Lent is almost upon us. It is time to practice ASCETICISM.The word originates in ancient Greece and was used in athletics. It means "exercise, training". How appropriate! During the season of Lent, we train and exercise our spiritual muscle, so to say. Young athletes work hard to win a gold medal. They make sacrifices such as abstaining from eating unhealthy foods. They spend most of their time training rather than going to movies, parties or hanging out on social media. They know time is too precious to waste. Does it not make sense to do the same for the ultimate gold medal - Heaven?
Good news! The Catholic Church is your athletic coach with a full program for stripping your soul of the fatty residue of sin that makes you sluggish. At the same time, you will be invigorated with wholesome nutrition by the Sacraments, the Liturgy, Scripture and the lives and teachings of the Saints. Let's look at some books to help you win your gold medal.
A 40-Day Spiritual Workout For Catholics by Bob Rice tabs into the theme of athletics which runs throughout the book. The author is assistant professor of catechetics at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He clearly had college students in mind when he wrote this book. His style is appealing and fun and the content is profound. He begins with a scripture passage for each day's lesson, followed by an interpretation. Each day has a quote by a Saint and a passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This book is solid food for young adult spiritual athletes.
After introducing a brand new book, I would like to go back in time and look at a gem from the past.
The Stations of the Cross are a popular devotion for Holy Week. There are many guide booklets available which you will be able to find in your parish literature rack.
However, if you want to feed your soul with the best the Church has to offer on the theme of thePassion, read The Way of the Cross by British mystic Caryll Houselander. This is a beautiful book of meditations about the Passion, perfect for taking to church during Holy Week, simple, deep and timeless like everything by this author.
Confession is one of the most important and most dreaded parts of our Lenten cleansing . Here are some items to make it easier:
An Examination of Conscience by Sarah Reinhard is a guide custom tailored for teens.
Here is a great free examination for teens. Scroll down until you come to the "Examination Youth' page:
Father Larry Richards is simply the best when it comes to talk to the male of the species about the life of the spirit, virtue, sin, confession etc. Be a Man is funny, down to earth and profound stuff for the male spiritual athlete.
Have a look at Father Larry's examination of conscience:
Here is a free CD or download: hilarious, practical, gentle and deeply cleansing. Father Larry even gives you the right words to confess certain sins:
Teens, be inspired by the super stars of spiritual athletics, the Saints! Here are some books about Saints particularly relevant to you:
Ablaze by Colleen Swaim introduces the stories of eight teenage Saints: Saint Dominic Savio, Saint Teresa of the Andes, Saint Kizito, Blessed Chiara Luce Bandano, Saint Stanislaus Kostka, Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, Blessed Pedro Calungsod, and Saint Maria Goretti. Most of these people are probably unknown to you.Isn't it nice to meet new Saints? But there is more: prayers, pictures, maps and challenges for you to enter deeper into the world of these courageous saints. There are ideas to encourage journaling.
If you like this book, you may want to read about more Saints in the second volume Radiate.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati is an easy to read, enjoyable biography of this young athlete Saint by Maria Di Lorenzo.
Blessed Pier practiced asceticism in body and spirit. This "Daredevil Athlete, Roguish Prankster, Unrelenting Activist and Unexpected Mystic" was the son of a wealthy Italian aristocrat who lived a life of exceptional holiness and charity before he died at age 24.
Here is a Pinterest board for you with more fascinating Saints books to read this Lent. It includes some graphic novels. Enjoy!
Last not least, let 's look at Lenten sacrifice and charity (love). Here are two great lists of ideas of things to give up. The second list also has you do something loving instead! Become a loving person this Lent, and you know what? It will feel good. Its the way Our Lord wired us!
“Wash the plate not because it is dirty nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.” -St. Teresa of Calcutta
Have a blessed Lenten work out. Stay tuned for more.