This season is a period of reflection and repentance which by God’s Grace, we hope to extend throughout the rest of the year. It all starts from our thoughts. What then do we feed our mind? If we cannot change our thoughts, what more our actions? The best books are those that move us not just to think and reflect but to act.
Above everything, the Bible, the Word of God should be on top of our list. We cannot underestimate the power of daily Scriptures, the sunshine that the Good News of God brings to our day-to-day struggles. Whether we are frustrated, in need of enlightenment, praying for discernment or as simple and common as overcoming fear, the Word of God has an answer to everything. It is not surprising that there is no book on earth that has ever been more popular and more widely published than this library of books called the Bible. That says a great deal, don’t you think?
In no particular order, below are some great books that we can read in addition to (and not instead of) the Bible to aid us not just in our Lenten journey but in our entire life. If you have read these books, then please do share your thoughts. If you haven’t, then I encourage you to check them out. It would be great to hear what other books you have read as well that can help others for spiritual nourishment or inspiration.
- The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis
The Imitation of Christ is a book that goes back to the 1400s and has the reputation of being the most popular Christian book next to the Bible. It consists of spiritual reflections on various topics that we can ponder on a daily basis to advance in virtue. Personally, I do not recommend that it be read in one sitting. Don’t get me wrong. It made me thirst for more, to go on and on but I simply could not. Perhaps it is because it urges one to pause and contemplate. It is something to be spiritually savored and digested gradually, to become part of us, lest we swallow it too fast and forget all too soon what we have read and not be able to practice any of it.
I have never heard of it until I started reading books of saints, one of which was the Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux. She quoted from this book a couple of times and seemingly had such an effect on her faith. Other saints also read this book that it made me really wonder why. What’s in this book??? What’s in it that it has contributed in forming the minds of saints? The only way to find out was to read it so I did. I did not immediately find a hardcopy so I read an ebook version of it, then eventually bought a hardcopy to reread.
- Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux
This is an autobiography and the only written work of St. Therese, the Little Flower which she wrote only upon obedience to the Mother Superior. It consists of vivid recollections from early childhood up to her experiences in the convent, laced with her personal reflections on life, her family, her faith, her vocation, love for others and love for God, above all. Through this book we will be inspired to offer simple, small and ordinary acts and sacrifices of everyday with much love for God. Similar to the Imitation, I first read an ebook version of it then found a hardcopy at a local bookstore.
- The Life of Mary as Seen by the Mystics by Raphael Brown
A compilation of the visions and private revelations from St. Elizabeth of Schoenau, St. Bridget of Sweden, Venerable Mary of Agreda and Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, this book is not meant to replace the historical accounts found in the Bible, but rather to inspire believers like us, to strengthen our faith and to desire God even more. This book will warm our hearts and ignite our love for the Holy Mother of God. It is such an easy read that this book can be read even by young teens, with special guidance of parents to discuss matters of the faith. What I have initially read were separate ebook versions of the visions of St. Bridget of Sweden, Venerable Mary of Agreda and Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich. I learned that there is a compilation of these writings and found a hardcopy.
Related post: http://www.hurrahformoms.com/blessed-among-women/
- 33 Days to Morning Glory (A Do-it-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Marian Consecration) by Father Michael E. Gaitley, MIC
We got this wonderful book as a gift from a family friend. It is about entrustment to our Lady, all our joys and sufferings, our weaknesses and strengths. It does not encourage us to forget God and direct all our attention to Mother Mary but rather, enkindle our faith that through Her who is pleasing to God, our unworthy offerings may become pleasing and acceptable to God as well. The author cites reflections and prayers from St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Mother Teresa and St. Pope John Paul II as guide for this ‘retreat’. From personal experience, this daily entrustment to Mary has been very beneficial and helpful in going through the daily challenges of life. And this is not just for mothers but for all women of different vocations, whether one is for the religious life or for single blessedness. Is there any woman who can understand the concerns of a mother, or of a virgin more than our Lady, the Virgin Mother of God?
The Rosary is an entrustment prayer as well. When something comes up that threatens to disturb my peace, the Rosary and St. Mother Teresa’s prayer of entrustment are my go-to prayers and immediately, I am restored.
