Monday, 23 February 2009

Getting ready for Lent - Spiritual reading

Last week I talked about fasting, one of the traditional three things to do for Lent (along with prayer and almsgiving).

But I thought I might also mention a few other possibilities to consider adding to your regime.

Four lenten practices

The Benedictine Rule actually specifies four practices for Lent, all of which are worth consideration in our own regimes I think, namely:
  • prayer with tears - some extra time and fervour focusing on compunction of heart and avoidance of sin;

  • fasting and abstinence;

  • some specific offering - such as foregoing some food, drink, sleep, talk or jesting; and

  • sacred reading.
I thought I'd say a little bit about sacred reading (which can count as prayer if you do itr right!), as there is just time to find yourself a book to work through for Lent...

Sacred reading

During Lent, the Benedictine Rule actually increases the amount of time each day to be devoted to lectio divina. Each monk was to be given a book for the season from the library, which he was to read through in order (and meditate on).

The letter of St Scholastica I quoted from last week suggested that the superior had to choose a book specifically suited to the needs of each person, since left to ourselves we won't choose what's good for us!:

"When a sister chooses her own book she is all too often swayed by personal prejudices and taste. It is easy to avoid the book that will prick the soul with compunction. And so I choose carefully for my little flock, imitating Nonna Lucia, our infirmarian, an expert dispenser of medicines for every affliction. In choosing the Lenten books, I try to offer a remedy for the sick soul, a comfort for the weary, a joy for the downhearted, a light for the path of the one who seems to have lost her way."

So the ideal is to get your Spiritual Director to suggest something appropriate. Alas, few of us have the luxury of such a person, so we will have to help each other out with suggestions. One option, of course, is to pick a book of the Bible and work your way through that systematically with a good commentary. One of St Paul's letter's might be particularly appropriate this year!

Personally, though, I prefer either to see if anyone suggests anything in the lead up to Lent that sounds good, to head for the local Catholic bookshop and see what catches my eye, or to tackle one of those books I've had sitting on my bookshelf, and dipped into from time to time, but never really read from cover to cover (or if I have it was so long ago that I've forgotten it!)!

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