Lent is a time for spiritual reflection and holy reading. Here are some new books, including a daily devotional that offers good reading for spiritual growth and renewal during Lent and Holy Week.
“Lead Us Not into Temptation: A Daily Study in Loyalty for Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday”
by Martin Shannon, CJ; Paraclete Press; January 2020; 128 pp; $16.99
Father Martin Shannon, an Episcopalian priest and liturgist, was inspired to write this devotional after attending a Lenten retreat at a Benedictine monastic community in Massachusetts. He states in the book’s introduction: “From God’s point of view, the purpose of temptation is to teach us. But, from the devil’s point of view, the purpose of temptation is to turn us.” Shannon believes that Lent is the perfect time “to prepare for coming temptations.” His daily reflections, which are approximately two pages in length, are grouped into three different aspects of temptation: Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, and Jesus’s disciples’ temptations at the gate of Easter. A quotation about temptation by German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) ends each day’s reflection. This book offers readers a different train of thought from the usual Lenten devotionals.
“Praying the Stations of the Cross: Finding Hope in a Weary Land”
by Margaret Adams Parker and Katherine Sonderegger; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing; October 2019; 128 pp; $21.99
This hardcover book is a collaboration between an artist and a preacher; the art is done with woodcut blocks and is striking; the text is a fresh approach to the ancient practice of praying the Stations of the Cross. Sonderegger, an Episcopalian priest and theology professor, begins the book with background information on the stations, including why we should pray the stations, the history of the stations, suggestions for praying the stations, and thoughts on Christ’s Passion in word, image and song. Each of the 14 stations has two short readings from Scripture and then a very meaningful prayer that relates the Scripture readings with contemporary issues. A rather substantial meditation (a little over a page in length) concludes each station. The artwork, done in black and white woodcut prints, is extremely expressive. This is a great book for readers who want a solid, extensive version of the Stations of the Cross, with some present-day perspectives.
“The Way of Benedict: Eight Blessings for Lent”
by Laurentia Johns, OSB; SPCK (dist. by Intervarsity Press); February 2020; 108 pp; $14
St. Benedict wrote “The Rule of St. Benedict” back in the sixth century, but his handbook for monks continues to appeal to non-monastics today, as a guidebook to living a Christian life. Benedict believed that our lives should always have a Lenten character to them, keeping the transforming power of Christ’s resurrection in our daily thoughts and activities. Sister Laurentia Johns, a Benedictine nun at Stanbrook Abbey in the United Kingdom, has written a new book for Lent, looking at Benedict’s Rule as a series of blessings. Her book consists of an introduction and then eight chapters — one for each of the blessings (the blessing of beginning, Gospel living, attentiveness, the Word, worship, reverence, welcoming and the blessing of “beyond”), which basically span Benedict’s Rule. Each chapter consists of a series of reflections on the specific blessing, a short prayer and a few suggestions for actions. For readers interested in Benedict’s Rule, “The Way of Benedict” is a good choice for Lenten reading; it also works quite well for spiritual reflection during any time of the year.
ANN JONAS is the general book buyer for the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph and St. John’s University in Collegeville.