Thursday, February 11, 2021

Lenten Reading: The Big List of Nonfiction

Six years ago I read The Lord by Romano Guardini during Lent and it was transformative.  Four years ago I read Meditations on Vatican Art and loved it. Three years ago I read The Power of Silence by Cardinal Sarah which I didn't find nearly as inspirational as God or Nothing. For the last two years I read Roman Pilgrimage by George Weigel and I'm going to do it again this year. I'm also going to reread Pope Benedict XVI's  encyclicals.

Fruits of the Spirit by Stratford Caldecott
Small but packs a powerful punch.

Book description, which I can't improve upon: This booklet explores the imagery of trees and fruitfulness in the Bible, and offers a sketch of Christian morality based on the relationship of spiritual fruits to the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues. The result is a kind of rough map, a guidebook of sorts to a life in the Spirit, inspired by teachings that we find in Holy Scripture and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmeeman

The author was an Eastern Orthodox priest but any Christian can get a great deal of insight and inspiration from this wonderful book. He looks at the connection between daily life and the sacraments and liturgy of the church. As a result, we are repeatedly drawn into fresh realizations about how present God is in everyday life ... and how connected that is with the liturgy. 

 One of the most inspirational books I've ever read. My full review is here.

The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism by Thomas Joseph White
Do you want a good dose of philosophy with your Catholic faith? Here's the book for you. Looking for something lighter than Edward Feser, but that still had intellectual depth, I noticed this title continually popping up in my searches. So glad I did because it is exactly what I wanted ... though the discussion of the Trinity caused a bit of brain paralysis, but that's no different than my reaction to any other deep look at the Trinity. It's been a long time since I've had to think in such a different way. All this is without ignoring the questions that Catholicism raise in modern life. This isn't necessarily easy reading but it is really rewarding. Truly this is a great book.

7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness
7 Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness
by Eric Metaxas
The stories of seven men who lived their lives in ways we can admire. Or women, depending on which book you read. Each contains short biographies of a diverse group of people that pack in a lot of information . Each story turns on the fact that they surrendered themselves to God and sacrificed themselves in some way for the greater good.

The men range from George Washington to Jackie Robinson to Chuck Colson. Women range from Joan of Arc to Rosa Parks to Mother Teresa. Plus some in each group that you probably haven't heard of.

Metaxas isn't heavy handed but he doesn't shy away from occasionally raising points that encourage the reader to look deeper within his (or her) own heart. I found each very inspirational. My review of 7 Men is here.

Jesus: A Pilgrimage by Fr. James Martin
Martin's goal is to help us consider our answer to Christ's question to his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"

This means we must consider what it means to be "fully human and fully divine." Martin does a very good job of presenting a lot of contextual information for understanding Jesus' life and ministry through this lens. As we travel through the gospels, so to speak, he intertwines the various stops (recruiting the disciples, healing demoniacs, etc.) with his own pilgrimage to Israel. I especially appreciate Martin's openness in sharing the spiritual experiences he had, most notably that in the Church of the Resurrection.

My review here. Scott Danielson and I discussed this on A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast, episode 83.

A Song For Nagasaki by Fr. Paul Glynn
The biography of Takashi Nagai, a young Catholic Japanese doctor who lived through the bombing of Nagasaki and became an inspiration for spiritual healing for his people. Paul Glynn combines vivid descriptions, character insights, and just enough Japanese history so that we have context.

As a result I wound up admiring the Japanese people even more than I did already. I never realized how many of the Japanese ideals combine with saintly living, especially as seen through Takashi Nagai's eventful life.

My review here.

The Bells of Nagasaki by Takashi Nagai
Among the wounded on the day they dropped the bomb on Nagasaki was a young doctor who, though sick himself cared for the sick and dying. Written when he too lay dying of leukemia, The Bells of Nagasaki is his account of the experience.

It is deeply moving story of faith under extraordinary conditions.

My review is here.

The Smile of a Ragpicker by Fr. Paul Glynn
Satoko Kitahara came from a wealthy home and encountered the Catholic faith when she wandered into a church one day and saw a statue of Mary. As a convert, she lived her faith so completely that she is still a well known heroine for Japanese of all religious persuasions. Striving to follow Christ fully she wound up becoming the "Mary of Ants Town," living with with the destitute in a shanty town in a public park where subsistence living came from ragpicking.

On a personal level I cannot stress enough the effect this gentle saintly girl's story continues to have on me. I won't go into details here but her honesty in her spiritual journey, her complete faith and dedication, and her love of Mary affected me deeply. My review is here.

To Whom Shall We Go? by Archbishop Timothy Dolan
In To Whom Shall We Go, we are reminded of all St. Peter's strengths, weaknesses, joys, and sorrows. In short, we are shown his humanity as he follows Jesus in the Gospels and Dolan points out how our own natures are reflected in therein as well.

This is a simply fantastic book and I say that as a person who has never been particularly interested in St. Peter.

My review here.

Gospel of Mark, The (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture) by Mary Healy
This is a really great commentary. Healy is excellent at putting the scripture in context, whether in reference to the context of people of the time, to other scripture, or for our own lives. Sometimes I was enlightened by the factual information which gave me new insights into the text. Sometimes it was from the material for reflection. However, it was a rare day that I failed coming away with an insight that I pondered the rest of the day. My review is here.

I've found a lot of the Catholic Commentary series book very rewarding, regardless of who the author is. So just dive in.

The Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux
The classic autobiography by the youngest Doctor of the Church. I struggled with reading this book until finding Robert Edmonson's translation, which was be less sacchrine and more real-life than others I read.

If this book doesn't appeal, consider one of the many others written by different saints and then ask their intercession while you read. Make Lent a walk through the desert with a saintly guide holding your hand.

Happy Catholic for Lent

Three other books that would make good Lenten reading:

Thus Sayeth the Lord: A Fresh Take on the Prophets - my latest! In Kindle or softcover.

Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life - my second book! In paperback.

Happy Catholic - my first book! In either softcover or Kindle / Nook format.

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