There are so many questions we ask to learn more about one another’s stories. During the first weeks of college, freshmen will typically ask each other questions like, “Where are you from?” and “What’s your major?”. Beginning a job, new colleagues often ask, “Who did you work for? What did you do?”. To the town or parish “newbie,” people want to know “Where did you move from?” and, “How did you choose this parish, this place?”.

Our evangelical Christian brothers and sisters have a question in their repertoire that gets straight to the heart of sharing faith stories, “Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?”. But Catholics don’t have a vocabulary for this. In fact, the only people from whom I have ever heard Catholic faith origin stories readily shared are converts.

Why is that? Converts later in life–much like college freshmen, new hires, and new parishioners–can point to the line between “before” and “after.” For cradle Catholics, there is no line like this.

Correction: there is a “before and after” line, but we have to choose to cross it. We call it Lent, the penitential season of entering into the Lord’s suffering during which we endeavor to make a new start. And Ash Wednesday serves as that point at which we commit ourselves to a new direction, a new way of being, and a new chapter in our story.

Every resource featured this week at CatholicsRead can be a guide or support for any Catholic’s journey through Lent this year. Perhaps you still haven’t committed to Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; here are some suggestions. Our publishers have provided resources that appeal to a variety of Catholic approaches to prayer and spirituality and which are designed to fit into the daily or weekly schedule of busy Catholics.

If one book might be the “bedside table” read for the upcoming 40 days, it is Gerhard Lohfink’s The Christian Faith Explained in 50 Letters from Paulist Press. This book reveals the heart of Christianity through letters between the author and the parents of a nine-year-old daughter who has decided on her own to become Catholic. Witnessing the personal accompaniment of the family at their own faith turning-point can encourage all of us to embrace ours.

A Catholic Book of Hours and Other Devotions: Praying the Seasons and Feasts of the Church Year from Loyola Press is by renowned liturgist William G. Storey. It is presented in two parts: part 1 of the volume is a “Book of Hours” and part 2 includes a collection of Catholic devotions. This more traditional devotional guide is a great resource for diving deeper into the Church’s prayer.

Who doesn’t love the Way of the Cross during Lent? A Scriptural Way of the Cross from Magnificat is a beautiful reflection of the aesthetic that we come to expect from this publisher—gorgeous images and inspirational words that are designed to be accompanied by moving classical works of music. Or for the busy Catholic, try My Pocket Way of the Cross from Catholic Book Publishing or the Pocket Guide to the Stations of the Cross from Ascension. They are the perfect size to carry with you as you go through your day.

A litany is a traditional devotion that builds and deepens the prayer through repetition and rhythm. The Litany of the Sacred Heart from Catholic Book Publishing is a deeply spiritual collection of thirty-three, full-color, reverently illustrated invocations with accompanying commentaries on the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

If you feel called to focus your Lenten reflections on the person of Jesus, try Jesus’ Last Days by Bishop Serratelli from Catholic Book Publishing, and reflect on specific moments of the Passion narrative. The Way of Beatitude, by popular YouTube Franciscan Casey Cole, OFM, and published by Ave Maria Press focuses on Jesus’ own teaching that challenges us to change the way we see and respond to the world.

Looking for a weekly guide to keep you on track? Liturgy Training Publications’ Living Your Baptism in Lent: Weekly Reflections for Your Journey by Dennis Strach, CSC, is exactly the kind of Lenten reflection book to lead you to a deeper relationship with God, rooted in your Baptism.

Whatever you choose to guide you through your next “before and after,” have a blessed and fruitful new beginning this Lent.

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Therese Brown is the Executive Director of the Association of Catholic Publishers. She holds a master of arts degree in youth and liturgy from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She previously served as senior marketing specialist at United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Publishing Office. She is the author of Graced Moments: Prayer Services for the Lives of Teens (World Library Publications). She resides in the Baltimore area.

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