Have you ever tried praying the Liturgy of the Hours?
Have you ever given up praying the Liturgy of the Hours because it seems too complicated? Too many pages, too many ribbons, too many ways to go wrong?
What if I told you that you can pray one part of the Liturgy of the Hours without needing to flip around in the book—all you need to know is what day of the week it is?
This Lent, try praying Night Prayer.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a saint’s feast day or the season of Lent or anything like that: there’s only one week a year that Night Prayer is different, and the instructions for that are right there in the book.
In my new book The Handy Little Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours (available now on Kindle; the print version releases March 27), I emphasize that for Liturgy of the Hours beginners, Night Prayer is a simple introduction to the cadence of the prayers.
Is it worth the effort? Yes. Is it doable? Yes! Start small, both in building the habit of prayer and your skills in navigating the breviary. Night Prayer is a wonderful way to begin, because it’s shorter and less complex than Morning and Evening Prayer. Take all the time you need to build up your prayer muscles. (21-22)
If you’re using Christian Prayer, you’ll find Night Prayer beginning on p. 1034.
Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photos created in Stencil, all rights reserved.
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Feed your soul with these new books from Ave Maria Press! Only one of them is specifically designed for use during Lent, but if you’re looking for a spiritual book or journal to use throughout the season of Lent, you can’t miss with any of these options.
Return is a Lenten journal that offers daily reflections and journaling space, along with beautiful art that’s a meditation in itself. This book offers a lovely way to commit to a daily prayer practice during the Lenten season.
Return covers a lot of spiritual ground during the six weeks of Lent: the first two weeks focus on reflecting on the past year and refocusing on God. The next two weeks feature meditations on fasting and lamentation and holding nothing back from God. The fifth week is a challenge to explore spiritual wounds that separate us from Christ, and the sixth week (Holy Week) focuses on the healing power of the Eucharist.
Each day’s entry begins with an excerpt from the Collect (the opening prayer from Mass) for the day. Citations for the daily readings follow; you can view these online at Bible.USCCB.org or look them up in your own Bible. Next is a meditation (about one page in length), a few reflection questions with journal space, and a brief closing prayer.
Free weekly videos will be shared each Sunday at AveMariaPress.com; here on CatholicMom.com, the videos will be shared at 10 AM Eastern on Sundays. In each video, author Fr. John Burns offers a reflection on the weekly theme.
Jen Norton’s art is always inspiring, and I was happy to see that her newest journal retreat book features saints. And not just any saints: the saints in this book lived during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Jen Norton has chosen the saints in Arise to Blessedness by the particular ways they lived out the Beatitudes.
Jen Norton chose as our inspiration Saints André Bessette, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Maximilian Kolbe, Mark Ji Tianxiang, Maria Goretti, Charbel Makhlouf, Oscar Romero, and José Luís Sánchez del Río. Each chapter includes a full-page lettered illustration of one Beatitude; a brief Scripture reading; an image of the saint and brief introduction; a guided prayer moment using sacred art; a journal challenge, small step (action item), and plenty of blank space at the end of the chapter to write or even draw.
Arise to Blessedness contains eight chapters; you can work through the book at your own pace (daily, weekly, or at whatever intervals you choose). You can even stretch out the chapters and work through one small section of them each day. The beautiful cover art will invite you to pick this book up, and once you open it, you won’t want to put it back down!
When the Beatitudes were read at Sunday Mass at the end of January, our priest observed that it is not at all easy to live these teachings. Even the dedication of Arise to Blessedness underscores that point:
This book is dedicated to all the brave souls who serve their neighbor without regard for honor and who love the unlovable because they see Christ in everyone.
Of these three books, I’m probably most excited about this book about the Catechism. When I received The Seeker’s Catechism, I thought the author’s name looked familiar, so I immediately flipped to the author bio in the back (normally this is not the first part of a book I view). Sure enough: Michael Pennock wrote several of the religion textbooks all three of my children used in the Catholic high school they attended.
A good teacher has a particular gift of explaining difficult concepts in simple ways without diluting the truth behind the lesson. The Seeker’s Catechism is an updated edition of a book that lays out the basics of Catholicism without overcomplication—and without insulting the intelligence of the reader.
