Catholic Lenten Reading

A few days ago, I may some suggestions that might constitute a list of possibilities for Lenten reading.  Most of those sources had Protestant roots (very good, very firm, very reliable Protestant roots) and today,  I thought perhaps it was time for a few possibilities rooted in the Catholic Tradition.

I must, of course, make at least a head nod to what is perhaps the most-read Christian spiritual work outside of the Bible--The Imitation of Christ. It has earned its place in the library of spiritual reading through its no-nonsense, solid, practical advise for those who are seeking a better way.  One can find it in everything from Latin to on-line editions,  (two) (three) (four) (five) this is one work that every Catholic should take the time to acquaint themselves with.  It rewards slow lectio-like reading and could make a perfect devotional (depending on one's temperament) for the season.

For a little break in the prose, one might wish to intersperse the reading of the Imitation with the poetry of Robert Southwell  or the works of Richard Crashaw. 

There are other classics we could trot out as well--The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, A Sinner's Guide by the Venerable Louis of Granada,  and Holy Wisdom by Father Augustine Baker,

For somewhat off-beat and more challenging reading one might approach the English mystics including Richard Rolle Fire of Love, Julian of Norwich--Revelations of Divine Love, or The Cloud of Unknowing.

But the best guide for reading in Lent, or spiritual reading of any sort is to read that which leads you on to greater love--for God and for your fellow human beings who manifest God in the world today.  These classics can be a little austere and chilly for some--inspiring more the sense of penance than the true wonder of love. 

How marvelous then that there are so many possibilities available to those who are seeking a "reading pilgrimage" during the great Lenten season.  It might be wise to reconsider the dilemmas of the priests in The Power and the Glory and Silence.  Or perhaps we just need to pass some time with extraordinary/ordinary people as in Kristin Lavransdatter and Torngy Lindgren's The Way of a Serpent or Sweetness or François Mauriac's Tangle of Vipers or Woman of the Pharisees.  Or perhaps something more like Gertrude von le Fort's Last to the Scaffold, or Georges Bernanos's Diary of a Country Priest.  The hagiographical novels of Louis de Wohl (many recently reprinted and available from Ignatius Press) make for some relatively light reading with a strong spiritual flavor and undertone, among my favorites is the biography of Cassius Longinus The Spear, and The Quiet Light about St. Thomas Aquinas.

Of course, there are a myriad of other possibilities, all determined by your own thoughts, reflections and inclinations.  Perhaps as the season looms, I'll post a few more suggestions--but if you're making a reading plan it is better to get to it quickly as we have little over a week left.


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