They’re just the tip of the iceberg, but our team thinks these resources can help you make this Lent a time of growth.
There are just a few days until Ash Wednesday, when we enter into a season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Next Wednesday, Catholics (and many non-Catholic Christians) the world over will head to church to have dirt rubbed on their faces and to initiate the unofficial Catholic pastime of the spring: asking people, “What did you give up for Lent?”
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But you’ll notice that fasting—as important as it is—is only one element of Lent. Fasting without any increase of prayer or focus on Christ is just a diet. So in the lead-up to Lent, let’s consider some resources that could help us truly enter into the Passion this Lent.
- Gospel reflections
If there’s anyone in America who knows how to break open the Scriptures, it’s Bishop Robert Barron. Every day of Lent, he’ll be sending a reflection on the day’s Gospel straight to subscribers’ inboxes. All you have to do is sign up and you can start each day of Lent meditating on the life of Christ. If you’re getting to daily Mass as part of your Lenten commitment, having thought about the Gospel before you get there can make the Mass even more fruitful.
- Sacred art
If you’re an art lover (or want to become one), Lent is the perfect time to let the God of beauty speak to you through artists. Sister Wendy Becket (of BBC and PBS fame) has a new book out this year with a different painting each day of Lent and a meditation on the art. The paintings vary from the secular to the sacred, from the well-known to the more obscure, but each day’s reflection is sure to give you lots to think and pray about.
- Powerful videos
Scott Hahn and his team at the St. Paul Center have put together some beautiful, enriching video series about the truths of the faith as revealed in the Word of God. During Lent, they’re offering two of these series for free—saving you $79.99 per series. Each week they’re sharing two lessons each from The Bible and the Virgin Mary and The Bible and the Sacraments, giving you no excuse not to give up Netflix.
- Meditating on the Word
There are plenty of Lenten devotionals available, but one that really stands out this year is Above All, a women’s devotional that focuses on Lectio Divina (prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture) and encourages women from all walks of life to break open their Bibles and let God’s Word transform them. It’s got a Scripture passage with a meditation each day, plus several suggested Scripture readings, space to journal about your experience, even recommendations of how to put your prayer into action by forgiving yourself and others. Plus, the proceeds from Above All go to Hurricane Harvey relief—it’s a win-win.
- Spiritual reading
In the Catholic tradition, there are thousands of life-changing books available, from the 2nd century up until today. If you’re looking for a good Lenten read, check out one of these:
- For an extended meditation on the Stations of the Cross, try Caryll Houselander’s The Way of the Cross. Writing shortly after World War II, Houslander has a simple spirituality and a profound understanding of suffering that makes this a powerful book.
- If you want to delve deep into the Passion accounts in the Gospels, you can’t do better than the second volume of Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth. This book on Holy Week is scholarly but is also beautifully written from the heart of our last Pope.
- Sacred Passion, by Fr. Luis de la Palma, will move your hearts with the accounts of Jesus’ suffering as you’ve never considered it before.
- Trying to take down a whole book may seem overwhelming, but Mother Mary Francis’ A Time of Renewal is split up into daily meditations, each one poetic and moving, and short enough to be manageable.
- If you need some encouragement to read (or some explanation after you’ve read), pick up Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved and subscribe to the Abiding Together Podcast—they’re doing a Lenten book study this year and you can listen in.
In a 2,000-year-old Church with over a billion members, this is only the tip of the iceberg. We’d love to hear your recommendations—share any good resources in the comments.