If you would like to learn more about what the Catholic Church believes and teaches, but tackling the full Catechism of the Catholic Church isn’t do-able for you in this season of life, The Seeker’s Catechism introduces the truths of the faith in bite-sized, approachable sections. This is also an excellent reference for parents whose children have questions about what we believe, and can be read by students in middle school and up.
The Catholic Teen Books authors, many of whom I have the pleasure to call my friends, have put together their fourth short-story collection. Ashes: Visible and Invisible releases January 31, 2023 on the feast of St. John Bosco, the patron saint of teenagers.
Ashes contains ten short stories by Theresa Linden, Marie Keiser, Cynthia Toney, Ellen Gable, Antony Kolenc, Amanda Lauer, Carolyn Astfalk, Leslea Wahl, T.M. Gaouette, and Corinna Turner. All of them have some connection to Lent, and each story stands on its own. You can enjoy these stories in any order.
Ashes, like all the CTB story collections, is packed with well-written stories that are faithfully Catholic. The stories feature teenagers growing in faith and virtue—teenagers facing true-to-life situations, teenagers dealing with moral dilemmas, teenagers seeking to know the right thing to do. Settings for the stories vary from the time of Jesus to the Middle Ages to modern times and a dystopian future. There’s something for every reader, and you might even enjoy exploring a new-to-you genre.
One of my favorite things about the CTB story collections is that many of the stories are connected to these authors’ larger-format work. The characters you meet in these collections might be minor characters from a novel, or a story might include a bonus scene that picks up where a novel leaves off. These stories are a great way to get to know a particular author’s work, and after each story you’ll find a note from the author explaining where you can read more about that character.
Take a peek into the stories you’ll read in Ashes:
When Liz’s faith journey hits a roadblock, will an unexpected detour and chance encounter set her back on track?
A teen’s future was all set—before his tragic loss. But his friend’s secret past just might save it.
Justin’s religion is outlawed. When an unbeliever asks him about the meaning of life, what can he say?
Could God be asking Paul to sacrifice a piece of himself for Lent—literally?
A modern American teen discovers what faith, life and love are like in seventeenth-century Scotland.
Teenager Lexie Dugan struggles to understand the sacrifice of Lent when she’s asked to help take care of her siblings while her pregnant mother is on bed rest.
Asher’s desire to prepare for the Messiah intensifies after he’s robbed by bandits but would fighting alongside the Zealots be the best way?
When a risky Ash Wednesday mission to sterilize T. rex eggs goes wrong, fasting is the least of Joshua, Darryl, and Harry’s worries.
A medieval girl stranded on a forsaken path confronts threats from without and turmoil from within.
Struggling with loss, hunger, and temptation, Ethan finds himself walking in the steps of Jesus.
Visit CatholicTeenBooks.com to learn more about the authors behind this story collection and the mission of Catholic Teen Books.
Catholic Teen Books is offering a fun prize pack in conjunction with this giveaway! Enter today to win a copy of Ashes, Lenten socks, a handmade rosary, devotional for teens, and more! This giveaway ends on release day, January 31.
Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images: courtesy of CatholicTeenBooks.com
A copy of this book was provided to me for the purposes of this article.
This article contains Amazon affiliate links, which provide a small compensation to the author of this piece when purchases are made through the links, at no cost to you. Thank you for your support.
While Lent is still a whole month away (Ash Wednesday is March 2, 2022), ongoing supply-chain and shipping issues mean planning ahead is a good idea. This year I’ve had the chance to preview four new resources: one family prayer and activity booklet, one guided prayer journal, and two daily devotionals.
Claire McGarry’s booklet, Abundant Mercy: Family Devotions and Activities for Lent, is perfect for families with school-age kids. Each day’s prayer page is right-sized for busy families, with a quote from Scripture, a micro-story or reflection, a meditation on our faith, and a Mercy section at the bottom of each page: a one-line prayer (“Receive Mercy”) and a call to action (“Extend Mercy”).
My favorite feature of this booklet is that Mercy section. The prayers are for intentions kids can understand and relate to, and the suggested actions are do-able for kids who are old enough to be in school.
For example, Wednesday of the First Week of Lent features Matthew 5:44, a paragraph about the Christmas 1914 ceasefire in Germany, a reflection about making the first move toward reconciliation, a prayer for help in forgiving our enemies, and this call to action: “Extend Mercy. Write a prayer for someone you’re having trouble with. Work for a ceasefire by praying that both of your hearts become filled with peace.”
