Lenten Reading Suggestions

Julie at Happy Catholic has her Lenten reading list up.

“Wait a minute, what? You guys have “reading lists” for Lent, too?”

Yeah. But it’s a good thing. It is a tradition that started with the Benedictine Monastics as part of St. Benedicts Rule for his monks:

During the days of Lent, they should be free in the morning to read until the third hour. . . . During this time of Lent each one is to receive a book from the library, and is to read the whole of it straight through. These books are to be distributed at the beginning of Lent. RB, 48:14-16.

The idea sort of took off. Back in the day, abbots and abbesses would choose the reading material for their communities and he or she would be out to challenge them:

The librarian might mention that someone had read no Aquinas and suggest a book. Or the Abbess might decide that a smarty-pants nun needed a bit of a challenge, and so she’d assign a difficult book, perhaps one in Latin. Sometimes the selection would be a surprising, completely secular book.

The whole point, of course, was that the monks and nuns spend some time in reading that was instructive and which might induce them to prayer, or bring some fruit to the community as a whole.

I have not fully compiled my reading list, yet; there are a lot of books I’ve wanted to read but haven’t made time to. Part of the discipline of Lent is to learn to make time for improvement and re-formation.

One book I do intend to read is Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculée Ilibagiza. I wrote about Immaculée and her books months ago, ordered Left to Tell, and have been too cowardly to read it, but it is the first book I will read this season.

I also plan to re-read G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy and a nun friend has recommended Robert Hugh Benson’s By What Authority.

Because I very much enjoyed Joseph Pearce’s Literary Converts (sadly out of print; picking that up every day was liking spending time with new, engrossing friends) so I am considering picking up The Quest for Shakespeare, which looks very good, and I’m also going to finally – finally – find time to use George Martin’s Bringing the Gospel of Matthew to Life: Insight and Inspiration.

Lenten reading does not have to be spiritual; sometimes the best book to read is one to improve the mind and the awareness. My husband is going to read Amity Shales’ The Forgotten Man; A New History of the Great Depression. I have a friend who plans to read Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair and a certain priest I know keeps telling me to read Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop.

And there is always, among novels, Brideshead Revisited and (for a little vicious fun about halfway through Lent) The Loved One.

Jennifer at Conversion Diary has some great recommendations, including He Leadeth Me – another book on my shelf that perhaps I will try to read when I am done with Left to Tell.

Please, share what books you’re recommending for Lenten reading! And check back; as I find more reading lists, I’ll link to them here!

A reader tells me he is going to read Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s Listen My Son: St. Benedict for Fathers, which sounds really great.

And if you’re really stuck, Amazon searching through the catalogues of Ratzinger or Merton should yield something you find you want to read!

Related:
So, what are you reading for Lent?

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About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://sthubertsrosary.com/default.aspx ShanaSFO

    Words in Pain: Conferences on the Seven Last Words of Christ / by John Cardinal Wright (Ignatius Press, but I think out of print. There are several on Alibris) I have owned several copies of this short, little gem. I’ve loaned them out never to receive them back. I have to get another one because its about time that I reread it (I got my first copy in 1986). I am always amazed at how close to the Suffering Christ I feel when I have read this. I do not much like the illustrations, but the words of the Cardinal – those are priceless lessons.

    How to Pray Always by Fr Raoul Plus I just got this edition reprinted by Sophia Institute Press. I meant to read it last year during summer, but never got much past chapter 1. I plan to finish it this year!

    I’d also like to read Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. I’ll probably buy it in a few weeks. Its been recommended to me by so many people in the last year that I think its time to get it and read it.

    [When I gave my then-20 year old Elder Son The Man Who Was Thursday to read, he gobbled it down and pronouced it, "delicious!" -admin]

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com/ Bender B. Rodriguez

    Lenten reading does not have to be spiritual

    Started rereading 1984 last week for the first time since probably before 1984.

    For Lent itself, I’ll probably finish up the last 150 or so pages of the Catechism that I haven’t yet read.

  • cathyf

    If you are looking for a gripping good read, track down John Gerard’s The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest. He was a minor nobleman who went to Europe, joined the Jesuits and was ordained, and then was smuggled into England. He spent 17 years there posing as carefree nobility, but in fact ministering to English Catholics in secret. After the Gunpowder Plot he was imprisoned and tortured in the Tower of London, ok, no more plot spoilers… :-)

    Here is the amazon link: Autobiography of a Hunted Priest

    (Anchoress — is there a way to make that link go through your bookshelf?)

    [Yes, thanks, I took care of it as I edited the link - admin]

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  • skeeter

    Anthony Bloom has several good ones: Beginning to Pray, Courage to Pray, Living Prayer, all are very approachable.
    I’m finishing The Arena by Ignatius Brianchaninov. I hope to get through Thomas Hopko’s The Lenten Spring, and maybe if I push it The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus. A, you set this off in me several years ago.