Related post: http://www.hurrahformoms.com/blessed-among-women/
- A Biblical Walk Through The Mass by Edward Sri
One of the common reasons why people are bored when they hear Mass resulting to others eventually not doing so anymore is the lack of understanding of the Mass. This lack of understanding can prevent people to appreciate it and be enlightened with the graces they can derive from it.
This book is a helpful tool that dutifully and lovingly explains each part, the meaning behind it, its roots, purpose and connection to the Love of our Lord so that we can be more attentive, disposed and open to God during the Mass.
Related post: http://www.hurrahformoms.com/why-we-get-bored-at-mass/
- Jesus a Pilgrimage by James Martin, SJ
This is a book that I have just recently started reading – so I’m not done with it. It is one of those books you see in the bookstore which you’re not really planning to buy because it is not in your budget. But then you pick it up, browse and cannot put it down. You eventually succeed in putting it down but then you keep coming back and keep picking it up all over again. You have this gut feel that you’ll be sorry for not buying it if you don’t and you might not see it again. I was probably overreacting when I bought it but it is a highly recommended book. Many people would probably agree that we know we have a treasure of a book on our hands by simply reading a page or two even without the recommendations to start with.
I am enjoying this pilgrimage so far and looking forward to spending more time with it.
- Rome Sweet Home by Dr. Scott Hahn
We actually read this a few years ago during Lent. Reading this book has enflamed that desire in us to learn more about the Catholicism, the Scriptures and the Sacred Traditions of the Catholic Church and to appreciate these even more. It is a delightful true story to read, beginning with individual experiences of Kimberly and Scott, their growing years of love and service and how their lives eventually mingled, their struggles as a couple and their family’s incredible journey to the Catholic faith. It is a book that will inspire both believers and non-believers. If I find a hardcopy, I will no doubt buy one.
- Books of Saints and Church Fathers
If we need to transform our mind and to be guided on how to correctly interpret the Scriptures (since there is a danger of us interpreting it in the way we want to), then the saints and church fathers are our guide. I did not specify anymore since there are some that I have read and a lot more that I haven’t. As I mentioned previously, I started out late. Blessed are those who have begun early.
Prior to reading about saints, I was reading about this author who had this view about suffering that my mind began to adjust to that kind of thinking. Now when I started reading about them, I discovered that their views do not at all match with the views of this modern author. The saints, a lot of them not knowing each other, others from different generations or era, centuries before another, coming from various countries, have different personalities or temperaments, yet surprisingly have a relatively common view about suffering, virtues, God and the Church. It is the same Spirit working through each of them.
True, we hear of plenty of Bible scholars here and there that amaze us with their eloquence and credentials but let us not be easily deceived. The wisdom of the saints from all walks of life, was seen in their thoughts, words and actions. Their lives are a living testimony of their faith in the Gospels. Their views are those that are aligned to the Sacred Scriptures and the Sacred Traditions of the Catholic Church. If we are all quite accustomed to the world’s views, reading about saints will lead us eventually to a paradigm shift – from worldly view to a true Christian view. We may not achieve sainthood in this lifetime but who can stop us from desiring it? From this desire, if nurtured even more, will spring our strength of will and actions – and much-needed Grace from God.
I wish we have begun early in reading and learning about the Catholic Faith. So much wasted time in my youth, reading about things that have moved me farther from God. And now there are so much to read and learn and quite a short time for these readings to be practiced, to be lived and who knows how much time left for us to live?
At times, it still frustrates me when I realize I get too distracted with a lot of temporary earthly concerns. But let us carry on, even as parents at whatever age we may be, and do our best to pass on a living example of the Faith to our children even amidst our mundane tasks. I can’t even begin to express what a struggle that is, based on everyday experiences. Sometimes, I tell God, as a parent who’s supposed to be a Christian role model to our children, I suck! We do need a spiritual overhaul once in a while. But let us remain hopeful, trusting that God sees the true desires of our hearts. He knows our efforts. We are weak but He is strong. As soon as we realize where we are or how lost we have become, let us immediately run home to Him.
Our actions are connected to our thoughts. So we must guard our thoughts, what we take in, vigilantly. Let us pray that what we learn will not just dwell in our minds but also in our hearts, in our words and in our actions..
Let us begin TODAY.
I am sure you have more books to add to this list for Lenten reflection. What books have helped you or are presently helping you in your spiritual life?
To God be the Glory!