I am an Evangelical Christian. I choose to celebrate Lent. I sacrifice something to meditate on the Sacrifice Christ made for me.
A dear friend of mine *She is also an Evangelical Christian)and I choose for the other what we are giving up for Lent. We do this to hold each other accountable. This year I am giving up video games and she is giving up fiction. We have agreed that the time we would normally spend on these activities will be spent in prayer and Bible reading.
Excellent! Several years ago, I gave up watching the major news channels. I was a news junkie and it was tough going for a few days. After 40 days, I realized just how much more at peace I felt and never went back to watching them again.
Like you, I devote that time to prayer and scripture reading and also select a book to read. This year I am reading:
Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux
It was this review that persuaded me.
I was recommended "Story of a Soul" as the favorite book of a woman I much admired, who worked at a Carmelite monastery. Initially I wondered about the recommendation when I began the book. Therese of Lisieux lived a sheltered life. Her parents were financially secure and devoutly religious (they had to be encouraged by a priest to marry rather than to join a religious order, and later to consummate their marriage). Therese knew she wanted to be a nun from an extremely early age.
My first impression was to wonder why was this book recommended to me, when she has nothing in common with my life, at a time when I didn't known how I would pay the bills and was not sure what God wanted form me in terms of a vocation. True, her health was poor and she suffered the loss of her mother early in her life, so her life was not without sorrow. But she also seemed to have security, love, and an incredible sense of direction, which made me question what I could learn from her life, when these qualities were so missing in my own. Furthermore, I questioned whether some one who lived so holy a life, could be a realistic role model for me; as I have made some pretty unholy decisions in my past.
The book quickly grew on me and eradicated my concerns about it being an inaccessible guide for spirituality. The beauty of the writing is her approach to spirituality, which is accessible to any one in any walk of life. She describes souls as similar to different types of flowers. Some are roses, others lilies, and some like orchids, for example. And all can be equally pleasing to God in their own way, when seeking his role for them. People have different talents and different struggles, but these characteristics do not mean that any type is more valued than the other.
She writes that if the Christian Church is one body, than she wants to be the heart that loves, which I thought was a beautiful sentiment and a much needed philosophy in the world today. When I look on mistakes I've made in my own life, I realized that it is easiest to succumb to temptation when one feels alone and unloved, and I believe that people would make less such mistakes if they had the support of God's love through others. She writes frequently of the many ways that God is love. She believed that heaven for her would be to be able to help people on earth after she died. Many remarkable stories have been published in books about people who claim to have been helped when having asked Therese to pray for their needs. She is one of the most common saints that people claim to have seen an apparition of during their times of trouble.
She writes that any sacrifice in daily life can be offered to God, for the conversion of souls, or help of others, whether it is the suffering of an illness or loss, or the performance of a mundane daily chore. This is a practice also advocated by saints like Gertrude of Helfta, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and Francis of Assisi, but it is a way of holy living that any one can practice, in any station of life, at any level of health. Therese also writes much about the prayer, and how her preferred method of praying rather than to memorize long formal prayers, is to speak directly to God as a child, or her struggles and requests.
The book is easy to read and intimate. One feels as if one is experiencing a conversation from Therese, while reading it. Excerpts beg to be read over and over again, and each reading makes me appreciate them more, and want to love others more. The only book that has made me fuller of love for God and others (outside of the Bible) is Catherine of Siena's "The Dialogues." Therese of Lisieux well earned her title as Doctor of the Church.
Thank you for sharing your Lenten plan. May our Lord bless and guide you both through the desert.