Lenten Lit

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My sister wrote a beautiful piece yesterday about learning to embrace a different “style” of Lent with little ones. You should read it, but the gist is: when you have a lot of external demands (as you do with motherhood), Lent shouldn’t be about beating yourself up for all of the things you wish you could do, but can’t. Instead, learn to offer up the daily things as means of sanctification and carefully choose which Lenten activities you can reasonably do. She mentions reading “Come, Be My Light” by Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, which I think is a marvelous idea.

I am always striving to read something theological/spiritual anyway, but during Lent I try to grab something that directs me specifically to Holy Week. I thought I’d leave a little list here of suggested Lenten reading and I hope you’ll leave me some suggestions in the comments!

“The Living Wood” by Louis de Wohl
De Wohl shows up quite frequently on my reading list– I don’t know how he managed to elude me until my mid-twenties. This particular tale of his recounts the story of Helena and her son, the Emperor Constantine. “The Living Wood” refers to the tradition that St. Helena was the finder of the True Cross, but the story is about so much more than that. How do we face adversity in life? Where is Christ when we need him? How can even our most selfish intentions be brought to serve the Almighty? A quick, engrossing read, 370 pages.

“The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son” by Jon D. Levenson
This text by one of the foremost Hebrew Bible Scholars in the world explores the Jewish contributions to the Christian narrative of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. Levenson is a devout Jew, with a special gift and penchant for Jewish/Christian relations. His text is thick, rich, challenging and ripe with passages for contemplation. Recommended for those with a strong Biblical studies background, 232 pages.

“The Everlasting Man” by GK Chesterton
How does Christ stand completely apart from every other religious figure, even when He appears to be so similar to many of them? What is the relationship of historical man and this God-man we call Jesus Christ? Chesterton’s gift for rhetoric and a happy turn of phrase are on prominent display in this text. But don’t be fooled by his fast-paced style– this text needs digestion, so be prepared to read and re-read passages as you ruminate, 276 pages.

“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by CS Lewis
You are never too old to revisit such an enchanting, heart-softening allegory. If you’d like a text that leads you to contemplation of the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection, there is none better than a text which asks you to do this through the innocence of childhood. Revisit Aslan and the stone table before Good Friday. Which character do you most identify with this time? 224 pages

“The Way of a Pilgrim”
I wrote not that long ago of viewing Lent as a pilgrimage: This Russian Orthodox classic is perfect for this time of year because of its call for and instruction in deep, interior prayer. Though written as a travelogue, the Way actually takes the reader on pilgrimage with its anonymous author, through the devotion of constant meditation on the Jesus Prayer (‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner’). Join this monk as he seeks to “pray without ceasing”– can we follow in his footsteps? 208 pages

“Salvifici Doloris” Apostolic Letter, Pope St. John Paul II
‘Theodicy’ is the big word we theological-types use to describe the universal intellectual struggle we humans have in trying to understand good and evil. This text faces the specific problem of “suffering” in the Divine Plan: how can God allow people to suffer evil? Why did God choose to suffer for our deliverance? How do I find meaning in my own suffering and what must I do in the face of my neighbor’s suffering? A must-read for every Christian, but especially poignant as we approach Holy Week. Free on the Vatican archives, or 64 pages in print.

“Little Talks With God” the Dialogues of Catherine of Siena
I’ve written about this text before and my preference for the new translation over the old. If you’d like a totally different genre, then this is it. My sister Dominican (and a third order at that!) and Doctor of the Church, Catherine, dictated these dialogues while in an ecstatic state, conversing with God about penance, obedience, sin and retribution and all sorts of other things besides. If you’d like a text which weaves together mystical experience, the Bible and the teachings of the Church, this one is for you. I also notice with much chagrin that this is the only text I have here by a woman. I must remedy that in subsequent lists, 188 pages.

