"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Friday, March 7, 2014

Faith Filled Friday: Lenten Reads

With Ash Wednesday a couple of days ago, we began the Lenten season.  In addition personal penance, fasting, extra prayer, contemplation of Christ’s Passion, an intellectually minded Christian should also read a spiritual work during the 40-something days leading to Easter Sunday.  This year I’ve decided to read a medieval work, The Imitation of Christ  by Thomas à Kempis The work was completed around 1427 by a German monk (or perhaps a combined effort of three monks) in the Netherlands.  I’ve been cautioned by several people here that this might now be the most exciting read.  What motivated me to read this, though, was that this book was at one point the most read book after the bible.  So without fear, I have jumped into it and will provide some observation in the coming weeks.

In addition, I hope all will take up some religious work.  Here are a number of ideas.  First let me plug books on what I have now considered the patron saint of this blog, St. Catherine of Siena.  My Lenten read from last year was a biography by the Nobel Prize winning author, Sigrid Undset, CatherineOf Siena.  I also posted four blogs on my reading of the biography which you can find here.   
I also recommend these two other books on St. Catherine, though I’ve only perused them.  A book of her prayers, The Prayersof Catherine of Siena: 2nd Edition by Suzanne Noffke and an understanding of her theology, Catherine of Siena: Spiritual Development inHer Life and Teaching by Thomas McDermott. 

In addition you can find some really good ideas for Lenten reads from two Catholic crackerjack book smiths, bloggers Elizabeth Scalia at The Anchoress and Julie Davis at Happy Catholic.  They both provide a long list of great ideas to read during Lent.  I’m just going to list the books they recommend, but both posts give little summaries of the books and links to the Amazon page, so check out their write ups.

From The Anchoress’s “Lenten Reading Recommendations 2014”:

Jesus the Bridegroom: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Brant Pitre.
Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI.
Jesus: A Pilgrimage by James Martin, SJ.
Julian’s Gospel: Illuminating the Life and Revelations of Julian of Norwich, by Veronica Mary Rolf.
The Showings of Julian of Norwich: A New Translation by Mirabai Starr.
Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard by Soren Kierkegaard.
Yes, God!: What Ordinary Families Can Learn about Parenting from Today’s Vocation Stories, by Susie Lloyd.
Through the Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections by Pope Francis.
Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum.
With God in Russia, by Fr. Walter J. Ciszek SJ.
Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and Keep Your Day Job, by Kerry Weber.
Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom.
Cultivating God’s Garden Through Lent, by Margaret Rose Realy.
Simplifying the Soul: Lenten Practices to Renew Your Spirit by Paula Huston.
The Romance of Religion by Father Dwight Longenecker.
God for Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter edited by Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe.
Naked and You Clothed Me: Homilies and Reflections, with contributions from Deacon Greg Kandra, James Martin, SJ, Rob Bell and others.
And don’t forget Ms. Scalia’s books:
Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life by Elizabeth Scalia.
I Don't Want to be a Hoo-er by Elizabeth Scalia.

From Happy Catholic’s “Lenten Reading Ideas”:
The Medium and the Light: Reflections on Religion and Media by Marshall McLuhan.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko.
The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold.
The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling. 
In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden.
Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy by Rumer Godden.
The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis.
The Last Monk of Tibhirine by Freddy Derwahl.
A Song For Nagasaki by Fr. Paul Glynn.
The Bells of Nagasaki by Takashi Nagai.
When the Carpenter Was King by Maria von Trapp.
Lectio Divina books by Stephen J. Binz.
Night of the Confessor by Tomas Halik.
Gospel of Mark, The (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture) by Mary Healy.
To Know Christ Jesus by Frank Sheed.
The School of Prayer: An Introduction to the Divine Office for All Christians by John Brook.
Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom.
Contemplating the Trinity: The Path to Abundant Christian Life by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa.

And don’t forget Ms. Davis’s books:
Happy Catholic by Julie Davis.
Lord, Open My Heart: Daily Scriptural Reflections for Lent by Julie Davis.

One common pick between the two bloggers is Anthony Bloom’s Beginning to Pray.  That sounds interesting enough to pick it up.  I’m always looking for more ideas on prayer.
Have you read any of the recommendations?  I’d like to hear your thoughts on them if you have.  I may pick a second read for Lent, and I can’t decide which one.  Do you have any recommendations?


  1. I DO think the Imitation is exciting! Just so pithy that I find it hard to digest large chunks all at once. I think you'll find it wonderful. I have a translation that is in older language, which I like. I have heard of others liking the translations in modern English better.

    Wow those lists are long! From the Anchoress, I didn't recognize a whole lot. I also want to read a book by Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, He Leadeth Me. I always wanted to try Jesus of Nazareth, too, but I don;t think this year, as I am already full to overflowing. I also just heard about Mercy in the City, and want to read that...sometime.
    The Happy Catholic List, I found interesting, and... strange? I can understand Lord of the Rings, but Harry Potter? I'm sure she has some reason. Don't get me wrong, I read all the books and enjoyed them, and don't see the supposed danger there, but as spiritual reading for Lent?
    I just finished the Space Trilogy. Love it!
    I posted my reading list over on my blog. The only addition I am making is Father Z's daily Lentcast. They are fantastic. I download them to my phone, and can listen to them while I wait places, etc.
    I will probably come back and refer to your list when I am ready for more reading material! Some of them look really good.

    1. If you read her (Julie at Happy Catholic) post, she explains why Harry Potter. It was a surprise to me too but I've never read any Harry Potter.

  2. I look forward to your posts about The Imitation of Christ. Perhaps a short (modern language) summary every now and then.

    God bless.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Victor M. I envision at least one post on The Imitation of Christ. I'm about a quarter of the way through and already have formed some definite thoughts.