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BY Dan Burke
One of the countless joys of the Church is the recurring open invitation to move deeper into the life of grace. These invitations come in a thousand ways, through the lives of the saints, through the sacraments and especially through our liturgical seasons. As Lent begins to rise on the horizon, we are again faced with another divine beckoning to move into a deeper relationship with Christ and His Church.
In the fourteenth chapter of St. John's Gospel we have a compelling promise offered by our Lord to anyone who would desire intimacy with Him. He reveals that He will manifest Himself to those who live within His divine covenant of love. But what does it mean to have God manifest Himself to us? The answer to this question surely cannot come to those who stand outside of the interior castle. It can only come to those who enter the castle, those who heed the call to "come, taste, and see that the Lord is good."
Another opportunity is coming. Will you answer the call this time? Will you give yourself to Him on this year's Lenten journey?
One thing is certain: You shouldn’t travel alone. Here you will find a list of seven extraordinary books that can lead you to greater intimacy with our Lord — as you learn to pray as you have never prayed before.
If you have never initiated a prayer quest and are feeling like you need a broad understanding of the basic types of prayer and ideas for where to start, Fr. Dubay's fantastic book, Prayer Primer - Igniting a Fire Within might provide just what you need. This book really is a great resource for all pilgrims who are looking for a solidly Catholic perspective on prayer.
If you have read Prayer Primer and are looking to explore the great gift of mental prayer, Fr. Jacques Philippe - in his book Time for God - provides a masterful but remarkably accessible and motivating treatment of what it means to live a life immersed in prayer and relationship with Christ.
If you are looking for a book on prayer that both provides guidance for how to approach meditation and daily meditations perfectly suited for Lent, St. Peter of Alcantara's book Treatise on Prayer and Meditation is a perfect fit. It is worth noting that St. Peter was once a spiritual director to St. Teresa of Avila.
If you have entered into the castle of the life of prayer but are looking for new perspective and encouragement, Anthony Lilles' Hidden Mountain Secret Garden might be a great choice for you. Anthony has an unusually deep understanding of mystical theology and obviously lives a life of deep prayer and this new book really is an experience like no other.
If you have been practicing vocal prayer for some time and recognize that you need to move beyond the basics, Christ-centered meditation could be the best next step for you. There is no better book on meditation and the the practice of meditating through the Gospels than Fr. John Bartunek's The Better Part - A Christ Centered Resource for Personal Prayer. It provides both a method of meditation and guides for meditation for every verse of the four Gospels. The best approach for Lent is to use the guide in the back that will help you to align your meditations to the Gospel readings for Mass each day of the season.
If your copy of The Better Part is well worn and you want to dig deeper topically into the central themes of Lent and be challenged to further holiness through the wisdom of a master of Carmelite spirituality, then Divine Intimacy is the book for you. Together, this inspirational volume and The Better Part will provide you with a lifetime of reflections for every day of the liturgical calendar.
If you are well into the interior castle but have found yourself struggling to find your way, I suggest you turn to Mystical Evolution - written by not merely an academic, but by a mystic who is solidly trained academically. The combination of deep prayer and a well-formed theological and academic background provides a uniquely moving treatment of how we develop a profound and life-changing relationship with the Blessed Trinity.
If you have read everything listed here, you have a truly solid foundation. For more ideas, check out EWTN's Religious Catalogue for a rich selection of faithful Catholic spiritual resources.
I pray that this Lenten season draws you much deeper into your relationship with Christ than you could have ever imagined.
What are your favorite Lenten resources for prayer and meditation?