Monday, February 9, 2015

Lenten Reading

It's that time of year to think: what am I gonna do for lent this year? If you read Catholic blogs and websites you'll never lack for suggestions. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving. There's so many ways to do these.

Spiritual reading comes under the heading of prayer. Depending on what you select, and how you read it, the reading itself is prayer.   Due to its status as liturgy, the Liturgy of the Hours is a prime example of this.  If you don't regularly pray the Office of Readings, then there is no better lenten spiritual reading. If you're pressed for time, just skip the psalms and do the two readings--one from scripture and one from the saints/fathers/doctors of the Church--by themselves.  But of course, the psalms give context and elevate the entire thing into the universal prayer of Christians throughout the world.

You already do the Office of Readings? Good for you. You might add to spiritual reading in a number of ways:

-Read through the gospels, several epistles, or some Old Testament book during lent.
-choose a papal encyclical or two. Deus Caritas Est by Benedict XVI, Dives in Misericordia or Salvifici Doloris by St. John Paul II,  or Evangelium Gaudium by Pope Francis are all good possibilities.

-choose a Catholic Classic that has stood the test of time. Introduction to the Devout Life, The Imitation of Christ, Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, The Story of a Soul.   It always takes a little more mental effort to immerse oneself in the language of a century or three ago, but that's just the sort of toughness we want to exercise during lent.

-Okay. You know you'll be too tired or distracted to focus on a classic work? Fear not. There's lots of new titles out there by popular authors which look really good. Here are a few promising ones that have recently come my way:
40 Days, 40 Ways by Marcellino D'Ambrosio - as the title suggests, you get a different lenten activity each day. It might be a suggested penance, a prayer practice to explore, a work or mercy, or just a topic for meditation.  On day seven he suggests that we pray one psalm a day and/or explore the Liturgy of the Hours, so D'Ambrosio on my list of good guys!

Spiritual Warfare by Paul Thigpen   - this book sold out its first printing in just a few weeks. Although the Kindle edition is available at a reduced price, the gorgeous leatherbound print edition might be worth waiting for. A serious book for our troubled times.

Remade for Happiness by Fulton Sheen a best seller from the 1950s is now back in print from Ignatius Press. It asks "What are You Like? How Did You Get that Way? Who Can Remake You?"If you've never had a taste of Sheen's writing, this is a great one to start with.

Practical Theology- SpiritualDirection from St. Thomas Aquinas- 350 Ways Your Mind Can Help You Become aSaint by Peter Kreeft Ignatius Press a modern apologist takes the most practical passages of the Summa and helps you see the perennial wisdom of St. Thomas. 

These are just a few. If you like, share in the comments below what spiritual reading worked well for you last year, and/or what you are planning to use this year?

Plus any Divine Office-related questions are welcome as well.