Spiritual, literary writers offer food for reflection, renewal

By Ann Jonas
For The Visitor

Lent is a time for reflection, holy reading and spiritual growth. Here are three books that are great resources for Lent and Holy Week spiritual renewal.

“O Cross of Christ” by Pope Francis; Liturgical Press; November 2016; 32 pp; $5.95.

On Good Friday evenings, Pope Francis has continued the papal tradition of leading the Stations of the Cross in the Coliseum in Rome. Each year, original reflections for each station are prepared by a bishop, theologian or other person chosen by the pope. This past year when the Stations were completed, Pope Francis recited the text of a prayer he wrote, titled “O Cross of Christ.” The Liturgical Press has published this meaningful prayer and, with permission from the Vatican, added short responses after each section, which allows the prayer to be used as a litany if desired. Each page features interesting black-and-white artwork by Deborah Luke. This nice little book can be used by individuals, families, small groups and large gatherings.

“All Shall Be Well: Readings for Lent and Easter” edited by Michael Leach, James Keane and Doris Goodnough; Orbis Books; December 2015; 359 pp; $16.

A collection of 54 essays, poems and meditations, this rich anthology contains works from numerous well-known classical and modern writers, including Dorothy Day, Father Thomas Merton, Phyllis Tickle, Father Henri Nouwen, Father James Martin and Mary Oliver. The book is designed to be read daily during any Lenten season, as the readings are numbered, rather than dated, beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with several Easter readings.

Some of the selections are brief and others are a few pages long; all offer inspiration and great food for thought. “It is Finished in Beauty” by Sister Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB; “Foot Washing of a Different Sort” by medical doctor Sheila Cassidy; “Message for Lent” by Pope Francis are but a few of the strong but beautiful pieces that offer quality contemplative reading throughout Lent and Holy Week. Leach, Keane and Goodnough compiled an earlier volume of readings for Advent and Christmas titled “Goodness and Light.” also published by Orbis Books.

“Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide,” compiled by Sarah Arthur; Paraclete Press; January 2016; 266 pp; $18.99.

Sarah Arthur has written three volumes of “Literary Guide to Prayer” for the three seasons of the church calendar: “At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time,” “Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany” and now “Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide.”
Arthur has gathered writings from literature, using works from Charles Dickens, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and others, along with contemporary writers including Lucy Shaw, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Wendell Berry. The book contains 21 chapters or sections beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with week seven of Eastertide. Each section begins with a short opening prayer and the suggested Scripture readings. Arthur suggests that after the Psalm, you may want to read the other Scripture readings along with the literary passages daily or spread throughout the week. There are five to seven excerpts from literature or poetry in every chapter. A short closing prayer is given at the end of each section.

This collection of literature and holy reading provides an interesting and enriching way to observe Lent and the Easter season.

Ann Jonas is the general book buyer for the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University.

Author: The Visitor

The Visitor is the official newpaper for the Diocese of Saint Cloud.

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