The Church of Used Books and CDs


Surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses means living in the fog of others’ holy breath.

In seminary, a Roman Catholic friend told me, “To Catholics, the world is a crowded place. Saints are everywhere.” Her words rise in my memory around All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day, and Dia De Los Muertos.

Among my experiences of the saints? Browsing used book and CD stores.

Maybe more a 12-step meeting than church, I am anonymous, but welcomed as one who belongs. Though baptized as a youth, I am now at home among the many denominations of used book and CD shops ’round the world, the local parishes of the invisible small-“c”-catholic church. I know the lingo and the culture; I chat with the help. If not the precise local liturgy, I know the sacramental intention of this place: communing with authors and artists across space and time with other seekers.

Among authors and artists who remind me what matters to me, I browse Religion, Philosophy, and Old Testament first. Today I am prepared to meet with Dogen, Thomas Moore, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Thich Nhat Hanh. Making my way to Nature Writings and Poetry/Essays, I seek a word of prayer with Gretel Ehrlich and David Whyte.

Always a visit to Music Biographies, these days to check for anything on June Carter Cash for Trishy. Always to Youth Series to check for the next Fablehaven and Pseudonymous Bosch for Sam.

In the CD area, there are mixed emotions. I shake my head sadly to see a Beatles CD, praying for the lost soul who gave it up. But then, in the great circle of life, maybe a tween Justin Bieber fan will attain enlightenment today.

I unfold the scrap of paper in my wallet reminding me which Dylan titles I am missing. Browse Bluegrass for Punch Brothers. Lament that there has never been an AC/DC Greatest Hits compilation. Hoping against hope that I may run across a rare P. Hux. I pull out jewel cases from the clearance bin with mixed emotions: “What great deals!” but also “Why does no one appreciate the genius of Michael Penn the way I do?” And always a quick glance to check for Sarah Vowell books on CD, because why would you read her when you can hear her amazing voice?

I am fellowshipping with the world of seekers.

I pull books off shelves which I have no intention of buying; I just want to feel their weight and shape and be close to the words, feel the breath of the saints.

I am part of a world where holy scripture is everywhere. And I am in good company.

“That which you are seeking,” writes Sheri Huber, “is causing you to seek.”

Blessings to you this All Saints week.

About Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Life is full and comes in seasons. View all posts by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

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