Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Discarded Books

by Ann Cavera


One of us can't resist the lure of those bargain tables in bookstores. These leftover books called "remainders" often sell for $5 or less. We once found a book called "Reaching toward the Heights" with the price of 25 cents on one of these tables.

The author, Richard Wurmbrand, was a Lutheran pastor of Jewish origin. Born in Romania in 1909, he later spent 14 years in Communist prisons and three of those years were in solitary confinement. Later, he and his wife immigrated to California, where they began "Voice of the Martyrs," a worldwide ministry to those imprisoned for Christ.   

We found "Reaching toward the Heights" to be full of wit, wisdom, stories and deep spiritual insight; all for the price of a quarter. All of this remained undiscovered by people willing to spend a hundred times the price for a bestseller, or a book on the latest hot topic.

Wurmbrand's little book might have been overlooked because few people knew his name or his story. Maybe the title wasn't catchy enough, or the cover didn't work. We paid the quarter because we were curious. Later we discovered the wealth inside.

Henry David Thoreau said, "What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." We can no more see what is inside another person than we can see the whole spectrum of light or hear the whole range of sound.

We make judgments and mentally place people on "remainder tables" without a clue as to what lies within them. People have a habit of deciding the value of someone without looking below the surface. After all, Nathaniel judged Jesus, sight unseen, with the words, "From Nazareth? Can anything good come from that place?"

God has an interesting habit of picking his heroes from the leftover tables of humanity. People thought little of an Israelite youth named Joseph stuck in an Egyptian prison. When Samuel came to anoint a king, no one had bothered to call David in from the fields.

Who would have thought that a South African man stuck in prison for 27 years would become one of the world's greatest leaders? How many times were all of these people discounted with a look, excluded or cut down with a word to the size people tried to make them?

The unborn, lost to us through abortion, are the most discounted of all. Only God sees the treasure lost to us when the most helpless are considered to be an inconvenience. Among them are likely to be ones God has chosen to bring peace, cure terrible illnesses and open our hearts to his love.

For a quarter, we discovered the life of a man who brought thousands to Christ. How much is the life of an unborn child worth? 


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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.