LEWISTON — “I can’t believe 500 books went that quickly. Amazing.”

Fr. Daniel Greenleaf, pastor of Prince of Peace Parish in Lewiston, was understandably taken aback by the overwhelming response to a new initiative that aims to bring people together, even if they’re apart, through the sharing of Catholic spiritual texts.

“Reading the Catholic Classics Together” will lead parishioners and community members through ten classic Catholic spiritual texts, page by page and chapter by chapter. Over the next few years, the parish will read the books together from the comfort of their own homes and then gather in small sharing groups or with Fr. Greenleaf on Monday nights at 6:30 in person at the hall of Holy Family Church or by using Microsoft Teams.

“Each week, the bulletin will provide a summary of the readings and questions for reflection and on Mondays, those interested will gather to discuss the week’s assignment. A link to the parish Microsoft Teams account will be provided for those who cannot gather but would still like to participate,” said Fr. Greenleaf.

Materials will also be available each week on the Prince of Peace website (www.princeofpeace.me). Interested parties from around the state can also go to the website and sign up to receive a weekly email that will include a link to an online discussion group and additional information at www.princeofpeace.me/introduction-to-the-devout-life.

The first book up is “Introduction to the Devout Life” by St. Francis de Sales, which is frequently used as a guide in Christian spiritual direction.

“St. Francis, a doctor of the Church, wrote the text in 1608 and it has never been out of print,” said Fr. Greenleaf. “His focus is on spiritual lives for the laity who live in the world, stating that not only priests and religious are called to holiness but everyone has this vocation regardless of their state in life.”

The syllabus spreads the book out in increments of about 30 pages per week, so everyone can read it together from Sept. 13 through early November.

Parishioners quickly jumped at the chance to participate. 

“I ordered 500 books for people who wanted physical copies to read from. At $5 per book to cover cost, they were gone before the last Mass of the weekend even began,” said Fr. Greenleaf.

Fortunately, the parish website has links for the free download of the text and the audio book for each of the books that will be read, and organizers hope that as the pages read and insightful experiences add up, so will the number of participants.  

“Today, with everyone’s busy schedule, we want to offer different kinds of opportunities to engage people,” said Fr. Greenleaf. “I hope this is only the beginning.”