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Barb Szyszkiewicz reviews several spiritual resources designed to help you and your family grow closer to Christ.

Lent is only one short week away. It's time to prepare for the journey.

That doesn't mean you need to weigh yourself down with every devotional ever published. I agree with Nicole Berlucchi, who recently wrote that we should just pick one book, devotional, program, or practice. For Lent this year, let's do one thing and do it well. I'm still making my plan, and I thought I'd show you some of the resources I've been looking at.


There's an App for That

Magnificat Lent 2024Magnificat Lenten Companion App

This app is packed with features, including the daily readings and prayers for Mass, daily morning and evening prayer based on the Liturgy of the Hours, inspirational essays and poetry, Stations of the Cross, a Lenten penance service, audio hymns, and daily Lenten reflections by Catholic writers. Priced at only $2.99, it's less expensive than the print version of Magnificat and contains more content.

This app is an excellent way to keep your Lenten devotions near at hand at all times. If you're trying to limit your phone or tablet use during Lent, try modifying your home screen so you only see the Catholic apps like this one on the first page, and bury or remove apps that only tempt you to waste your time. (For iOS and Android; available in English and Spanish.)


For the Kids

arthur the clumsy altar server plans the perfect lentArthur the Clumsy Altar Server Plans the Perfect Lent by Theresa Kiser 

Moms, I'm warning you right now: you will cry when you read this one, so be ready. But it's a good cry. This picture book is a terrific explanation of Lent, and how Jesus is with us every step of the way. In this story, Arthur (who thinks big) yearns to be perfect, like Jesus. And he keeps on disappointing himself every time he trips or drops something, or when his stomach growls during Mass. His parents and parish priest are understanding, and his mom beautifully explains that Arthur doesn't need to do everything perfectly to earn Jesus' love.

As with the other books in the Arthur series, the illustrations by Mike Schwalm make the story. At the end of the book, there are useful facts about Lent, explained in a kid-friendly way. This picture book is perfect for kids ages 4 and up; you might even find your older kids peeking at the illustrations as you read it to the younger ones. (OSV Kids)


Diary of a Future SaintDiary of a Future Saint: Faustina's Incredible Journey by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle

Whether your family has a devotion to the Divine Mercy Chaplet or you're simply curious about the life of the twentieth-century woman whose Diary has inspired so many, this book by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle will not disappoint. Throughout this story, the reader will learn not only about the life of this extraordinary saint, but also about various ways to pray, how we are called to trust in God, the sacraments, grace, and our need to always work to avoid the devil. The author invites readers to consider their own relationship with Christ as they learn about Saint Faustina.

Each chapter ends with three special features: "Something to think about" with questions for conversation, "Pray," and "A merciful action." This book is described as a novel for all ages, but I think it would be best appreciated by readers 10 years old and up. (Marian Press)



Guided Meditation with Videos

Made for HeavenMade for Heaven: A Guided Lent Journal for Prayer and Meditation by Fr. Agustino Torres, CFR

The reflections in this journal are focused on poverty, beginning with the topics of temptation and transfiguration, then considering how our voluntary poverty can be life-giving to others, and finally immersing ourselves in prayer and the power of the Cross. Each day begins with an excerpt from Scripture. Fr. Agustino then offers a daily meditation and challenges the reader to journal in response to that meditation, identifying practical ways to live out the Lenten season more fully. This book includes ample space for journaling and note-taking, as well as beautiful illustrations by Valerie Delgado.

An accompanying video series includes a video for Ash Wednesday and each Sunday of Lent, concluding on Easter. Look for these here on CatholicMom.com at 10 AM Eastern. (Ave Maria Press)


The Ascension Lenten Companion journal cover.lower resThe Ascension Lenten Companion: Walking with Jesus to Jerusalem by Mark Toups

This journal boasts a full page of journaling space for each day of Lent (plus ample white space on other pages in case you'd like to highlight or comment on the reflections). Each day's entry begins with a focus word and Scripture verse, then offers a reflection (about one and a half pages in length) that leads into the journaling space. A daily prayer prompt is based on a Scripture reading.

This guided journal program with a complementary video series can be used by parishes, prayer groups, and individuals. All videos, available on AscensionPress.com, are about 5 minutes in length. The illustrations that begin each week's section in this journal are paintings by Mike Moyers, done in a simple, modern style. (Ascension)



Fiction during Lent? Yes, please!

