by Father Mark Goldasich
Bill, bill, junk, magazine, bill, junk, junk, newspaper, magazine, heavy brown envelope.
Wait, what? A heavy, brown envelope, marked media mail, from my cousin Therese in California? Wow, what a surprise! And, best of all, it held an absolutely welcome book!
Since it’s the end of Catholic Press Month, I thought it appropriate to suggest that your Lenten discipline this year include a spiritual book. The first place to start is with one that your parish may have given you at Christmastime. Since that’s such a busy time of year, I suspect that many people take the book home and either forget about it or use it to prop up that short leg on the kitchen table.
Lent is the perfect opportunity to dust off that volume and open it up. My parish distributed Matthew Kelly’s “Resisting Happiness” (Beacon Press, 2016; 228 pgs.; $24.95), written for people who feel overwhelmed, procrastinate, sabotage their own dreams or are their own worst enemy.
Sound familiar? The book shows how to start choosing happiness again. Incidentally, go to the Dynamic Catholic website at: dynamiccatholic.com and sign up for its Best Lent Ever daily email, which begins on Ash Wednesday. The program is geared to the book and will provide inspirational videos, practical tips and a study guide all the way through Easter Monday. And it’s free! (Even if you didn’t get this particular book, the program will still be valuable.)
Another book you probably have in your home is one that’s often treated as more a religious prop than a tool for spiritual growth. That book is, of course, the Bible. If you’ve been neglecting it, whet your appetite by reading the meditation on the Sermon on the Mount found on page 5 of this issue. It introduces you to “lectio divina” or holy reading, where you take your time and think about a short passage of Scripture. Since we’re always in a hurry, even with our prayer, lectio slows us down so we can listen to the word of God speak to us.
After reading that entry on the beatitudes, you might want to know more about the Bible, but feel intimidated by it. An excellent resource is “The Bible Made Easy: A Book-by-Book Introduction,” by Father Timothy P. Schehr (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2006; 246 pgs.; $16.95). Written in an easy-to-read style, the author takes you through each book of the Bible, summarizes it, explains names and foreign terms, gives its historical context and then provides discussion or meditation questions.
Lent is a time for going into the depths of our heart. John L. Graden’s “Letting Go, Hanging On: A Guide for the Spiritual Journey” (Paulist Press, 2015; 136 pgs.; $14.95) would be an ideal guide. The book helps people look at life and see what you hold onto, what you should hold onto and what you should let go of in order to grow spiritually. Highly readable, each chapter includes a meditation, Scripture passage, reflection questions and activities.
Although we know that prayer should definitely be a part of our Lenten experience, we might be stymied as to what it’s all about. Jesuit Father Richard Leonard comes to the rescue with “Why Bother Praying?” (Paulist Press, 2013; 160 pgs.; $14.95). One reviewer said that the author approaches this question “with honesty, deep knowledge, humor and a warm heart.” If you want to know what all this talk about having a personal relationship with Jesus is all about, this book will open that door.
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about that book that my cousin sent me. It’s called “All Shall Be Well” (Orbis Books, 2015; 359 pgs.; $16) and contains readings from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday . . . and then some. Entries come from a variety of writers — Thomas Merton, Jim Martin, Pope Francis, Joan Chittister, Henri Nouwen, John Updike, Joyce Rupp, Jean Vanier and Greg Boyle, to name a few — and are from one to 15 pages long. Topics range from “Why I Love Lent” to “Two Old People and a Young Man with a Gun.” Honestly, I can hardly wait for Lent, so I can start reading this.
Sometimes, people shy away from a book because “it’s just too long.” Lent is the perfect time to put that attitude to rest. Say you’re going to read “Why Bother Praying?” Divide its actual 143 pages of text by the 46 days from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday and you only have to read 3 pages a day to finish the book. Now, who doesn’t have time for that?
Holy cow, folks, Lent is almost here. It’s time to get bookin’.