Here is my March column that appears in the print Catholic Post this weekend.
Are you ready for Lent yet? Not quite?
I’m not, either.
Lent and Easter are so late this year that it should be a cinch to have all our Lenten devotions and practices spelled out, but it never seems to happen that way. So I have started to set aside some books. That’s because I know that alongside prayer, fasting and almsgiving, spiritual reading can make Lent fruitful, even more so than giving up my beloved dark chocolate.
There’s a great book blog called “A Library is a Hospital for the Mind.” With a nod to that fascinating title, I submit that good spiritual reading is a kind of “hospital for the soul.” If you haven’t had spiritual reading as part of your Lenten practice, or are looking for something fresh, here are a few suggestions of newer books to consider:
*The Little Way of Lent: Meditations in the Spirit of St. Therese of Lisieux by Fr. Gary Caster, a priest of the diocese of Peoria. [Full disclosure here: Father Caster was my boss when I taught high school for two years, and I’ve known him for nearly two decades. ] Father Caster draws on a long devotion to the “Little Flower” to give meditations for each day of Lent. “What struck me,” Father Caster writes St. Therese, “was her insistence on the way we do things for God and not the things we do for him. It wasn’t about what I was offering; it was about why.” There are great little “nuggets” of quotes from St. Therese at the end of each reflection.
*”God speaks to us in the great silence of our heart,” is a famous quote from St. Augustine, and the frontspiece for Finding Your Hidden Treasure: The Way of Silent Prayer by Benignus O’Rourke, OFA. This nicely–sized book is truly “treasure”-filled with short meditations and encouragement from St. Augustine and his spirituality. Finding Your Hidden Treasure is a wonderful read, eliciting a spirit of silence and peace on every page.
*Lent & Easter Wisdom from St. Benedict, by Judith Sutera, OSB, is the newest in Liguori’s “Lent & Easter Wisdom” series (other authors include GK Chesterton, Fulton Sheen and many others). There’s a short quote from St. Benedict, Scripture verse, prayer, and Lenten action for each day of Lent and Easter Week. A great instructive guide to St. Benedict’s thoughts.
*If you’re ready this Lent to take on a classic like St. Francis de Sales Introduction to the Devout Life, consider an excellent new edition by TAN Classics. For many years, TAN was a reliable publisher of classics and great new books, but the graphic design and book quality were… let’s just say they left a little something to desired.
Since TAN was acquired by Saint Benedict Press several years ago, all that has changed. The books are still the great classics, like Story of a Soul, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, and others are here. The difference is that the books have handsome, durable covers; beautiful typesetting and fonts, and just the right “feel.” Finally, these great classics have a production value that begins to match their greatness.
–What are your favorite Lenten reads? What are you planning to read this Lent?