Making use of pre-Lent

Within the liturgical life of the Ordinariate the green of Ordinary time has already given way to purple. Not because we entered Lent early but because we keep the traditional season of “Pre-Lent” with the count down Sundays of Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima. A season which, sadly, got lost within the Novus Ordo.

Sad because Pre-Lent serves as an annual reminder of the need to prepare- not only for Easter via Lent- but for Lent itself. If the penitential season is to be fruitful we need consider where to direct almsgiving, when to confess, what luxury we will forgo to develop self-discipline and we need to order the book for our extra devotional reading.

People sometimes ask me for ideas for Lent reading. This year I am happy to suggest the following books. I have tried to include easy reads and slightly more demanding ones but nothing too demanding. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comment section.

1. Leila Miller: Primal Loss (Easy read)

Seventy now-adult children of divorce give their candid and often heart-wrenching answers to eight questions about how divorce affected them. Their simple and poignant responses are difficult to read yet not without hope. Most of the contributors have never spoken until now. Despite vastly different circumstances and details, the similarities in their testimonies are striking; as the reader will discover, the death of a child’s family impacts the human heart in universal ways. Link here.

2. Thomas a Kempis: The imitation of Christ (easy read)

The Imitation of Christ, dating from 1418-1427, is surprisingly easy to read. It is also, perhaps, the most widely read devotional work next to the Bible. Many will have therefore read it before… yet I still meet Christians who have not heard of it. So if it bypassed you – read it this Lent! Apart from the Bible, no book has been translated into more languages. Link here.

3.  Dante: Inferno (tran. Antony Esolen) (a little more demanding)

Inferno is the first part of Dante’s epic poem The Divine Comedy, revealing the eternal punishment reserved for such sins as greed, self-deception, political double-dealing and treachery. Antony Esolen is amongst my favourite Catholic writers and I heartily commend his translation. Link here.

4. Esolen: Defending Marriage: 12 arguments for sanity (medium read)

A compelling defense of traditional, natural marriage. Anthony Esolen-professor at Providence College and a prolific writer uses moral, theological, and cultural arguments to defend this holy and ancient institution, bedrock of society. He offers a stirring defense of true marriage, the family, culture, and love-and provides the compelling arguments that will return us to sanity, and out of our current morass. Link here.

5. Samuel Gregg: For God and profit (medium read)

One for the budding economist. From Christianity’s beginning, it has had a difficult relationship with money. Samuel Gregg underscores the different ways Christians have helped develop the financial and banking systems that have helped millions escape poverty for hundreds of years. But he also provides a critical lens through which to assess the workings-and failures-of modern finance and banking. Far from being doomed to producing economic instability and periodic financial crises, Gregg illustrates how Christian faith and reason can shape financial practices and banking institutions in ways that restore integrity to our troubled financial systems. Link here

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5 thoughts on “Making use of pre-Lent

  1. A superb selection. What I particularly like is the works, Miller, Gregg, Esolen, which show how our faith is rooted in the realities of human nature as well as in Revelation.
    To those who already love the Imitation of Christ, I suggest Lorenzo Scupoli’s The Spiritual Combat, currently running to 600 editions over the past four centuries. “If you aspire to perfection you must daily do violence to yourself”. Wow!

    1. And to those who already love Scupoli’s Spiritual Combat, I would recommend its (IMHO) much improved, unattributed Orthodox revision by St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and St Theophan the Recluse, titled “Unseen Warfare.” A great work and gives even more context to Scupoli’s original by enriching it with Patristic references from the Philokalia, among other things. (No “denominational agenda” in this recommendation, btw; I too am an Ordinariate Catholic.)

      Another fantastic work, highly recommended: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s “Prayer.”

      1. Traditional Catholic, Ordinariate Catholic, Orthodox – thanks be to God that we can be friends and can learn from and encourage each other.
        If we are to escape from Waffleland we need all the help we can get.

  2. Another little beauty is The Radiance of Her Face – a Triptych in Honour of Mary Immaculate, by Dom Xavier Perrin, Abbot of Quarr Abbey.
    Among other subjects he reflects on is the story of Mary’s conception as related in the Proto-evangelium of James, a work loved and honoured in the East but not as well known as it should be among us Romans.

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