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Books Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Maurisa

What to Read for Lent 2021

The pandemic led to my being able to read even more than usual during 2020 and with Lent quickly approaching I have a lovely list of books to add to those I’ve recommended here in the past. Behold your Lent worthy reading list for 2021:

Non-Fiction

Impossible Marriages Redeemed: They Didn’t End Their Story in the Middle is Leila Miller’s follow up to her eye-opening expose of true accounts from children of divorce: Primal Loss: The Now Adult Children of Divorce Speak. In this new work, Leila compiled the stories of broken marriages which leaned into the redemptive power of the faith and were healed as well as several submissions from folks who continue to “stand” for their sacramental marriage in-spite of being abandoned by a spouse. 

The Saint Monica Club: How to Wait and Pray for Your Fallen-Away Loved Ones by Maggie Green was written based on her own experiences with children who have fallen away from the faith. Like Saint Monica, mothers are called to pray without ceasing and wait upon the Lord. This book was an immense help to me as I continue to pray, hope, and wait on my own wayward children.

Have you struggled with low spirits, anxiety, or depression? Has it taken a toll on your progress in your spiritual life? Dan Burke’s Spiritual Warfare and the Discernment of Spirits may be the help you need in discerning how the enemy may be attacking you and actively preventing you from growing spiritually.

In February of 2019 the Pew Research Center released the results of a study showing that belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist had dropped to an alarming 30% of self-identified Catholics. In response to this obvious decline in reverence for the Blessed Sacrament Dr. Peter Kwasniewski has written a beautiful and concise answer for how Catholics can reestablish a firm belief in and veneration for the Holy Eucharist in The Holy Bread of Eternal Life: Restoring Eucharistic Reverence in an Age of Impiety.

I recently finished Conversation with Christ: The Teaching of St.Teresa of Avila About Personal Prayer by Peter Thomas Rohrbach. It is by far the best book I’ve ever read on mental prayer and walks the reader through several variations for maintaining a relationship and real conversation with Christ. It is one I will keep constantly on hand for reference for years to come.

Fiction

After the difficulties and realities of the last year, a little escape from contemplating the current state of the world might be in order. I am a huge fan of interspersing fiction amongst the spiritual and informative works I normally read. I especially appreciate anything written with a Catholic worldview and there are many authors who have successfully written beautiful, enjoyable works of fiction with Catholic themes.

Sigrid Undset is by far my favorite Catholic author. She was a convert to Catholicism in the 20th Century who interwove Catholic themes throughout her works. 

My personal favorite novel, Kristen Lavransdatter, is a medieval Scandinavian saga which earned Undset the Nobel Prize for Literature. The trilogy follows Kristen from childhood through late adulthood—daughter, wife, and mother in Catholic Norway. 

The tetralogy, Master of Hestviken, Undset’s second medieval Scandinavian offering is not as well known but is also very enjoyable. This work explores many of the same themes but from the point of view of Olav Audunsson an orphan betrothed to the daughter of his adoptive father. 

The Wild Orchid/The Burning Bush set in the mid-20th century Norway is the story of Paul Selmer, who grows up in an enlightened household and shocks his entire family when he chooses to convert to Catholicism as an adult. As with many of Undset’s novels, marital fidelity and self-sacrifice are strong, underlying themes.

Several years ago I picked up Undset’s Ida Elisabeth and found, for one reason or another, I could not make it past the first chapter. Early in 2020 a friend finished reading this work and declared it to be one of her favorites. I am so glad she did as it led to my finally finishing this beautiful novel. Once again, the consequences of sin, marital fidelity, forgiveness, and grace flow throughout this work. 

While not personally a Catholic, some of Willa Cather’s works are very Catholic and well worth including on a list of Catholic fictional works.

Shadows on the Rock is a sweet work, set in colonial New France close on the heels of the martyrdom of North American saints such as Saints Jean LaLand Rene Groupil. The story is written from the point of view of pious 12 year old Cecile Auclair. In her mastery of vivid language, Cather paints a beautiful picture of 17th century life in remote and barely settled Quebec.

Death Comes for the Archbishop, also by Cather, tells the story of Father Jean Marie Latour. Having been appointed the Apostolic Vicar of New Mexico Father Latour travels his vast, desert mission territory shepherding his flock and spreading the gospel over the span of 40 years. This compelling character, fraught with the loneliness and gravity of his task, advances his mission by degrees in the manner of a gentle, faithful, and resourceful saint. 

Father Bryan Houghton was a well known convert to Catholicism in the mid-20th Century. Not long after converting the entire Church was rocked by the sweeping changes to the liturgy on the heels of Vatican II. Personally, I have often wondered how people actually felt as their churches were renovated and the Mass changed almost overnight. Father Houghton wrote a beautiful and touching fictional account which explores this subject in Judith’s Marriage.

On my list for Lent

Visits to the Most Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri is a short and lovely companion to bring for a weekly Holy Hour.

Non-Negotiable: Essential Principles of a Just Society and Humane Culture by Sheila Liaugminas. I recently listened to a conversation between Sheila Liaugminas and Jason Jones on his popular podcast. Intrigued, I had to pick up her book on protecting the first principles of the absolute human rights to life, dignity, and equality.

The next two on my list were recommended by our parish priest as worthy spiritual reading: Sayings of the Desert Fathers and On How to Accept and Love the Will of God and His Divine Providence by Saint Alphonsus Maria Ligouri

The Sinners Guide by Venerable Lous of Granada was a favorite of Saint Teresa of Avila. I feel anything recommended by Saint Teresa needs to be on everyone’s “must read” list. Am I right?

Are you reading anything inspiring this Lent? Share your picks in the comments.

