Pop quiz time! How much time do we have left to prepare before Ash Wednesday and the start of the Lenten season?
If you answered ONE WEEK, congratulations. You’re absolutely right, and on top of your game. Some of the rest of us, however, are reeling as we ask ourselves how in the heck it can it possibly be Lent already when we haven’t even finished putting the last of the Christmas decorations away yet!
Ash Wednesday falls on February 10 this year, just six days shy of the very earliest it’s possible for it to fall. This presents a couple of potential dilemmas: 1) If your sweetheart is giving up sweets for Lent, you may have to think fast to find an alternative gift for Valentine’s Day, and 2) More than a few faithful Catholics, despite their best intentions, might not be quite ready for Lent just yet.
While we at Aleteia can’t haul your last box of Christmas ornaments up to the attic or procure a last-minute Lent-friendly gift for your Valentine, we have tried to make your Lenten preparations a little easier. Despite the potential for Lent’s early arrival to provoke a momentary panic, it’s important to keep in mind that this is really a season to slow down and reflect — and what better way to do that than with some quality Lenten reading?
Here, in no particular order, is Aleteia’s 2016 list of suggested Lenten reading. It’s got a little bit of everything, from the classics to hot-off-the-presses, and at every price point (including free!). Don’t worry, you’re not meant to read them all — these are just a few of our favorites, from which to pick and choose as you will. For offline reading, we’ve mainly linked to Amazon for its fast shipping and instant downloads, but feel free to shop around for the best deal — we’re not making a dime off of any of these suggestions.
- Magnificat’s 2016 Lenten Companion. Fans of Magnificat‘s pocket-sized monthly collection of daily Mass readings, prayers and spiritual reflections (also available in a convenient digital format) will definitely want to pick up this Lenten supplement, which is chock full of devotions from the best Catholic writers both past and present, along with beautiful artwork and meditations on the Stations of the Cross. At only $3.95, it’s a steal, but check your local parish first — quite a few of them make it available to parishioners this time of year for no cost or a nominal donation.
- Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales. This down-to-earth manual on authentic everyday Christianity is just as relevant now as it was four hundred years ago — in fact, much of it reads as if it could have been written today. We’ve linked to the hardcopy for portability’s sake, but if you want to read it for free, you can download it as a PDF or e-book via theChristian Classics Ethereal Library.
- In Conversation With God, Meditations for Each Day of the Year, Vol. 2: Lent, Holy Week, Eastertide, by Fr. Francis Fernandez. If you’re looking for an in-depth, up-close-and-personal growth experience this Lenten season, look no further than this classic devotional. Part of alarger series of devotions based heavily on the writings and homilies of St. Josemaría Escrivá (founder of Opus Dei), this compact, portable volume contains a devotion for every day of the Lenten and Easter seasons, each roughly five to six pages in length and tied to the daily Gospel readings. If you’ve ever wondered why some people call St. Josemaría “The Tweetable Saint,” it will be clear to you after just a few pages of this dense but highly readable book.
- The Name of God Is Mercy, by Pope Francis. If you haven’t yet read Pope Francis’ first published book since he became pope, what better time than now? After all, this is theJubilee Year of Mercy, and the pope himself called for a renewed focus on “mercy, not sacrifice” in his recent message for Lent. In that same vein, the Vatican has also released The Church of Mercy, an authorized sampling of some of Pope Francis’ key speeches and writings, while Our Sunday Visitor offers A Year of Mercy With Saint Francis: Daily Devotions, featuring “bite-sized” quotes and devotions, perfect for the Lenten pilgrim who is truly pressed for time.
- The Holy Bible. You can’t go wrong with God’s Word as your spiritual reading of choice for Lent, whether you go for the USCCB-favoredNew American Bible, the popular New Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition, or the good old-fashioned Douay-Rheims. Likewise, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is an excellent way to refresh your understanding of the faith and grow closer to God during this special season of prayer, penance and study.
Here’s hoping one or more of our suggestions speaks to your soul and helps you to grow in your faith during the 40 days of Lent. May your studies be fruitful and your season blessed.