You may notice that all of the purchasing links direct you to Better World Books. Of course you can purchase them through Amazon, but this business is near and dear to my heart, as it was founded by fellow Domers. Through collecting donations of used books and selling them online, Better World Books is able to fund literacy initiatives all around the world. Finally– a charity that allows me to give the gift of reading to others AND myself! Happy reading and blessed Lenten journey.

What are your suggestions for Lenten Literature?

Please let me know so I can add them to my personal queue!

 

 

 

 

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Good Friday?

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“Crucifixion” by Alonzo Cano

I was explaining to Emmie (now three years old!) that we were going to Good Friday service later today. As is usually the case, Good Friday here is overcast and gray with a high chance for rain. But as I rambled on about what we remember on Good Friday, Emmie just paused, put on her best Eeyore voice and said matter-of-factly: 

“Good for people. Not for Eeyores.” 
 
 
 
I don’t even have a good follow-up for that one.

Anything But Ordinary

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I actually managed to pick up my Liturgy of the Hours book today and do morning prayer. I’ve been horrible about getting in my much-needed prayer time during these last few weeks… and the excuse isn’t the newborn. Finding time to pray is actually quite easy when you’re tied down to a chair for 15-20 minutes a dozen times per day, but making the time is the difficult part. I find it’s much easier to devote 15 minutes to a Rosary when they are a stolen 15 minutes in-between lunch and work and dishes. When I have a lot of time, it’s harder to convince myself that I should use this particular 15 minutes for my prayer.

I digress.

What I wanted to jot down is the feeling I had when I opened up my prayer book to Week I of Ordinary Time. Ordinary. No special antiphons or hymns. Just back to the numbered, green weeks that form the backbone of the liturgical year. And I have to admit that after such a chaotic, intense Advent and the hustle and bustle of having a baby born on Christmas Day, then his baptism celebrated on the Baptism of the Lord… it was kind of nice to sit down with my cup of coffee this Friday morning and feel the comfortable slide back into “ordinary” time in this new chapter of my “ordinary” life.

Busy Prep

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Preparing for something is a lot of work.  Think about the last time you hosted a dinner– regardless of the occasion or how many people were coming. If you’re anything like me, the planning had many stages: invitations (formal or informal, they still require effort), setting aside time in an already-packed schedule, planning a menu, doing the shopping, prepping the food, cleaning the house…

Beauty tips?!? You mean I have to try to look good, too??

…it’s exhausting!

And don’t even get me started on Christmas. Rather than being a relaxing, contemplative time of the year, Advent is SO BUSY with travel-planning, gift-buying and at least for us– FINAL EXAMS… ughhhhhh… that I barely have time to appreciate the pretty purple… no wait– rose already!– oh no, back to purple… vestments.

It really should come as no surprise by now that Lent is also a season of “Busy.” As someone who has worked for the Church as a music minister, campus minister and all sorts of odd jobs in-between, my Lent is always a struggle to FIT. IN. ALL. THE. PREP. so that I can prepare myself and my community to truly “enjoy” Easter.  I looked at my calendar today and my head is already spinning at the prayer services, musical rehearsals and classes I have coming up before Easter. This is a light year for us in terms of Lenten ministry and it’s still a little dizzying. Plus, I just realized that my hubby and I *still* need to find time to go to confession, too!

But before I freak out about how un-desert-like, un-restful and un-fulfilling this Lent seems to have been, I have to stop and think: “Fasting.” Fasting is when we give something good up in order to make room for a greater good. Fasting can mean abstaining from things, or it can mean giving up our time– in this case, any “free” time I was under the illusion I possessed. Perhaps this is as it should be. Maybe in this midst of all this outward busy-ness I can still find my “center of stillness surrounded by… chaos.”

Of course, this could also be the eye-opener I need that allows me to check myself and say “Slow down…” But for now I’m going to keep on “fasting,*” because that’s the only way I know. And I hope that as long as I offer up these busy times and ask God to bless them, too, that I will be ready to receive Him when Easter comes.

Do you find time to appreciate “stillness” during Lent? 
How does God reach you through your Busy Times? How do you reach out to Him?


*Please tell me you got the pun, because I thought that was awesome.