As we journey in Lent, we need to remember it is about more than 40 days of sacrifice. CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

Lent is about spiritual commitment to Christ

By  CAROLYN SAVOIE, Catholic Register Special
  • February 16, 2015

Sacred Journey: Daily Reflections for Lent 2015. By Krystyna Higgins. (Novalis. 49 pages. $2.50).
40 Days, 40 Ways: A New Look at Lent. By Marcellino D’Ambrosio. (Servant Books, an imprint of Franciscan Media. 127 pages. $14.99). Sacred Silence: Daily Meditations for Lent. By Phyllis Zagano. (Franciscan Media. 132 pages. $9.99).

Lent is upon us and it’s time to make some room for change. This year, will Lent pass us by as little more than 40 days of good intentions or will it become a life-changing journey? These three books remind us that it’s not enough to give up chocolate or some other vice — although sacrifice does have its place. Authors Krystyna Higgins, Marcellino D’Ambrosio and Phyllis Zagano remind us each in their own way that Lent is about renewing our spiritual commitment to Christ and hopefully going deeper and maturing in our relationship with Him.

Sacred Journey is the shortest publication of the three — merely a booklet — yet serves as a good starting point for reflection on the daily readings. Higgins effectively reminds us that Lent is a journey and uses Scripture as a springboard to introspection and awareness of our humanshortcomings. The introduction provides a lovely analogy, that the spiritual journey of Lent resembles a labyrinth, whereby it “leads us slowly but surely inwards to the centre and then outwards again to the larger world.”

Each page lists Bible references for the daily readings followed by a short quote pulled from those readings. A personal reflection follows, inspired by the scriptural quote, and wraps up with a bite-sized prayer.

Short and to the point, this booklet pulls examples from everyday life to remind us of our need to recognize our sins, humble ourselves and place ourselves with joy at the foot of the cross.

Because of its brevity, for some, it may not provide enough guidance for deepening that relationship.

If that’s the case, you may want to pick up a copy of 40 Days 40 Ways, A New Look at Lent. With roughly triple the content, it packs a lot of information. So much so that D’Ambrosio, in his introduction, recommends praying for 15-20 minutes before beginning the Lenten journey and asking the Holy Spirit to help you pick three ideas from the list of 40 suggestions and commit to doing those throughout Lent, with the possibility of adding more once these are mastered.

Each of his 40 suggestions are explained in greater detail. In some cases he weaves in biblical references to support the ideas and includes information about the origin of related Catholic traditions and how to use them. Some of the entries also include personal experiences or accounts from the Bible to help illustrate the real-life application of each suggested exercise.

The author does not stop there. There is a separate section titled “Lenten Resources,” with a list of books that are almost all available as audiobooks. The author’s intention is to provide the best resources he knows and hopes you will use them to keep the spiritual journey going after Easter.

There is no doubt that many of the spiritual exercises offered by D’Ambrosio can help you on your way to a life-changing relationship with God. It is a good resource and provides ideas that would appeal to a broad range of readers.

That said, despite our best intentions and commitment to prayer and reflection, busy thoughts and a daunting to-do list can easily prevent us from hearing God’s voice. This is where our third book comes in.

Sacred Silence: Daily Meditations for Lent is an absolute gem in helping the reader to identify the need for silence and seek it first and foremost. Zagano is most effective at encouraging stillness and drawing the reader into insightful reflections. “Lent is not an intellectual exercise, but an affair of the heart.”

Each entry begins by listing the daily readings, followed by a scriptural quote and follows with a reflection written in the first person. What sets this book apart is Zagano’s ability to leave the reader reflecting on purpose, direction and ultimately on Christ.

She addresses some of the stumbling blocks of Lent early on. For example, she begins with a wonderful entry on silence and how to create it or get it back in our lives. Without this silence, prayer becomes a one-way street. Day two addresses fasting and she cautions against making promises “driven by an indulgent self-help motivation.”

Zagano masterfully addresses the various themes of Lent and shares insightful thoughts and ideas, while effectively leading the reader to reflect on Christ’s public ministry, His betrayal and the meaning of His death and resurrection in our own lives.

All three books are helpful companions for the Lenten journey, with Sacred Silence being the most refreshing option, whereas 40 Days, 40 Ways will equip you with practical tools that you can continue using throughout the year

(Savoie is a freelance writer in Ottawa.)

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