During our first-ever WPI Live event last week (catch it here), our group began a discussion of reading recommendations for this Lent. Whether you’re looking for action or contemplation, or some fiction to distract you while absent from social media, we thought we’d offer some more suggestions.
In case you missed it on the episode: Matt Kappadakunnel led the way recommending Sr. Helen Prejean’s latest, River of Fire: On Becoming an Activist. He recommended viewers become more acquainted with Sr. Prejean’s testimony and call to activism, particularly among those on death row. Melinda Ribnek joined him in recommending Pope Francis’s latest book-length interview with Austen Ivereigh, Let Us Dream. (A common recommendation from WPI contributors, and definitely on the list among those who hadn’t gotten to finish the book yet.)
Since it’s never too late to add a book to your Lenten reading stack, here are some more recommendations from our contributors:
Paul Fahey recommends Pope Francis’s 2018 document on the call to holiness in today’s world. The pope addresses the false teachings of Gnosticism and Pelagianism that are often present in the way Catholics talk about holiness. He also gives an image of holiness that’s personal, simple, and profound. Francis picks up on Vatican II’s universal call to holiness and presents the faithful with a practical and compelling path to greater sanctity. Paul says, “It’s been my Lenten reading in the past and I’ve found it helpful to use the chapter on the Beatitudes as an examination of conscience for my Lenten confession.”
Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life by Cardinal Walter Kasper
“Profound book!” says David Lafferty. This book, praised by Pope Francis, will transform your understanding of mercy and place it at the centre of your life as a Christian.
Matt Kappadakunnel–perhaps WPI’s most voracious reader–shares a few more recommendations:
Inward Stillness by Fr. George Maloney, SJ.
A book on contemplative prayer, which he used in his article on Night Vigil. It appears to be currently out of print, but you should be able to track down a used copy.
Racial Justice and the Catholic Church by Fr. Bryan Massingale.
Written in 2010, this book was truly ahead of its time. Fr Massingale, a theological ethics professor at Fordham, analyzes American Church history and documents and juxtaposes them with the experience of Black Catholics.
Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ.
Fr. Boyle recounts his ministry with gang members in Los Angeles and how it has brought him closer to Jesus and imitating the Sacred Heart.
Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man by Henri de Lubac
In this influential 20th century text, de Lubac synthesizes the teachings of the Church Fathers on important subjects such as the sacraments, eternal life, and the Church’s catholicity. He writes in a very accessible way, and the book can be used for both prayer and study to help understand the theological underpinnings of Vatican II.
Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther and the Fight for the Western Mind by Michael Massing
Daniel Amiri recommends this profile of Erasmus and Luther, which tells of their different approaches to confronting the crisis of the Church in their day that seems in so many ways analogous to our own.
Francis: The Journey and the Dream by Fr. Murray Bodo
This weaving of poetry and history to create a compelling story of Francis’ life and spiritual development was recommended by Daniel Amiri. Francis transformed Italy and the world through his example, and his story continues to resonate in the hearts of millions.
Rachel Amiri recommends this Orthodox spiritual classic, an account of a man seeking to learn what it means to “pray without ceasing” using the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”). I am returning to this one this Lent after almost 15 years since last reading it, to see what insights about bringing a rhythm of daily prayer from the head to the heart strike me differently now.
Poustinia: Encountering God in Silence, Solitude and Prayer by Catherine de Hueck Doherty
Doherty was a friend of Dorothy Day and founded the Madonna House Apostolate in Canada. Rachel Amiri recommends her reflection on the Russian practice of contemplative retreat in the poustinia, bare shelters with nothing to read but the Bible, as brought to life and broadened to be accessible to those in every walk of life.
This Present Paradise: A Spiritual Journey with St. Elizabeth of the Trinity by Claire Dwyer
Marissa Nichols recommends this reflection on the spirituality of a woman who insisted that holiness was for all, not only priests and religious.
The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
by Simon Winchester
As one of our editorial wordsmiths, Marissa also recommends this deep-dive into the human history behind the OED.
Some other recently-reviewed spiritual books worth your time are Fr. James Martin’s new Learning to Pray, Mark Shea’s The Church’s Best-Kept Secret: A Primer on Catholic Social Teaching, and Dawn Eden Goldstein’s spiritual memoir, Sunday Will Never Be the Same. You also might consider a deeper-dive into Pope Francis’s latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti. Thankfully there’s a new, free study guide for that!
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Rachel Amiri serves as Production Editor for Where Peter Is and has also appeared as the host of WPI Live. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with degrees in Theology and Political Science, and was deeply shaped by the thought of Pope Benedict XVI. She has worked in Catholic publishing as well as in healthcare as a FertilityCare Practitioner. Rachel is married to fellow WPI Contributor Daniel Amiri and resides in St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising three children.