” like other stores, the Pauline bookcenter is a place inhabited by people who seek in the books, in their content, and in us, comfort, hope, culture, nourishment of faith…. Thus they seek that “fresh bread” that makes us reopen our doors every morning…as soon we will be able to do again. We continue to hope!
Sr. Teresa Beltrano, fsp