This month I’m reading …
The Way of the Carmelites: A Prayer Journey Through Lent James McCaffrey, OCD (SPCK, ISBN 978-0281075294)
Lenten Healing: 40 Days to Set You Free from Sin Ken Kniepmann (Ave Maria Press, ISBN 978-1594717956)
Hosted by Amy Boucher Pye
As we move through the seasons of the year, we come again to Lent, the 40 days before Easter when many examine their hearts and minds before God, often with the help of a Lent book. In fact, a challenge can be deciding which Lenten resources to choose. I’ve chosen two: The Way of the Carmelites, which takes a weekly thematic approach, and Lenten Healing, a daily guide.
The Way of the Carmelites acts as a gentle introduction to the Carmelite tradition – that which was inspired by the prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel and observed by Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross and Edith Stein. This tradition focuses on Jesus through prayer and solitude, and this book seeks to help us to journey with Jesus in the wilderness while seeking to depend on him fully.
The various monastic movements can seem obscure or difficult to understand, but the author makes the Carmelite tradition accessible. Through helping us fix our eyes on Jesus, he shows us how to read the Scriptures with a spirit of listening as we seek union with God through the indwelling Spirit. This book is a winsome introduction to Teresa of Avila and other Carmelites, which I warmly recommend if you’d like to explore contemplative prayer.
I found Lenten Healing appealing because it turns fasting upside down from what we normally picture. So instead of giving up chocolate or wine, we give up a deadly sin, such as pride, anger, sloth or greed. The author leads us through a daily process of fasting from offshoots of the seven deadly sins, such as self-reliance, condemnation, bitterness, self-pity, not only through a short meditation but also through a renunciation of sin. He saves Sundays as feast days, shifting the focus from the sins to the contrasting virtues.
This may sound like a dour book, but I think it could promote growth in Christ. When we rid ourselves of our wrongdoing before God, asking him to cleanse us, he hears our prayer. Thus Lenten Healing could act as a sort of spiritual MOT. (As a side-note, it’s been written for a Roman Catholic American audience.)
Neither sound your cup of tea? My all-time favourite Lent book, as I’ve mentioned in years past in the book club, is Walter Wangerin’s imaginative retelling of the passion story: Reliving the Passion (Zondervan, 1992). And may I highlight my own book that was published for Lent last year, a through-the-Bible look at forgiveness: The Living Cross: Exploring God’s Gift of Forgiveness and New Life (BRF, 2016), complete with interactive prayer activities.
Whatever you choose to do this Lent, I pray your journey will be meaningful and transformative.
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