Some reading to help bolster the Lenten spirit

  • March 1, 2014

If you’re not ready, you can lose track of Lent. After Ash Wednesday slips by, the Thursdays and Fridays of Lent can seem a lot like any other Thursday or Friday.

Each and every year new books come off the presses to help us keep our Lenten focus on Jesus. Among the books either directly or potentially aimed at bolstering our 2014 Lenten spirit are:

o Change Our Hearts: Daily Meditations for Lent by Rory Cooney (Franciscan Media, 112 pages, softcover, $3.99). This is a solid, traditional guide to Lent based on the lectionary. Each day offers a short meditation on the Mass readings of the day, handily referenced at the top of the page. Each of the daily reflections ends with questions and a suggestion under the heading “Practice.” Cooney serves up a direct and practical guide to the journey of Lent embedded in the daily Mass.

o Stories of Jesus: 40 Days of Prayer and Reflection by Joseph Girzone (Franciscan Media, 146 pages, softcover, $14.99). Girzone, an American Carmelite priest, offers his version of Jesus in 40 separate meditations linked to dai ly Gospel readings throughout Lent. Girzone doesn’t pretend to be a scholar with deep knowledge of the social, religious, political and cultural forces at work in Israel under Caesar Augustus. The result is a Jesus of faith instead of a Jesus of history who comes off as rather American — as if the Son of God were a firm but fair high school football coach. But one thing Girzone gets right is the Lenten focus on Jesus. The journey of Lent is a journey with Jesus.

o Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation by Richard Rohr (Franciscan Media, 96 pages, softcover, $12.99). Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr has spent 30 years insisting Catholics must transcend a denominational mindset to experience communion on a more universal, mystical and transcendent level. Anything less than this betrays Christ and misconstrues the Trinity as some sort of political talking point among Christians. This is not specifically a guide to Lent. He seeks rather to prod people into a more mystical framework for prayer. The thin book on silence and contemplation is as much a polemic on behalf of prayer that transcends thoughtless, conventional and verbose platitudes as it is instruction on how to do it. Add to that an interfaith focus that seeks common truths of faith with Muslims, Jews and others.

o The Transforming Power of Lectio Divina: How to Pray with Scripture by Maria Tasto (Novalis, 128 pages, softcover, $14.95). Benedictine Sister Maria Tasto has a different formula for moving Catholics past a bland, shallow and formulaic prayer life. She seeks to equip Catholics with a Bible and a focused mind and heart. Tasto does a better job than most of explaining how reading the Gospels slowly then thinking about it is actually more difficult, more important and more fruitful than it might at first seem. Tasto’s book doesn’t address itself specifically to Lent. But any form of prayer that sets us off on a journey into the unknown cannot help but bring Lent back to life.

o Via Lucis: The Way of Light by Glenn Byer (Novalis, 63 pages, sof tcover, $7.95). Byer offers a straightforward prayer book that takes the reader through the 14 stations of the Via Lucis with readings, reflections and formal prayers. There’s no suggestion here that the Way of Light should be an alternative to the Way of the Cross during Lent. The Via Lucis is not a critique of the Via Crucis. Rather, these two prayers, structured as pilgrimages of the mind and heart, complement one another.

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