Some of these “Extend Mercy” actions are individual; others are things families can do or discuss together. At only a page a day, the reflections in this booklet could be used at the beginning of the day or around the dinner table. Abundant Mercy is available on Kindle or in print from Creative Communications for the Parish.
RESTORE: A Guided Lent Journal for Prayer and Meditation, the new seasonal journal by Sr. Miriam James Heidland, SOLT and illustrated by Valerie Delgado, is a beautiful journal that invites you to write your thoughts and prayers throughout Lent. This book is appropriate for moms, dads, and other adults, including college students.
Four pages for each day of Lent, as well as Easter Sunday, include a line of Scripture, a one-page meditation, and two full pages with journal lines, topped by a question to ponder and ending with a one-line prayer.
The meditations and prayers by Sr. Miriam James are complemented by Valerie Delgado’s inviting art, shown at the beginning of each week’s section. The book’s design is uncluttered, eliminating unnecessary distraction during your prayer time, and accented in subdued Lenten purple.
RESTORE will be released February 11 on Kindle or in print from Amazon and from Ave Maria Press. (I recommend purchasing the print book—the ebook price is almost equal to the print version, and since this is a journal, the print book makes more sense.)
Thy Kingdom Come: A Lenten Journey by Fr. Dennis Gallagher, AA, Provincial of the Augustinians of the Assumption, offers daily reflections based on the daily Mass readings. Fr. Gallagher writes in a simple, accessible style that brings home the truths of each day’s Gospel without being complicated.
The daily entries in Thy Kingdom Come include a line from the daily Gospel, a brief reflection (most are two short paragraphs in length), and a concluding prayer related to the topic of that day’s reflection. All the reflections in this book are centered on the theme of choosing to follow God’s will for our lives.
If you’re unable to attend daily Mass during Lent, the reflections in this booklet will serve as mini-homilies and are an excellent accompaniment to each day’s readings.
This booklet is geared toward an adult audience and would be suitable for a married couple or prayer group to read and discuss together.
Fans of the spiritual writing of Dutch priest Henri J.M. Nouwen (1932-1996) will enjoy Drawn to the Cross: Inspiration from Henri J.M. Nouwen. This booklet of Lenten devotions includes a Scripture quote for each day, a line or two from one of Nouwen’s works, then a reflection on that theme. The reflections and the prayers that conclude each day’s entries are written by Gil Duchow.
This booklet, designed for adult readers, explores the meaning of the cross in terms of humility, service, and sacrifice.
On the back of the booklet, readers will find a list of Nouwen’s published works quoted in the daily entries. While that’s required for copyright purposes, it’s also an excellent resource for readers who want to explore this author’s work in more depth.
Lent begins on February 17 this year: it’s time to purchase your Lenten spiritual reads so you’ll be off to a good start on Ash Wednesday. I have an enormous pile of spiritual books on my desk that are either specific to Lent or suitable for Lent. You’re sure to find something for yourself or your family.
While we’re not all able to gather in churches as usual for Mass, Stations of the Cross, and other devotions, we can feed our souls through spiritual reading and pray the Stations of the Cross at home or in outdoor meditation areas. This Lent, we may need to be creative in finding ways to deepen our faith.
Lenten Prayer Journal
Surrender All: An Illuminated Journal Retreat through the Stations of the Cross by Jen Norton (Ave Maria Press). Don’t be afraid to write in this beautiful journal. Jen Norton provides the art, which includes some lettered Scripture verses as well as paintings of each of the Stations of the Cross. For each station, there is a Scripture reading, a two-page reflection, and a “creative illuminations” section where you’re invited to express your thoughts either through visual art or by writing in the spaces provided.
Daily devotions beginning on Shrove Tuesday and ending on Divine Mercy Sunday (including readings from St. Faustina’s Diary and a prayer)
Meditations on the Passion and the Way of the Cross
Taking Refuge in the Wounds of Jesus
Uniting our Sufferings with Our Lady’s
Litanies for Lent and in Times of Suffering
Jesus and St. Faustina on Making a Good Confession
Susan Tassone’s thorough knowledge of St. Faustina Kowalska’s Diary and her devotion to prayer for the suffering souls in Purgatory enrich her writing. Each day’s readings are approximately one page in length; you’ll also find directions for praying the Divine Mercy Novena and other devotions.
