By Ann Jonas
For The Visitor
Lent is a time for holy reading and spiritual growth. Two new daily meditation books and a new collection of reflections relating to Christ’s resurrection offer good reading for Lent and Holy Week.
This daily devotional focuses on two central themes: the Seven Deadly Sins and the elements within us that cause us to sin. Author Ken Kniepmann, a Catholic speaker and former executive director of the John Paul II Healing Center in Florida, offers readers a structured guide to “fast” from destructive behaviors and thoughts. In the book, each of the seven weeks of Lent center on one of the deadly sins along with a deadly “wound.”
The first chapter has sloth as the sin and confusion as the wound; chapter 2 centers on pride and abandonment. Each day of the week has a short reflection on the negative behavior, several short, related Scripture passages, followed by a couple of thoughtful questions. A brief prayer ends each day; Fridays have a longer prayer meditation on the theme for the week. On Sundays, readers are asked to focus on positive behaviors that are connected to the week’s topic: diligence and understanding are the affirmative practices paired with sloth and confusion; humility and connectedness are paired with pride and abandonment.
Heidi Haverkamp is a writer, preacher and Episcopal priest. In her first years as a parish priest, she longed for solitude and found solace by reading a great number of books about hermits, including Thomas Merton, Julian of Norwich and the Carthusian monks. As part of her sabbatical in 2014, she had the chance to live as an almost-hermit on the grounds of the Holy Wisdom Monastery in Wisconsin, where she is a Benedictine oblate.
Solitude as a Christian discipline is the focus of Haverkamp’s new book of daily Lenten reflections, which examines ways that other Christians have explored the topic. Each full week of Lent features the theme of solitude plus one other focus word: silence, struggle, journeys, hospitality, resistance and confinement. A short Scripture passage, a very thoughtful meditation and a few questions for reflection are offered for every day of Lent. On Fridays, Haverkamp suggests different ways of fasting; on Saturdays, the book encourages almsgiving, and on Sundays, Haverkamp lists several actions or practices to try during the week related to the current theme.
The daily meditation usually explores the week’s theme through the life of a particular person, either from Scripture or Christian history.
In 2011, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, newly appointed archbishop of Manila, Philippines, led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was his first visit to Jerusalem, and rather than highlight the Way of the Cross and the Lord’s Passion and death, as is often the custom on these pilgrimages, Cardinal Tagle chose to use the Way of Light or the Via Lucis, as the theme. He approached the pilgrimage by following the life of Jesus, focusing especially on his resurrection.
This book is a compilation of his reflections and sermons while leading his seven-day pilgrimage, starting with the Annunciation in Nazareth and ending at the Latrun Monastery, near Emmaus. Cardinal Tagle is clearly moved by all the stops on the pilgrimage and offers some great thoughts, using light, hope and joy as his focus, reminding his listeners that “We are Easter people.”
Ann Jonas is the general book buyer for the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University.