Lenten Reading Suggestions

Lenten Reading Suggestions February 24, 2009

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!

So, what are you reading for Lent?

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