The Living Gospel: Daily Devotions for Lent 2021 by Theresa Rickard, O.P. (Ave Maria Press). This pocket-size, two-page-per-day devotional is an excellent day starter or lunchtime read. Each day’s selection includes a reference to the daily Mass readings – so keep your Bible handy while you read. Following the Scripture reading, a short reflection connecting the reading to our everyday lives follows, along with a suggested action and closing prayer.
For the Kids
Living Faith Kids: What We Do in Lent by Connie Clark (Creative Communications for the Parish). Help your early readers (ages 5 and up) understand what Lent is all about with this sticker booklet that explains Ash Wednesday, the Lenten calendar, ways to pray during Lent (and anytime), fasting and abstaining from meat, almsgiving, and more Lenten practices. The booklet includes many activities families can do at home to enrich their faith together.
Stations of the Cross for Kids by Regina Doman; illustrated by Chris Lewis (TAN Books). A bit of behind-the-scenes information about each station, holy relics, and historical events related to some of the places mentioned in the Stations of the Cross will fascinate curious young readers (and their parents!). This retelling of the Stations of the Cross is ideal for readers in fourth grade through middle school and includes Scripture verses, lyrics to the Stabat Mater, and a short meditation on each station along with prompts to pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. The detailed illustrations provide context.
Living Faith Kids: Praying the Stations of the Cross by Mark Nielsen (Creative Communications for the Parish). Younger readers (ages 5 through 10) will appreciate this short journey through the Stations of the Cross, which includes the traditional opening prayer for each station, an age-appropriate description of what was happening at each station, a short meditation, and a closing prayer. This booklet includes stickers to be placed beside the prayer for each station.
Saint Stories for the Whole Family
A Storybook of Saints by Elizabeth Hanna Pham (Sophia Institute Press). While this book is designed to be read on the feast days of the saints included in it, there’s no reason children ages 7 and up can’t enjoy this book during Lent. Short biographies of 50 saints are complemented by simple line drawings designed to resemble holy cards. Enjoy this book as a family by reading about a saint each day, perhaps after school or after dinner.
I’m a Saint in the Making by Lisa M. Hendey (Paraclete Press). Lent is the perfect time to underscore the message in this book for grownups as well as kids: saints are superheroes, and we are called by God to be heroes too. Every saint is both a role model and a prayer champion, Lisa maintains, and in language simple enough for kids (without ever talking down to them) she demonstrates how they can strive for both those goals in their everyday lives. A wonderful variety of saints, from the days of the early Church through modern times, is represented. Illustrations are fun, inclusive, and engaging, and include many wonderful details about the saints discussed in the book.
For Teens and Young Adults
Hope. Always. Our Anchor in Life’s Storms by Kris Frank (Pauline Books & Media). Catholic youth minister Kris Frank offers reflections on finding hope in difficult times in this honest, relatable book that doesn’t insult the intelligence of teens and college students. Discussion questions at the end of each chapter can be used by youth groups, small faith-sharing groups, or as journal prompts for individual readers.
Victory! Poems by Jake Frost. CatholicMom contributor Jake Frost ponders Palm Sunday and the Garden of Gethsemane in two poems in this volume of short verse. Historical notes provide context for some of the poems included.
Ex Libris: G.K. Chesterton by Dale Ahlquist (Pauline Books & Media). This introduction to the nonfiction work of G.K. Chesterton is organized by topic and features selections on wonder; innocence; goodness; purity; faith, hope, and charity; the Christian ideal; everyday holiness; and joy. Each brief excerpt includes the name of the book or essay where it originated, so you can look into reading more by this beloved 20th-century writer. Lent is an excellent time to dig into the writing of a new-to-you spiritual thinker.
Check out the Lenten spiritual reading I’ve recommended previously:
With less than a week to go before Lent, it’s time to finalize your spiritual reading plans. My bookshelf is packed with recent releases, and any of these eight books are worthwhile choices for Lent.
Begin this one now, and you’ll finish by Holy Week: Called by Kevin Cotter (Ave Maria Press). Subtitled “Becoming an everyday disciple in a post-Christian world,” this book is designed to focus on how Jesus proclaimed the gospel and to inspire others to do the same. What does it mean to be a disciple? How do we live that life? Most days, entries are three pages long, which is an easy enough commitment. You’ll find fascinating background information that will help you understand the gospel better. A reflection question ends each day’s entry. The approach is tied into a program the author recommends, Alpha for Catholics, a faith study based on a model developed by Protestants. Readers will learn to look at everything in their lives and ask, “Does this help me follow Jesus?”
