Five great Lenten reads

(OSV News) — The season of Lent is an ideal time to grow in the spiritual life. Here are five great reads to help you on your way.

  • “Salvifici Doloris” by Pope St. John Paul II

Written in the wake of his assassination attempt and published as an apostolic letter in 1984, “Salvifici Doloris” is a treatise on the redemptive value of suffering, one of the hidden gems of St. John Paul II’s bibliography. It explains that all suffering finds its meaning and is transformed by Jesus Christ, sheds light on the centrality of the cross in the Christian’s life, and ties together themes of suffering from Scripture to present a robust spirituality on suffering. With Lent’s focus on purification and the need to cling to Christ crucified, this letter is most fitting for the season.

  • “Finding God in Suffering” by Father Christopher M. Mahar (Pauline Books & Media US, 2023)

Drawing richly from the teachings on suffering by Pope St. John Paul II, “Finding God in Suffering” tackles the age-old questions related to the topic, such as “what does suffering mean? Why does God allow it? How can it have a purpose? With Lent’s focus on Christ’s passion and death, this book can help others come to see their own connection to the Suffering Christ.

Drawing from decades of experience in pastoral counseling, author Father Christopher Mahar articulates the church’s teachings very clearly and with great empathy and hope. Each chapter is accompanied by reflection questions and prayer prompts, making the book a perfect tool to engage mind, heart and strength in the midst of suffering.

  • “With God in Russia” by Father Walter Ciszek, S.J. (Ignatius Press, 1997)

An inspiring and challenging memoir of the American Jesuit priest’s imprisonment in a Soviet gulag, falsely accused of espionage and subversion. Much of Father Ciszek’s suffering was endured in hard labor camps in Siberia. While there, he embraced the horror of his situation as a means to carry on his priestly work, even celebrating the sacraments secretly. But, moreover, the brutality he faced was a proving ground for great virtue and holiness. Given the importance placed on interior renewal and holiness imposed by the significance of Lent, this book has much to ponder.

These are the covers of “Finding God in Suffering” by Father Christopher M. Mahar, and “Legacy of Mercy” by Gretchen R. Crowe. (OSV News illustration)
  • “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis (Noll Library, OSV, 2018)

“The Imitation of Christ” is a handbook for spiritual life. The 15th-century text is divided into four books: “Helpful Counsels of the Spiritual Life,” “Directives for the Interior Life,” “On Interior Consolation” and “On the Blessed Sacrament.” It was written at a time when many recognized the need for reform in the church by holier living of its members. It focuses on the interior life and withdrawal from the world. It places emphasis on the devotion to the Eucharist as a key element of spiritual life. It can be a sure daily companion during Lenten prayer time.

  • “Legacy of Mercy” by Gretchen R. Crowe (OSV, 2022)

Legacy of Mercy is an odyssey into the heart of forgiveness, making it a perfect book to pray with during the season of Lent.

Written by OSV News’ editor-in-chief, the book tells the story of raising and losing a son; the story of forgiving his murderers; and the story of a mother responding to her son’s death not with vengeance or self-pity, but with love and a desire to serve others in need.

On May 31, 1999, Rachel Muha experienced a mother’s worst nightmare. Her youngest son, Brian, and his friend Aaron Land were taken by force on a journey of about 20 miles, spanning three states, that ended in torture and death. They were roommates and students at Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the murders shocked the campus and the wider community.

Even before her son’s body was found, Rachel publicly forgave her son’s killers. It was a life-changing moment, not just for her but for everyone who heard her powerful act of forgiveness and love. Rachel has continued to choose mercy and forgiveness every day since then, now leading a ministry that serves inner-city children in the hope that they won’t choose the same life that Brian’s murderers did.

This list originally appeared at Simply Catholic, an online ministry of Our Sunday Visitor.