Everyone should have a book for Lent. It is a way of making space for God, for self and for reflection. The Dominican brethren have published their list for this year, and a fine compilation it is too. Seeing it made me think of the different types of volumes I might like to read this year. I record them here, for posterity (I cannot read them all in 40 days), to share (maybe you might like them) and as a shared love with friends of the books that we treasure.
The monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love and Terror in Algeria - The story of a brave group of Trappist monks grappling with the challenge of living the Gospel in a mixed community of Muslims and Christians. The monks set a powerful example of the brotherhood of humanity, whilst political forces spread religious division and terror. Forgive this book for being written post- 9/11, it's narrative pre-dates and moves beyond the tripping points of contemporary religious-political dialogue. The story of these seven Trappist monks inspired the film "Of Gods and Men'. As always, the book is better.
The Intimate Merton: Thomas Merton's Life from his Journals - Every entry to Thomas Merton's diary is a view into the heart of what it means to be human. He hides nothing: forbidden love, agape, love of God, love of God's creation, a desire to be with someone, a desire to be alone. Thomas Merton is honest, refreshing and beautiful. For this, I love him.
Mother Teresa: Come be my light - I have not read this properly yet. I have owned it for years, but have consistently sneaked out of reading it in full. The snippets I have read tell me that Mother Teresa takes no prisoners in describing the religious life. God is with her, but she cannot see Him, He is present, but she cannot feel it. As if abandoned, she carries on, in faith. If this is all it purports to be, it is the story of faith when hope is lost, and courage where only weakness remains.
The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day - An unsung heroine deserving recognition this one. Dorothy Day achieved countless victories for those society likes to ignore, and she paid dearly for the privilege. This is the story of a woman who loved. She loved without concern for the consequences. She loved before she was married. She loved the child born to her. She loved the homeless on the street, the alcoholics, the unemployed, the mentally ill, the dangerous and the unloveable. She loved them, and she welcomed them into her home - founding the Christian Worker Movement. For her determination and her bravery she deserves to be remembered.
There, I could go on, but two men and two women seems an adequate selection of heroes, heroines and saints to see us through 40 days in the desert. Lord knows, what trials and tribulations came to their lives lasted longer than that. I love to read. And, I love to read the letters, papers and intimate thoughts of those who have grappled with the most difficult challenges of life. Why are we here? How do we love our neighbour? Where is God in suffering? Does God speak? None of these books offer easy answers, but they are honest reflections from intelligent, honest people. For that I value their wisdom, and am fascinated by what they have to say. These people are the human side of religiosity, and they teach that, for us, the human side is the only side.