Reflective Moments with Angela: United in heart like the Joad family

By Sister Michele Morek

Ah, summer! Time to work on our summer reading lists. For years, when anyone asked me the name of my favorite book, I have always said it was John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”  But wait, I read that about 50 years ago – was it really as wonderful as I remembered? So, I re-read it this summer to see if it is still my favorite. It is.

And I imagine it will be put on someone’s “condemned books” list if it is not there already.

The story of a family of “Okies” – migrating during the Great Depression from the dustbowl to the golden land of California for a better life – still resonates today. It could be taken from the stories of migrants from any number of countries.

No wonder Steinbeck won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for it, and that it figured heavily in his Nobel Prize in 1962. The writing is breathtaking.

All I remembered of it vividly was a chapter about a turtle crossing a road, so each part was fresh and new to me. I was almost finished with the book and was wondering how it could possibly end. How can the Joad family – having experienced so many deaths and losses, and down to zero money, zero food, with no prospects for work – pull off a happy ending? Will Steinbeck surprise us?

He does. Reminding me that “happy” is not always pink clouds or handsome princes, he surprised me with a stunning, triumphant ending – a triumph of the human spirit and the power of family.

The experience of reading the book was a perfect preparation for our July Community Days and the message from Sister Sharon Sullivan, a message about “Transition to Transformation.”  I have decided that as I enter retirement, her image of the caterpillar melting into a “cellular soup” before it can become the butterfly – leaving its familiar life behind without knowing what it is becoming – is pretty apt.

But for all of us who follow the way of Saint Angela Merici, we know that “Without doubt (we) will see marvelous things!” (Prologue to the Counsels) And like the Joad family, “Living all united in heart, (we) will be like a mighty fortress.” (Last Counsel)


  1. Suzanne Sims

    You have inspired me to read that classic that is somewhere down my want-to-read-sometime list. I am grateful for your insights that focus on the signs of our times, 50 years later! Your comment regarding the “black list” of books keeps me remembering that history is repeating itself if we can see and be aware of it. Thank you!

  2. Joni Dugan

    I’ll be daggone — I know you. Happy entrance into retirement. I will miss you on NCR. I will certainly add Grapes of Wrath to my list to read. I probably used Cliff Notes when I was in college or high school as I am not the greatest reader in the world. But I will give it a twirl. Thanks for your comments.

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