A Book for Lent

One of the Lenten disciplines required by the Rule of St Benedict is that we should each receive a book from the library which we are to read straight through, in its entirety (cf RB 48. 15, 16). I think this one of the best ways of trying to draw closer to God. It is something we can all do, and although it demands no special skill or resources, there are several points to note.

First, the book is not chosen by us but by another. We don’t decide for ourselves what would be a good book to read, we submit to another’s judgement. That is harder than it sounds, especially for those of us who like to think we are ‘educated’, but I have often discovered books I might otherwise not have known simply because I had been told to read them. We begin by humbling our intellectual pride, and isn’t there a reason for that when we look back on the sin of Adam and Eve?

Secondly, the book is read ‘straight through in its entirety’, with no judicious skipping, no lengthy recourse to commentaries, explanations and additional material. It is not academic reading on which we are engaged but lectio divina. Now, there is a debate about what is meant by ‘a book from the library’. Benedict probably meant a book of the Bible; so we read a book of the Bible chosen for us by the superior — easy enough if her choice falls on Deutero-Isaiah, not quite so easy if she lights upon Numbers.

Lent is a time for meditating on the Word of God, allowing it gradually to sink in and change us. It is probably rash of me to say it, but if you have no one to choose a book of scripture for you, by all means email the monastery and one of us will make a suggestion. A ‘book for Lent’ is like a kind word, the best of gifts.

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11 thoughts on “A Book for Lent”

  1. Thank you, Rita. You can either use the contact form at the top of the blog or go to our main web site, http://www.benedictinenuns.org.uk, where our email address is on the first page (and there are also lots of resources in the various sections of the web site). I don’t want to spell it out here in case it is harvested by spammers. In the meantime, why not read the Book of Jonah? The humour of God combined with a serious message.

  2. I am reading “The Things He Carried” by Stephen Cottrell. But now I realise I should find another book to read as well as this one I am reading with our Lent Group so it will not be read without discussion etc.
    At the beginning of the year I set a number of aspirations, one was to read an enlightening/learning/spiritual/thought provoking book each month. Your post is a timely reminder that there are several books waiting paitently for me on my shelves. Their time has come I think. Thank you.

  3. Intriguing idea but may I be nosy and ask what book title or book of the Bible have you been given then ?

    The discipline of reading a book of the Bible in its entirety in one go would be hard for me, but I think I’ll give this one a go.

    Blessings for a Holy and Spirit filled lenten journey.

  4. Thank you. We have been very heartened by the response, and so far, no two books of the Bible have been shared out with any of those who have written in.

    I’m sorry if you are having difficulty with this site/emails. Bluehost upgraded the servers three days ago and since then we have had a lot of trouble and been offline or unable to access things for several stretches of time.

  5. Just wanted to say that I ‘ve found the books of the compassionate and insightful Jesuit, Gerard W Hughes (most famous for ‘God of Surprises’) inspiring.

    I expect you are familiar with them. They really were life-changing for me.

    At the moment, I’m reading a book about Auschwitz entitled Heideggar’s Glasses, written by a Red Room colleague, which does not seem at all unsuitable for Lent. It’s harrowing, but it’s also hopeful. However, I am following a Lent course, too.

    I really would be hard put to choose a book from the Bible if there were an option. Possibly it would have to be John’s Gospel.

    In interesting idea of St Benedict’s. Thank you for sharing it.

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