With Lent less than one week away, many of us are taking time to decide how we want to spend this prayerful and penitential season.
What prayers will we say? How will we fast or sacrifice? Where will we give alms?
One of my favorite Lenten practices is finding a new spiritual book to read. When we read spiritual books, we are inspired to grow in holiness, and our insights into the Catholic faith are deepened. Spiritual books can include the lives of the saints, writings of the early Church fathers, and modern theological or faith-based books.
As I was selecting some spiritual books to suggest for this article, four instantly came to mind. And while they are very different in style, all have one beautiful commonality. All of them point us to the most important spiritual book of all: the Bible.
Reading the Bible can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether we realize it or not, Scripture is all around us, and so much of our Catholic tradition is rooted in Scripture: the Mass, the Mysteries of the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross. Stories in the Gospels draw us into a deeper understanding of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. His personal encounters with men, women, and children, especially in how he heals them, help us experience a more intimate relationship with the Lord. When we read other books of the Bible, such as the Psalms, we can feel as if the passages were written just for us, and they become our own heartfelt prayers.
Here are four of my favorite spiritual books that invite us to pray with Scripture this Lent:
Above All by Take Up & Read. Above All is a prayer journal that invites readers to open their Bibles each day. It guides us in the ancient prayer practice of Lectio Divina, which invites us to read Scripture and meditate on how it applies to our daily lives. Each day, Above All offers daily Scripture passages, space to journal about our prayer experience, and devotional essays from a team of writers. This Advent, I prayed with Take Up & Read’s Rooted in Hope journal, and I had one of the most prayerful Advents I have ever had. Needless to say, I am rather hopeful that Above All will aid in a prayerful Lent, too. Find out more about Take Up & Read.
Jesus Approaches: What Contemporary Women Can Learn about Healing, Freedom & Joy from the Women of the New Testament by Elizabeth (Liz) Kelly. In this book, Liz shares familiar stories of New Testament women who encounter Jesus in a very personal way. And through their encounters, Jesus heals, transforms, and sets them free to flourish. She also incorporates moving accounts from her own life and stories of women she has met along the way. Topics within Jesus Approaches include motherhood, single life, chronic illness, forgiveness, and perfectionism. Guided meditations at the end of each chapter invite readers into the practice of praying with Scripture, and discussion questions can be answered in a journal or among a small group of friends. Learn more about Liz Kelly and her writing.
Walk in Her Sandals: Experiencing Christ’s Passion through the Eyes of Women by WINE: Women In the New Evangelization. This unique book leads readers on a personal journey through Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. Six fictional women, who witness the events of Holy Week, personify feminine gifts that help us deepen our relationship with Jesus: receptivity, sensitivity, generosity, prayer, maternity, and the Holy Spirit. Their imagined stories are complemented by real accounts of contemporary women, who share their own stories of receiving and cultivating these gifts. In addition, readers are invited to open their Bibles to read firsthand the accounts of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday, and Pentecost. Mini Bible lessons are provided that help us appreciate the historical, traditional, and cultural significance of the various events. Find out more about WINE.
The Thief by Stephanie Landsem. This novel beautifully weaves actual events from Sacred Scripture with a new storyline that is very realistic. It allows the reader to imagine life in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. It is about a young woman who is trying so hard to support her family and a Roman centurion who is searching for peace in a very unsettling career and world. Both are drawn to Jesus and His indescribable ways, and both are very much present at His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. The Thief not only is enjoyable and captivating. It also penetrates the soul with a deep message of mercy, love, faith, and peace. It enlivens the Gospel message and invites readers to deeper discipleship in Christ. Learn more about Stephanie Landsem and her writing.
What are you reading this Lent? How do you incorporate Scripture reading into your prayer life?
Copyright 2018 Sarah Damm