One of the questions my spiritual director will often ask me in our meetings is what kind of spiritual reading I have done in the past month. I tend to follow inspirations and my own heart to guide me where to go next — and we have had some fascinating conversations about the books that have come across my path.
Lent is the perfect opportunity to find a new spiritual book to deepen your prayer and reflection. Here are a few of my favorites that have blessed my past Lenten journeys.
Henri Nouwen is one of my all-time favorite spiritual writers. His books have taught me so much about myself and the nature of God. His writings continue to be a great gift to the modern world, especially to those who seek truth, meaning and purpose in their lives.
The parable of the prodigal son is one of the most well-known teaching stories of Jesus. Interestingly enough, in one of the cycles of readings for the liturgical season, it is a Gospel story read during Lent. It is a story each of us can find ourselves in over the course of our lives for each character has something to teach us.
Nouwen writes the book out of his own deep prayer and reflection upon the Rembrandt painting “The Return of the Prodigal Son.” In it, he shares his prayer before the painting and develops chapters on the various characters in this parable of Jesus: the younger son, the elder son, the father. This book will connect you more to this particular lenten Scripture while inviting you to use your imagination to find your place in the story.
I first encountered these books several years ago when a priest friend was leading me through the Spiritual Exercises during Lent. While not commonly known spiritual classics, the depth of these books is a perfect fit for Lent.
The Way of the Pilgrim was written by an anonymous nineteenth-century Russian Orthodox peasant and depicts his examination of Saint Paul’s advice of how to “pray without ceasing.” This simple man travels far and wide seeking wisdom and answers to this question. Through his travels, he delves deeply into the value, mystery and power of prayer.
For me, this book greatly simplified but deepened my prayer life while opening me up to the beauty of the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner), a prayer common in Eastern churches.
As this nameless pilgrim becomes more open to the presence of God, the reader, too, is enlightened. If you are looking for something different this Lent, I would send this book to you in a heartbeat.
If you’ve already read The Way of the Pilgrim, pick up the sequel that is just as impactful: The Pilgrim Continues on His Way.
Tsh Oxenreider is a female writer and recent Catholic convert! She offers an ecumenical book for people to enter into Lent without burdening themselves with the need to treat Lent like a spiritual improvement plan.
Each day has a reading with various spiritual practices to try out and live throughout the Lenten season. Along with the book, Tsh has also created a music playlist and a weekly image of art to guide your prayer and reflection.
This is a great option for someone new to celebrating the Lenten season and, it could feel like a fresh approach if you have celebrated Lent your whole life.
The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
There is something specific about the Lenten season that draws me more to the monastic traditions and practices, perhaps it is the rhythm of daily prayer or solitude. Whatever the reason, I would encourage you to read the poet and lay contemplative Kathleen Norris.
This book is a combination of memoir and spiritual reflections on spiritual formation and monastic practices. Whenever I come back to this book, it always reminds me of the words of Jesus when he said, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest for a while.”
Searching for and Maintaining Peace by Fr. Jacques Philippe
The Lenten season, in many ways, can be an invitation to step away from distraction and noise, and into deeper intimacy with the Lord. This brief read serves as a practical manual full of rich commentary provided by Fr. Jacques Philippe. Loaded with encouragement and direction, it will inspire you to press on in your journey of holiness, clinging, not to your own devices, but to the source of peace itself — Jesus. If your desire this Lent is to shed some of what may be preventing you from surrendering all to Jesus, this book is a great place to start. If listening to books is more your style, check out the “Searching for Peace” challenge on the Hallow App, where you can journey with Sr. Miriam James Heidland SOLT through this book.
What are some of your favorite spiritual reads for the season of Lent? Which ones have most impacted your walk with Jesus?