Designed to be read day by day during Lent, Remember Your Death: Memento Mori Lenten Devotional by Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, fsp (Pauline Books & Media) was a surprise to me. I was afraid that all this talk of death would feel really morbid — but that’s not the case at all. It’s at once challenging, comforting, and hopeful. Memento mori reminds us why we live, and the power we have through Baptism to live for God. I confess that I opened this book and started reading and didn’t stop until I’d gone through almost a week’s worth of reflections. (Then I figured I’d better save some for Lent!)
Are you looking for a refresher course on the Faith? Michael Pennock’s This Is Our Faith: A Catholic Catechism of Adults (Ave Maria Press), newly revised and updated, is an excellent book to read through the season. I’ve done the math for you: read only 9 pages per day and you’ll be finished before Easter! Each chapter begins with a story or reflection, then follows a question-and-answer format to lead readers through an in-depth presentation on each of the four pillars of the Catechism: the Profession of Faith; celebration of the sacraments, liturgy, and the Paschal Mystery; life in Christ (foundations of morality); and Christian prayer.
Leave The Strangeness of Truth around for your teenager to find. Father Damian J. Ference’s new book (Pauline Books & Media) has a cover that reminds me of vintage sci-fi novels (and is even designed to appear scarred and well-worn) but there’s no fiction here — just a dynamic use of the power of story to bring home the mysteries of God’s love in our lives and our world. Fr. Ference explains in the preface that each chapter of the book builds upon the next, so it’s best read from start to finish, and even better if read with a friend. Chapters are short and each include a story at the beginning and another at the end, plus some explanation of the chapter’s topic and (sometimes) the story of a saint whose life fits in with that topic.
Take a new look at the Blessed Mother as you read Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary by Brant Pitre (Image Books). Learn what the Bible says about Mary, what early Christians believed about her, and how our Catholic beliefs about Mary are rooted in ancient Jewish tradition. This book is great for anyone with a devotion to the Blessed Mother as well as for people who want to deepen their understanding of her role in salvation history.
Two new additions to the Catholic Treasury series from Pauline Books & Media are perfect for devotional prayer at home or in the Adoration Chapel. Mary, Mother of God Prayer Book by Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouvé, fsp, and Eucharistic Adoration Prayer Book by Sr. Marie Paul Curley, fsp, are both beautiful, gift-quality books that are small enough to tuck into your handbag and bring to the chapel (or to read anywhere). Sturdy leatherette covers with gold embossing, gold-edged pages, and ribbon bookmarks complement the simple design of the books, which are filled with basic prayers such as the Mysteries of the Rosary, various novenas, and litanies, in addition to original meditations.
Lent (and particularly Holy Week) is an excellent time to meditate on the Last Supper and Jesus’ Passion and death. In The Fourth Cup (Image Books), Dr. Scott Hahn explains the connections between the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the ancient Jewish rituals of Passover. If you’re interested in exploring the Passover references throughout the Old and New Testaments, this book details how everything fits together and even informs the way we celebrate Mass.
Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.
It’s almost Lent: time to take a look at this year’s newest resources, including one newly re-released gem you can use the whole year long.
One for the Family
Families with school-age children will enjoy Claire McGarry’s With Our Savior: Family Devotions for Lent. Each day begins with a line or two from Scripture, followed by a short reflection: sometimes a story with a message, sometimes a vignette about a famous person, sometimes an explanation of something from the Bible. A one-sentence prayer focuses on the meat of the story. Finally, there’s an action item, ranging from questions to spark conversation at the dinner table to prompts for works of mercy the family can do together. This inexpensive 48-page booklet is available directly from the publisher, Creative Communications for the Parish, and on Kindle.
One for Your Teen
Give your teenagers their own devotional. Katie Prejean McGrady and Tommy McGrady’s Lent: One Day at a Time for Catholic Teens (Ave Maria Press) starts out with a scenario we can all relate to: that absent-minded way we break out “Lenten resolution” only one week in. Leading off with this story allows the McGradys to remind the reader that Lent doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing kind of thing, but is instead supposed to be a time when we can re-center our lives: on Jesus.