A Catholic Sistas’ Book List for Lent 2020

The 2019 Handy Dandy List of Lenten Resources

The Ultimate 2018 Lenten Booklist for Families

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Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Maurisa Reading

A Catholic Sistas’ Book List for Lent 2020

Two years ago Catholic Sistas provided The Ultimate 2018 Lenten Book List for Families. I’ve done a lot of reading since then and felt we could use an updated list of worthy spiritual reading for this Lent. This time our reading list is especially targeted to intrigue you, dear Sistas.

My number one pick for this Lent is the classic by Saint Francis de Sales: An Introduction to the Devout Life. I spent several months reading this gem during my weekly hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. 20 plus years a Catholic and I’d never read this book before. It completely changed my spiritual life. If you are searching for inspiration in becoming as holy as God Wills you to be according to your state in life this book is the perfect fit.

I recently finished reading Christus Vincit: Christ’s Triumph Over the Darkness of the Age which is a published, extensive interview of my current hero, Bishop Athanasius Schneider by Diane Montagna. The book includes an impressive biography of the bishop who lived through the persecution of the Church behind the Iron Curtain and then proceeds in examining the many issues facing the Church today, including the numerous scandals and deep confusion we are currently experiencing. Not only does Bishop Schneider examine the crises, he offers concrete solutions. He’s an inspiring contemporary figure in the Church today and his interview left me feeling very hopeful about the future of the Church.

Symbol or Substance?: A Dialogue on the Eucharist with C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, and J.R.R. Tolkien is a fictional conversation imagined by Peter Kreeft. I really enjoyed the idea of this book written as if three of my childhood heroes were discussing the reality of the Eucharist. As an adolescent I attended one of Billy Graham’s revivals in my home town. I always admired him and if Peter Kreeft got it right, I was able to somewhat understand his misunderstanding of the Eucharist. Of course, I grew up reading Lewis and Tolkien and had no difficulty picturing their contributions to the fictional dialogue. As a Catholic, this experiment of Dr. Kreeft’s helped solidify my belief and understanding of the Real Presence.

We had an unusual influx of visitors to our home this past year. Our dear friends from Maryland, who are godparents to one of our younger boys, were able to come and stay for a long weekend. While visiting, my friend Debbie, was reading Overcoming Sinful Anger: How to Master Your Emotions and Bring Peace to Your Life by Rev. T.G. Morrow. She left her copy behind for me and I read through it quite quickly. This is definitely a book to keep in your home library, especially when you or a family member is struggling with anger, as many of us do from time to time.

I oversee a Catholic women’s book club and this year we read the popular Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart by Father Jacques Philippe. This is another little book to keep ever present in your home library. It is an extremely valuable spiritual work to have on hand in especial times of turmoil, distress, and anxiety.

Another work our book club read was You Are Enough: What Women of the Bible Teach You About Your Mission and Worth by Danielle Bean. I loved this book devoted to Old Testament women and their stories. Danielle’s writing style is very accessible and relevant to today’s woman. I loved her take on each of the stories and how she related their lessons to episodes in her own life.

After hearing an interview with Dr. Carrie Gress on Patrick Coffin’s podcast regarding her book The Anti-Mary Exposed: Rescuing the Culture from Toxic Feminism, I went on a Carrie Gress kick and had to read most every book she’d written. Before diving into her book The Anti-Mary Exposed, I recommend you start with her The Marian Option: God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis. I also highly recommend Ultimate Makeover: The Transforming Power of Motherhood, especially for moms of younger children. I really wish I’d read that one when I was a young mom, but I did give it to my adult daughter who is a brand new mom to my first grand baby and she found a great amount of wisdom in her reading of it. Bonus: My two youngest boys did their Marian Consecration last May using her Marian Consecration for Children which was simple enough for our first communicant and challenging enough for our confirmand.

Danielle Bean interviewed prolific Marian author Marge Steinhage Fenelon on a recent episode of her Girlfriends podcast. Inspired by her most recent book, My Queen, My Mother–A Living Novena, I researched and wrote a piece for Catholic Sistas filled with Marian pilgrimages one could make right here in the United States. I also read her powerful Forgiving Mother–A Marian Novena of Forgiveness and Peace. Part autobiography and part devotional to Our Blessed Mother, I found it to be an extremely valuable read even though I do not have a particularly strained relationship with my own mother.

Another of my very favorite books from this past year was The Priests We Need to Save the Church by my new friend Kevin Wells. He was gracious enough to grant me an interview which was published here in December 2019. While his target audience is priests and bishops, Kevin’s book has tremendous potential for inspiring the laity to embrace the “universal call to holiness.”

In the next few days I’ll be finishing up Jay W. Richards’ newest book–Eat, Fast, Feast: Heal Your Body While Feeding Your Soul–A Christian Guide to Fasting. Dr. Richards (PhD in philosophy and theology) explores the history of fasting and how it has fallen by the wayside in recent decades. He then goes on to encourage a return to a regiment of intermittent and long term fasting for physical as well as spiritual health. The book lays out a 46 day plan for preparing your body for longer fasts by putting it into a state of ketosis–a method which he promises will make fasting much easier without sacrificing the spiritual element. Being a true Catholic, Richards does not neglect addressing the spiritual value of feasting after the fast. With Lent upon our heels, I personally wanted to step-up my fasting and penance and this book may really help prepare the way.

What am I reading this Lent?

I have three spiritual works on my list this year.

Humility Rules: Saint Benedict’s 12-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem by J. Augustine Wetta, O.S.B.

The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis

What are you reading this Lent?

I love seeing what other Sistas are reading. Share your Lenten reading choices with us in the combox.

–Note: I provided links for each of the listed books. As far as I was able I linked to author websites or to Catholic merchants.