The three traditional Lenten practices are prayer, almsgiving and fasting. But those are not the only three practices from which we can benefit, both during Lent and during other times of the year. One of the other practices which can enhance our discipleship is spiritual reading.
I read a lot. I always have. But lately most of my reading, while often spiritual in nature, is directly tied to projects I’m currently working on: an academic presentation I am making, a particular upcoming retreat I’m preparing for, a course I will be teaching. Among other things, that means that it has been a while since I’ve read a work of fiction. And yet there is so much fiction that can be spiritually and theologically formative.
I came across a post the other day titled 12 Fiction Books that Will Shape Your Theology. The list includes some books I’ve read and others I have not, some I have heard of and others that were new to me.
One of the books listed – indeed, the first on the list – is Silence by Shusaku Endo, a Japanese author who converted to Catholicism when he was eleven years old. Silence is considered by many to be his masterpiece and it has been sitting on my shelf for a while waiting for me to get to it.
So my spiritual reading during Lent will include Silence. It will also likely include some selection from The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor. It will also include some nonfiction, and top of that list is Elie Wiesel’s first work, Night.
What will be your spiritual reading during Lent?
Rod Dreher’s account of how reading the Purgatorio one Lent changed him has inspired me to give it a try. So far, so good!
My reading: a) “Pope Francis, Untying the Knots” — a new biography which Adrew Sullivan says is required reading and explains the letter-in-life transformation of Jorge Bergolio (I’m curious to see if it resembles that of Oscar Romero). b) the new biography of Ruillio Grande available from Liturgical Press. The assassination of Grande, as you will recall, was instrumental in the transformation of Archbishop Romero. c) “Plain Song: For Female Voices”, a novel by National Book Award winner Wright Morris.
I’ve read five of the books on the list, but one of the novels that most influenced me was not included: Ignazio Silone’s BREAD and WINE (which was one of Dorothy Day’s favorites).
For Lent I’m reading Michael Casey’s Fully Human, Fully Divine: An Interactive Christology, which I’m finding very pointed and helpful.
Jesus: A Pilgrimage (Fr. James Martin, SJ)
Reimagining the Ignatian Examen: Fresh Ways to Pray from Your Day (Fr. Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ)
“Written that you may Believe,” Sandra Schneiders and “Where you are going, There you Are.” Jon Kabot-Zinn