Each Sunday offers a challenge for the week and suggestions for making it happen, as well as a Gospel reflection, journal prompt (and space to write right there in the booklet), and short prayer. Journal prompts for the rest of the week will require a separate journal; each Saturday the week wraps up with an examination of conscience of sorts, based on the challenge from the Sunday before. It’s an easy-to-use book and inexpensive enough to purchase for a whole class or youth group.
One for the Worrier (like me!)
Gary Zimak makes no secret about the fact that he’s a worrier, which makes him the perfect person to write encouraging books for other people who worry too. New from Ave Maria Press, Give Up Worry for Lent: 40 Days to Finding Peace in Christ is a devotional for people who make a habit of worrying. I appreciate that Gary never takes the tactic that if only you trusted God more, you magically wouldn’t experience anxiety anymore. He does talk about trust, but in a way that encourages the reader instead of dismissing their suffering.
Each day’s reflection begins with a short Scripture passage; following this, there’s a reflection (about a page long), an area called “Respond” with a spiritual action item, often including a way to turn around the tendency to worry or be anxious and instead, turn to God. A short prayer wraps up the day’s section.
One for the Whole Year
Lenten devotionals are wonderful, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Maria von Trapp’s re-released Around the Year with the von Trapp Family in my list of Lenten must-reads. With this one, your best bet is to start reading it early, because it’s a guide on living the liturgical year, and in many parts of the world, that includes Carnival! Learn about the Old World customs that you can import into your family life. As you move into the Lenten season, read about Maria’s spiritual-reading program, a discussion of fasting and society’s motives for fasting (which reads like something written in 2019, not 1955!), and other Lenten practices.
Around the Year is a book you’ll want to keep handy the whole year long: it’s packed with recipes, descriptions of and historical information about customs, family stories, and even hymns and folk songs – with music! Sophia Institute Press has packaged this book as a beautiful hardcover with lovely touches and simple illustrations. (And if you’re a Sound of Music fan, this is definitely not to be missed.)
Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given free review copies of these books, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.
March has been a busy month — all the more so because I’ve been getting ready for what I’m calling “Crazy April.”
Monday morning, bright and early, I’m headed to the airport so I can travel to Cincinnati and represent Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine at the NCEA convention and help host a banquet for the Innovations in Catholic Education Awards.
(Related: I had to buy a fancy dress. And shoes that, I hope, will allow me to stand for the better part of the day on a trade-show floor and walk a few blocks each way to the hotel. Tendonitis in both feet and an old stress fracture in one isn’t a good combination when this is on the agenda.)
After four days of travel this week, I’ll have about 10 days at home before I drive to Worcester, MA, for editorial meetings for the magazine.
So I’ve been prescheduling as much content as I can at CatholicMom.com and CatholicTeacher.com, working on final edits for the coming summer issue, and, well, generally neglecting things around the house. On Wednesday it occurred to me that while I’d finished most of the work projects, I had no Easter-basket treats for my family and no idea what I’d be serving for Easter Sunday dinner.
Meanwhile, in the course of my routine correspondence with the authors I work with in both of my jobs, I’ve been getting some variation on the theme of, “How was your Lent?” I’ve even been editing articles along that line.
When you work in Catholic media, you can’t help being bombarded, this time of year, with recaps of people’s holy Lents. And, well, my Lent hasn’t been so very holy. It’s not that I’m not keeping my eyes on my own paper, so much that other people’s papers are being shoved right under my eyes in the course of my job.
I bought this beautiful Lenten spiritual workbook, Above All, from Take Up and Read. I haven’t touched it in weeks. If I’ve completed 1/5 of it, that’s a lot. I just haven’t made the time.
I did manage to give up espresso beverages … whoop-de-do.
But honestly, it’s all been about time management. I love the work I get to do: I have terrific and supportive colleagues at both my jobs, and the writers I work with are wonderful. I call many of them my friends, and I look forward to meeting several more of them this summer at the Catholic Writers Guild Conference. My problem is, in an occupation where there is always new content to prepare, I can get swamped under that and let it spill over into the time I should be allotting for other things.
So I’m packing my copy of When the Timer Dings, and a blank bullet journal, into my tote bag for the airplane trip. I find that when I’m in a different place, I can get out of my head and think more creatively. I have some daydreaming to do about my goals and wishes for next year’s magazines, but I need to do some daydreaming about the way I manage my time (or, more accurately, don’t manage it.)