    So thank you.

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  • http://dailywoof.wordpress.com Kensington

    I started 1984 a few days ago, thinking that it might be appropriate given the current political climate, but I had to put it down after only 4 pages. It’s so harrowing, so quickly, that I just couldn’t take it.

    Still, I think The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes is a smart choice of unfortunate relevance, and I’m going to also delve into Luke Timothy Johnson’s The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why It Matters.

  • on a journey

    Silence by S. Endo as soon as it comes in the mail.

  • scaron

    I just received “Listen My Son” yesterday and will also be reading it.

    Msgr Romano Guardini “The Lord”

    Benedict XVI “A New Song for the Lord”

    Micheal O’Brien “Strangers & Sojourners”, “Plauge Journal”, “Eclipse of the Sun”

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  • http://federalistpaupers.com Hubbard

    I’m reading Chesterton’s St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis of Assisi. An agnostic friend asked for a reading suggestion, so I lent him my copy of Heretics and Orthodoxy.

  • culperjr.

    My Lenten reading will actually be a re-reading of Ann Wroe’s wonderful speculative biography/character study “Pontius Pilate.” She brilliantly weaves together the strands of Gospel narrative, Roman history and medieval myth into a fascinating whole. Not so much a study of what Pilate was, but rather a probing look at what Pilate means.

    Some reviewers claim the author belittles Scripture, but just read the section in which she speaks of the leaves of the trees and the swallows whispering the name of Jesus. Beautiful writing, and something like a prayer.

    Best of all, you can nab a copy on Amazon for about a dollar.

  • kuvasz

    I was recently stunned upon reading Teresa of Avila’s “Interior Castles.” This is a 400+ year old book on prayer that spoke directly to my heart. I read all of it twice and parts 4 and 5 times. I have started her preceding book, “The Path to Perfection.”

    She lived and wrote at basically the same time as Luther, with a very similar message. Luther said, “You needn’t rely on the priesthood to tell you of God as you can learn of Him thru reading the Bible on your own.” Teresa said, “You needn’t rely on the priesthood to tell you of God as you can learn of Him thru prayer on your own.” Before I draw too fine a line here, Teresa was founder of the Discalced Carmelite order of nuns and completely Catholic. This doesn’t keep her message from being revolutionary. Even today.

    Both books are available at Amazon and you don’t need any commentary to understand her. I bought one, it was a waste of money. Her writing is clear.

  • http://dailywoof.wordpress.com Kensington

    That Pontius Pilate biography sounds fascinating; I’m going to pick it up at the library this afternoon! Thanks for the suggestion!

  • http://thecatholiclibertarian.blogspot.com amcalabrese

    “The Forgotten Man” is just too depressing to be reading in this environment. I would wait until the economy rebounds a bit (though it should be required reading for our political and banking classes).

    I just finished reading Ron Hansen’s short novels “Exiles” and “Mariette in Ecstasy.” I would suggest them.

  • dscribing

    Picked up LEFT TO TELL on the way home from mass and started it this afternoon. After that, will probably read Chesterton. (you can get Orthodoxy free at Project Gutenberg online) Also doing one a day from LATIN SAYINGS FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH.

  • btsea

    Another good Chesterton book: The Everlasting Man

    Here are a few additional books I’ve read and enjoyed, some more recently than others ;)

    Blessed Margaret of Castello by Father William R. Bonniwell, O.P.
    St. Rose of Lima, Sister Mary Alphonsus O.SS.R.
    St. Martin de Porres Apostle of Charity, by Giuliana Cavallini
    With God in Russia by Walter J. Ciszek, SJ (I think available on DVD too)
    Alphonsus Liguori, The Redeeming Love of Christ, by Joseph Oppitz, C.SS.R.
    Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling by Ross King

    presently I’m reading The Cross: Kristin Lavransdatter, Vol 3 by Sigrid Undset

    Another book less Lent related, but still Catholic oriented that some might enjoy is The Discovery And Conquest Of Mexico by Bernal Diaz Del Castillo

  • Ellen

    I’m reading Jesus and His Times by Henri Daniel-Rops. It’s a fascinating look at the life of Jesus and the political and social ferment going on in Judea during the time he was on earth. I’m also reading Lord of the World, by R.H. Benson, an apocalyptic novel that, frankly scares me. I plan on reading The Man Who was Thursday also and I’m reading a chapter a day of The Imitation of Christ.

    I love to read and am blessed with the ability to read very, very quickly. This Lent I plan to slow down and savor my books.

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