Through Esthers EyesThrough Esther's Eyes: A Novel by Jacqueline St. Clare

Immerse yourself in the story of Jesus' life and ministry as told by Esther, His fictional cousin. This novel is steeped in Scripture; the words of the prophets, psalms, Gospel events, and many of Jesus' parables are skillfully interwoven throughout the story. The author links fictional characters with the Apostles, Martha and Mary and Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, and the Blessed Mother.

This masterful and compelling debut novel by a Catholic author is a must-read! It's one of the best books I've read in a long time. You'll feel as if you're really there, witnessing the action. I know some people give up fiction as a Lenten sacrifice, but this novel should be an exception; reading it will really bring the events of the Gospel to life. (Marian Press)



The Way of the Cross

behold your motherBehold Your Mother: Marian Stations of the Cross by Marge Steinhage Fenelon

Catholic Mom contributor Marge Steinhage Fenelon's newly published interpretation of the Stations of the Cross looks at each Station from the point of view of a child seeking comfort from the Blessed Mother even while realizing that he is partially to blame for these terrible trials she and her Son endure and wishing to console Mary. This puts into words the conflict we, as God's children entrusted to the care of the Mother of God, face as we consider the Passion of Jesus Christ.

Simply illustrated with striking pen-and-ink images to go along with the one-page devotion for each Station, this book is a beautiful prayer companion for use in personal or group devotions. (Our Sunday Visitor)




Quick Daily Devotionals

Turn to the CrossTurn to the Cross: Daily Prayers for Lent and Holy Week 2024 by Josh Noem

This little devotional is designed to be used throughout the day. Each day's entry begins with a brief prayer or Scripture quote, then a quick reflection, a Prayer for Morning, Traveling Question, and Prayer for Evening. Reflection topics vary: these include discussion of one of the daily readings, the lives of saints, challenges to develop a particular virtue, and inspirational stories of contemporary priests and sisters of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

This devotional is well-suited for people who want a solid Lenten devotional but don't have a large block of time to commit to using it. The small-format booklet can fit in your handbag or the map pocket of your car, so you can use it for small spiritual breaks in the course of your day. (Ave Maria Press)


Messages of Perseverance for Lent 2024Messages of Perseverance for Lent 2024: 3-Minute Devotions by Michael White and Tom Corcoran

Do you have three minutes? It doesn't even matter what time of day you use this book. It's designed to provide practical, everyday wisdom for persevering in your journey of faith. Each weekday, there's a Scripture quote followed by a quick reflection and call to prayer, either thanking God or praying for the grace to persevere in certain situations.

The Saturday entry is a psalm, presented in the style of the Responsorial Psalm at Mass. And the Sunday entry sets the scene for the week and summarizes the Gospel from Sunday Mass. If you hope to develop the virtue of perseverance this Lent, try this little devotional. (Ave Maria Press)



Go Deeper

The Fathers HouseThe Father's House: Discovering Our Home in the Trinity by James Dominic Brent, OP

This spiritual book is not specifically Lent-themed, but what better topic to delve into during Lent than how to grow closer to the Lord in each Person of the Holy Trinity? As Kathryn Jean Lopez writes in her endorsement:

You are not meant to be separated from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are meant to live in the heart of the Trinity, in merciful love and eternal victory. Don't delay. Let the Trinity guide you to the fullness of the Christian life through the words of this humble and wise friar.

Read one chapter of this book for eight weeks, and you'll conclude the week after Easter with the chapter focused on the mystery of our adoption by grace into the family of God. (Pauline Books & Media)



This Lent, Learn More About the Mass

Mass Class-1Mass Class: Your Questions Answered by Father Dave Dwyer

This is a book the whole family can enjoy learning from together during Lent. There are seven sections of this book, so you can cover one each week of this season. Father Dave Dwyer, host of the Busted Halo radio show, answers listener questions about Mass: why Catholics go to Mass, what we believe about the Eucharist, the various prayers and Scripture used at Mass, posture and gestures, and more—all in a very clear, friendly, and accessible manner. Occasional graphics signal the "Top 5 Frequently Asked Questions," as well as Mass Class Notes, sidebars that offer additional helpful facts.

If you're curious (or your family is) about why we do what we do during Mass, this is the book for you. I'd recommend it particularly for anyone preparing for Confirmation. (Paulist Press)



Ask for these books at your local Catholic bookseller, or order online from Amazon.com or the publishers, all linked above.



Copyright 2024 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images: Canva
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