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Barb Szyszkiewicz reviews three newly published books for spiritual reading.

Feed your soul with these new books from Ave Maria PressOnly one of them is specifically designed for use during Lent, but if you're looking for a spiritual book or journal to use throughout the season of Lent, you can't miss with any of these options.

Return: A Guided Lent Journal for Prayer and Meditation by Fr. John Burns, illustrated by Josiah Henley

RETURN coverReturn is a Lenten journal that offers daily reflections and journaling space, along with beautiful art that's a meditation in itself. This book offers a lovely way to commit to a daily prayer practice during the Lenten season.

Return covers a lot of spiritual ground during the six weeks of Lent: the first two weeks focus on reflecting on the past year and refocusing on God. The next two weeks feature meditations on fasting and lamentation and holding nothing back from God. The fifth week is a challenge to explore spiritual wounds that separate us from Christ, and the sixth week (Holy Week) focuses on the healing power of the Eucharist.

Each day's entry begins with an excerpt from the Collect (the opening prayer from Mass) for the day. Citations for the daily readings follow; you can view these online at Bible.USCCB.org or look them up in your own Bible. Next is a meditation (about one page in length), a few reflection questions with journal space, and a brief closing prayer.

Free weekly videos will be shared each Sunday at AveMariaPress.com; here on CatholicMom.com, the videos will be shared at 10 AM Eastern on Sundays. In each video, author Fr. John Burns offers a reflection on the weekly theme.


Arise to Blessedness: A Journal Retreat with Eight Modern Saints Who Lived the Beatitudes by Jen Norton

Arise to blessednessJen Norton's art is always inspiring, and I was happy to see that her newest journal retreat book features saints. And not just any saints: the saints in this book lived during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Jen Norton has chosen the saints in Arise to Blessedness by the particular ways they lived out the Beatitudes.

Jen Norton chose as our inspiration Saints André Bessette, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Maximilian Kolbe, Mark Ji Tianxiang, Maria Goretti, Charbel Makhlouf, Oscar Romero, and José Luís Sánchez del Río. Each chapter includes a full-page lettered illustration of one Beatitude; a brief Scripture reading; an image of the saint and brief introduction; a guided prayer moment using sacred art; a journal challenge, small step (action item), and plenty of blank space at the end of the chapter to write or even draw.

Arise to Blessedness contains eight chapters; you can work through the book at your own pace (daily, weekly, or at whatever intervals you choose). You can even stretch out the chapters and work through one small section of them each day. The beautiful cover art will invite you to pick this book up, and once you open it, you won't want to put it back down!

When the Beatitudes were read at Sunday Mass at the end of January, our priest observed that it is not at all easy to live these teachings. Even the dedication of Arise to Blessedness underscores that point:

This book is dedicated to all the brave souls who serve their neighbor without regard for honor and who love the unlovable because they see Christ in everyone. 


The Seeker's Catechism by Michael Pennock

Seekers CatechismOf these three books, I'm probably most excited about this book about the Catechism. When I received The Seeker's Catechism, I thought the author's name looked familiar, so I immediately flipped to the author bio in the back (normally this is not the first part of a book I view). Sure enough: Michael Pennock wrote several of the religion textbooks all three of my children used in the Catholic high school they attended.

A good teacher has a particular gift of explaining difficult concepts in simple ways without diluting the truth behind the lesson. The Seeker's Catechism is an updated edition of a book that lays out the basics of Catholicism without overcomplication—and without insulting the intelligence of the reader.

If you would like to learn more about what the Catholic Church believes and teaches, but tackling the full Catechism of the Catholic Church isn't do-able for you in this season of life, The Seeker's Catechism introduces the truths of the faith in bite-sized, approachable sections. This is also an excellent reference for parents whose children have questions about what we believe, and can be read by students in middle school and up.


Ask for these books at your local Catholic bookseller, or order online from Amazon.com or the publisher, AveMariaPress.com.


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Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images: Canva

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