February 15, 2023
Fr. John Riccardo
Lent is just one week away. Are we ready?
I’ve always had a great love for this season in the Church. For some, perhaps demented, reason I enjoy this time to cut out that which is not essential, focus on things that really matter, pray more, and try to love better. One of the things I especially enjoy is making more time to read. Because I curtail my intake of media during these penitential days, I find I have much more time. Now, I know that not everybody has this luxury due to their state of life – especially parents of small children! I also know some people don’t enjoy reading. Reading, however, is crucial if we’re going to grow, and especially if we’re going to grow in the Christian life. Reading good books gets us out of the world of click-bait, newsfeeds and headlines that often make up the bulk the of the mental furniture in our minds. Those things are often like junk food for the mind, whereas good books are like power foods. Lent is, then, I think, a time to put some good food into our minds.
Joan of Arc once said, “All battles are first won or lost in the mind.” Therefore, what we put into our minds greatly influences how we think. About pretty much everything. Sharing books that have been stimulating, encouraging and even life changing is one of the great joys of my life as a priest. So, one week away from Ash Wednesday, I wanted to pass along a few titles now to give us time to connect with our favorite book seller. To be sure, I could list far more titles than the ones below, but that would take too long. These are simply some that I return to often and have found to be “solid food” for the mind.
Anima Christi: Soul of Christ, by Mother May Francis, P.C.C. This is a rich meditation on a popular prayer that is found in The Magnificat after communion. Short, sweet, and punchy.
The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, by Fleming Rutledge. This is not short. It’s just under 700 pages. Bishop Barron called it, “One of the most stimulating and thought-provoking books of theology he has read in the last ten years.” Rutledge is Anglican, and so there are certain things Catholics might quarrel with, but that’s ok. It’s a true super food for the mind and soul.
The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul, by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli. This is an old classic from the 16th century that never goes out of style. Supposedly, St. Francis de Sales carried a copy of it in his pocket and read from it every day (they must have had bigger pants back then).
Thirsting for Prayer, by Jacques Philippe. Father Philippe is one of the great spiritual teachers of our day. I recommend this especially for those of us longing to pray more deeply this Lent.
The Christian Cosmic Narrative: The Deep History of the World, Sophia Consulting. As far as I’m concerned, the single best and most dramatic introduction to the Christian vision of reality.
The Power of the Cross: Good Friday Sermons from the Papal Preacher, by Raniero Cardinal Cantalamessa. A collection of 43 homilies given in St. Peter’s from the man who has been “the Pope’s preacher” since John Paul II.
Food for the Soul: Cycle A, by Peter Kreeft. This is a commentary on the Sunday readings, and so worth reading well beyond Lent. If you’ve never read Kreeft, get ready for a gourmet meal. Virtually every word is worth underlining.