Books for Lent & moving to the tundra
Embracing a favorite monastic discipline
It has been awhile since I’ve checked in via this newsletter, and the primary reason for this was a months-long time of prayer and discernment about whether to accept a call to serve as Rector in my home state of Wisconsin. Like so many of the best things in my life, it started as a joke defensively engaged in disguise of something my heart hoped for. In a fit of embarrassment, I could tell you the day and time I leaned over to my then-boyfriend, now-husband and said “hahaha what if we got married? That’d be insane.”
It came to my attention that the devoted, faithful little church where I attend Mass when visiting my family was looking for a rector. I texted the link to the parish profile to my mother: “lol what if I did this”
Listen, I know. It’s a defense mechanism.
Needless to say, the joke was on me. It’s a longer story — a good one — but we’re about to move to Door County, Wisconsin. It is a true confession that I have no idea how this will go after fifteen years of living in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. It has been brought to my attention that there is no Indian food in our future town. We will manage, as always, by God’s grace. I am already in love with so much of what I am hoping for in ministry there. Please keep me in your prayers!
The good news is that in the midst of this, I’ve been thinking about what this newsletter might be. I am surprised at how many of you have come along for this adventure, and at the risk of being presumptuous, I have a sense that things are at the threshold of becoming even more interesting in my neck of the woods. This move will be a first in many ways. First time working as a solo priest. First time living within hang-out distance of my family. First time living in a rural place. First time serving as a rector. First time making my way in ministry in a place that is both home and quite different from the home I remember.
So there will be a saga ahead, I think, in the midst of these firsts. It has become very clear that I am standing at the edge of the ocean of things I do not know. In some sense, this is liberating, and in all things, there is a sense of unutterable peace.
Meanwhile, we stand, too, at the threshold of Lent. My Lenten discipline will be cultivating holy charity throughout the chaos of a move, the heartbreak of selling our first home, and the process of shuddering out from underneath the pile of things I’ve let become too burdensome.
In many monastic communities, it is tradition for the Abbess or Abbot (or Novice Directress/Director) to select a book for the community to read during the season. Sometimes, everyone will read the same book. In other places, a nun or monk will receive her or his own assignment (utterly terrifying when it becomes tempting to read into things…“what do you mean I’m assigned Patience & Humility…???”)
You may not be under the direction of an Abbess or Abbot, so I’ve come up with some suggestions for you should you be thinking about embracing a bit of spiritual reading throughout Lent. I have not linked to the books here, so you are free to find them through your local bookstore or Amazon or whatever you prefer. I don’t have any affiliate links on this letter or anything like that, so these are just books that I have personally read and liked. Choose one to read slowly over the weeks of Lent. No pressure, no reading plan. Simply enjoy.
If you are trying to return to a regular rhythm of prayer: The Listening God, Miriam Pollard, O.S.C.O.
If you are doubting your faith: To Know Christ Jesus, F.J. Sheed
If you are hoping to grow closer to Christ in the Eucharist: Mystery of the Altar: Daily Meditations on the Eucharist, Joseph Crownwood
If you are in professional ministry: Spiritual Diary, Sergei Bulgakov
If you are praying about going to confession: Confession, Adrienne von Speyr
If you are discerning your vocation: Discernment Matters: Listening with the Ear of the Heart, Mary Margaret Funk, O.S.B.
If you are passionately in love with Christ: The Stream and the Sapphire: Selected Poems on Religious Themes, Denise Levertov
If you are hoping to study the Church Fathers: Hymns of Repentance, St. Romanos the Melodist (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Popular Patristics series)
If you are eager to dive more deeply into holy scripture: Savoring Scripture: A Six-Step Guide to Studying the Bible, Andrew Abernethy
If you want to share a book with your children: It Will Be Okay: Trusting God Through Fear and Change, Lysa TerKeurst
If you would like to quieten your heart in nature: The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, Robert Macfarlane
If you are an artist: The Sound of Life’s Unspeakable Beauty, Martin Schleske
If you are seeking a companion in prayer: The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditation, and Spiritual Texts, Edith Stein
If you would like to learn more about unfamiliar saints: Saga of Saints, Sigrid Undset
More soon, from the tundra. God bless you as He draws you near during this season.
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