Saint Benedict, in his famous Rule for monastics, writes "they shall each receive a book from the library during Lent, which they shall read straight through, nothing missed." From this derives the longstanding tradition of selecting a Lent book to read. The book choice might be anything from a recent novel to poetry to a spiritual classic. Here are several books which you might want to consider this year, though of course we are not limited to these suggestions! Please do let Sister Elena know what your choice is so that once we have three or more people on the same book, we can organize some form of reflective conversation at a convenient time.
Jim Crace, Quarantine. This 1997 novel which won the Whitbread Award and was shortlisted for the Booker prize is a perennial favorite among parishioners. It is a fictionalized account of what happened during the forty days which Jesus spent in the wilderness. It was later made into a film. The author has subsequently published several more novels and has a new one coming out in fall 2019.
Jose Saramago, Blindness. What happens when the individual goes blind in a society which is itself going blind? A long parable on the meaning of sight, by the 1998 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature who also wrote The Gospel According to Jesus Christ.
Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give/El Odio Que Tu Das. This wildly popular YA novel transcends its age group to speak to the universal need for overcoming alienation and promoting reconciliation across socioeconomic lines. Saint Matthew's/San Mateo will be holding a movie night shortly before school opens in the fall to show the film based on this book to our parish youth and their friends.
Maria Shriver, I've Been Thinking. Reflections and prayers strongly rooted in Catholic faith and identity, by the Bethesda newscaster and former First Lady of California. Devotional writing likely to appeal more to women than to men.
Tracy K. Smith, American Journal. An anthology of fifty poems reflecting the breadth of today's American reality, selected by the Poet Laureate and already slated for discussion by many area book clubs.
Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy. This was a Diocesan reading choice a couple of years ago, still pertinent. The author is the principal behind the just opened civil rights museum and memorial to lynching victims in Alabama. He is a frequent speaker at National Cathedral programs. The book advocates effectively for criminal justice reform, setting at liberty those who are captive.
A finalist for the 2019 One Maryland One Book selection and Washington Post book of the year is Chesapeake Requiem by Earl Swift, a gently written farewell to the life of the Tangier Island watermen.
This year's big book and the 2018 Wolfson Prize winner, coming in at a hefty 672 pages, is Heretics and Believers, a study of the English Reformation by Peter Marshall. Nonfiction aficionados will wish to pick up a copy -- with both hands! Please note that the Peter Marshall who wrote the volume The Prayers of Peter Marshall which was a book club favorite years ago is a different author!
Sister Elena will be revisiting an old favorite, The Divine Milieu by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, which has recently been adapted for liturgical use on retreats by Cynthia Bourgeault.
Whatever your choice, reading is one of the great gifts of the Lenten season, so enjoy!