Lent this year just hasn’t been so holy. Beating myself up about it isn’t going to help. So while the business trips I’m taking this April are taking me way out of my comfort zone (and my comfortable sweatpants) I’m beginning to feel grateful for the opportunity to reboot the way I schedule my work.
After all, Lent isn’t the only season of the liturgical year in which you can grow in holiness. Maybe with improved time management, I’ll be better able to nurture my spiritual life during the Easter season and beyond.
How did your Lent go? If it wasn’t so holy, what can you do about that during the Easter season?
Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz Product links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Thank you for using these links for our Amazon purchases.
Two new books from Ave Maria Press invite readers to open their hearts to God and set themselves free from sin and its trappings.
Lenten Healing: 40 Days to Set You Free From Sin is a do-it-yourself retreat that focuses not only on sin, but on the virtues that will have room in our lives if we free ourselves from sin. Author Ken Kniepmann begins each day’s entry with the line, “Today, I choose to fast from the sin (or wound) of _____.” The exception is each Sunday, when the entry focuses on feasting on virtues. Filled with relatable, concrete examples of the faces of sin in our lives, Scripture passages and questions for meditation (keep a journal handy!), and short prayers, this book is a gateway for readers to confront — and weed out — those sinful actions and tendencies that keep us far from God.
Each week, after Friday’s entry, there’s a prayer meditation on the sin and the wound that has been the focus of each week. This is my favorite part of the book; I recommend that you bring this book to Adoration, along with a journal, to work through that section of each week’s chapter. The Sunday emphasis on the virtue that is the opposite of the sin you’ve been considering all week is a refreshing and uplifting opportunity to focus on how we can change our lives for good during Lent.
Some decluttering books are written by people who act like they have it all together. Those books are not for me. In Making Room for God: Decluttering and the Spiritual Life, Mary Elizabeth Sperry readily admits that she has a lot of work to do, and that her home is not perfectly neat and tidy all the time. I like the connections made between homemaking and the spiritual life. This book addresses necessary topics like spiritual discipline, reconciliation, prayer, and materialism. The best chapter, in my opinion, is the one where the author draws parallels between clutter and sin. This book spoke to me so much, I’ve got whole paragraphs underlined, never mind the circles and arrows …
Why is this a book for Lent? While it isn’t designated as one, I can’t help but think its early-February release is providentially timed. In Lent, we seek to reform our hearts. This book is not full of tips and tricks for cleaning out that kitchen-gadget drawer or keeping your linen closet tidy. Instead, it’s an invitation to look at your relationship with your stuff — not just the stuff you have now, but the stuff you may acquire later. Its focus on generosity, the common good, and prayer make it an excellent Lenten read: by Easter, you’ll be thinking about the way you live a whole lot differently.
Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz
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It’s not today’s Gospel, but it’s definitely one worth considering during Lent, when we are doing our best to change our hearts. Today’s “Worth Revisit” looks back at 2009.
Gospel: Jn 5:1-16
There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.
Now that day was a sabbath.
So the Jews said to the man who was cured,
“It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.”
He answered them, “The man who made me well told me,
‘Take up your mat and walk.’”
They asked him,
“Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?”
The man who was healed did not know who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.
After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
“Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you.”
The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a sabbath.
Father’s homily today centered not on the fact that Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath, but on the fact that He healed someone who didn’t necessarily consider himself ready to be healed.
Do we want to be changed? Certainly it is easier to keep things the same–even if things aren’t great, at least they are familiar. That man in the Gospel who was ill for 38 years and then healed would now have to find a way to earn a living and find himself food and shelter. In some ways, it might have been easier for him to stay the way he was.
Lent is a time of healing. In my college chapel each Lent, banners were hung with the words: “Be reconciled to God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.” (I’m not much of a “banner” person but that reminder has stuck with me even after 22 years.)
Our Lenten actions of sacrifice and prayer are meant to heal us, to bring us closer to God, to change us.
So is giving up Milky Ways and designer coffee really going to help me to change? Will it bring me closer to God? Only if I let it. Only if I let those very small sacrifices remind me that it’s not all about me. It’s about letting go of something in favor of a greater good. It’s about turning that sacrifice into an opportunity for almsgiving (that’s what those little cardboard “rice bowls” are all about). It’s about remembering that giving up a candy bar is really small in comparison to what Christ was willing to give up, and allowing that realization to lead me to a greater generosity of spirit.
I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!