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THE CATHOLIC REVIEW: Preparation for the Lenten Journey
Deacon Rick Bauer

THE CATHOLIC REVIEW: Preparation for the Lenten Journey

by Deacon Rick Bauer

We have entered into the season of Lent, when we are called to practice more intensely the disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In the prayer department, we can be greatly aided by books that help us to meditate on Christ’s passion and death. Below are several suggestions:

Turn to the Cross: Daily Prayers for Lent and Holy Week

(Ave Maria Press, 2023)

We begin our reviews for Lent with a simple and powerful place to start. Too often, we psyche ourselves up and make unrealistic plans for our observance of Lent, and we set ourselves up for failure and self-accusation. In “Turn to the Cross” by Josh Noem, we find a better way, a “yoke that is easy,” as it were. Each day from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday begins with a passage from the Liturgy of the Hours — a psalm, prayer, antiphon, or response — followed by a short spiritual reflection, morning and evening prayers, and a question to ponder throughout the day. About five minutes a day is all we need as we turn to the Cross for healing, hope, and renewal.

Each week includes a new Lenten theme on subjects that are hardly new but often difficult to incorporate into our daily lives. The themes run from God is faithful, the call to conversion, giving alms, fasting, prayer, and following Christ through his cross.

The book is affordable for individual and bulk purchases by Catholic parishes, schools, and other institutions.

How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization

(TAN Books, 2023)

“Christ’s greatest gift, His divine flesh and blood in the Eucharist, is the eternal defining legacy of Christendom, the flower of Western Civilization. The Eucharist is not just a doctrine; it is a reality to live, and it must shape our lives and culture. The Blessed Sacrament has more power than any medicine to heal the body and soul, more strength than any army to defeat our foes, and more grace to transform our civilization by first transforming us.”

So begins author, catechist, and scholar Jared Staudt in his book “How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization.” As we enter into the third year of the Eucharistic Revival, we have had unique opportunities to build our faith and deepen our reverence. Some of us are committed to focusing on the Eucharist for Lent, which is a perfect opportunity. Jared Staudt is a master catechist and was involved in teaching many of the deacon candidates in the Diocese of Colorado Springs in his work at Augustine Institute. “How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization” is structured on the catechism’s description of the Eucharist. Sections of the book cover the Eucharist as the foundation of Christian culture, the Eucharist as summit in the liturgy, and building a Eucharistic civilization in our culture. Staudt provides a thorough bibliography, his personally recommended books, liturgical eucharistic prayers, and those relevant prayers of the saints, which is a wonderful and inspiring collection (just the resource for prayer during Eucharistic adoration).

Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus From the Cross

(Basic Books, 2000)

At some parish or small group meeting this coming Good Friday, one thing is certain: men and women will reflect upon the last seven recorded statements of Jesus upon Calvary’s cross. Numerous writers and composers have been captivated by the suggestiveness of Jesus’ Seven Last Words. One of my favorites is Ernest Hemingway, whose one-act play (later turned into a short story) titled “Three O’clock in the Afternoon” imagines the Roman soldiers at the Jerusalem watering hole after a certain Friday’s grisly business. One soldier is caught by the words and character of one of the criminals, uttering off and on a haunting summary: “He was pretty good in there today.”

The late Father Richard John Neuhaus (a former Lutheran and founding editor of the religious journal First Things) provides a sustained exploration of these utterances, which is both a unique creation yet a mine of treasured thoughts of the saints. He sets forth the central narrative of Western civilization —the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ — in an arresting moment that continues to engage the attention of believers, unbelievers, and those who are unsure what they believe. “Death on a Friday Afternoon” invites the reader into a spiritual and intellectual exploration of the dark side of human experience with the promise of light and life on the far side of darkness.

I have fond respect Father Neuhaus; we carried on a correspondence when I was a Protestant graduate theology student considering a return to the faith. First Things proved to me that the Catholic faith was a serious one in which any biblical scholar could do good work. This short examination of the last words of Jesus is one of the more transformative attempts to capture the comprehensive love Christ has for this world. With the passing of time, the price of the book may be less, but its significance in orders of magnitude greater.

The Road to Calvary - Daily Meditations for Lent and Easter

(TAN Books)

St. Alphonsus Liguori examines the final days and crucifixion of Jesus, visiting the subject with intense detail and close readings of the Gospel scriptures. Originally titled “The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ,” in this book we are guided by this doctor of the Church through the long difficult path our Lord took to his death and crucifixion. Drawing on the insights of the saints who had gone before him, Liguori adds his own so that we may truly enter into the details of Christ’s suffering and ultimate victory over death. By diving into the details each day during Lent and Holy Week, “The Road to Calvary” will quench the spiritual hunger that we long for during Lent. He completes the Lenten journey with three magnificent meditations on paradise, for this is the goal of our earthly life.

The saints have all found rest and joy in the wounds of Christ. Follow “The Road to Calvary” this Lent and find the rest and joy of the saints. Liguori’s scholarly abilities brought him renown, and his prolific research and writings gained favor with church and academic scholars and theologians. His life and holy work resulted in his being canonized as a saint by Pope Pius IX in 1839. Honors go to TAN Books for continuing to help today’s Catholics rediscover their rich heritage.

(For comments or to suggest a book that might be helpful for Catholics, write Deacon Rick at rbauer@diocs.org.)

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