Lenten Reading

Ann Applegarth recommends Remember Jesus Christ, by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa.


By Raniero Cantalamessa,


Translated by Marsha


The Word Among Us Press, 2007

149 pages, $11.95

To order: bookstore.wau.org


How does Jesus Christ fit into a culture that is, as Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa admits, regressing into paganism? Into an age he calls “the media age,” where novelty is of greater interest than truth?

Father Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, answers those questions in a series of meaty essays first presented to Pope Benedict XVI during Advent and Lent.

In the first half of Remember Jesus Christ, the Lenten meditations are based on the premise that the Church must proclaim, as the apostles did, the “faith that saves and overcomes the world: that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

In the second half, the Advent meditations, Father Cantalamessa shows that the essential core of that proclamation is Our Lord’s passion and death, “because God is love, and the cross of Christ is supreme proof of that love.”

He writes that, in many ways, the challenges that faith encounters in modern culture are “more similar to those encountered at the beginning of the Church than to those in subsequent centuries. This means that to re-evangelize the post-Christian world we need to take as a model the method used at the beginning to evangelize the pre-Christian world.”

And, recognizing that “just as infection is not spread by talking about a sickness but by contact with someone who is infected,” he adds, “Christ must live in the heart of the person who is doing the proclaiming.”

This, he believes, is achieved by “the imitation of Christ, especially in his passion.”

Father Cantalamessa writes with such grace and lucidity that every word is a joy to read. Consider this simple yet profound illustration of how Christ’s full development in a heart is stymied: “Sometimes we see large trees along the sides of the road whose roots are imprisoned by asphalt but are struggling to expand, lifting up the cement at various spots. We should picture the Kingdom of God within us in that way: a seed destined to become a majestic tree in which the birds of the air may rest but which struggles to grow because of the resistance of our self-centeredness.”

Chapter endnotes reveal the breadth of the author’s reading. In addition to citations from Scripture, Church Fathers, and saints, popes and theologians, he quotes such luminaries as Dante, Homer, Aeschylus, Pascal, Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Luther, the Wesleys and Kafka, as well as contemporary writers.

Father Cantalamessa brings freshness to familiar topics. Of confession, described as the “joyous exchange,” he writes, “Christ takes upon himself my sins, and I take upon myself his righteousness.” He dismisses the New Age idea that salvation comes from self-realization as “refuted once and for all by Paul [Romans 3:23-24].”

Concerning the trendy idea that the universe is ruled by chance, he writes, “When a scientist wants to draw philosophical conclusions from his or her scientific analyses, the results are no better than when philosophers used to draw scientific conclusions from their philosophical analyses.”

Regarding the popular discrediting of Christianity by quoting Gnostic literature, he writes, “The gross misunderstanding consists in the fact that these writings are used to say exactly the opposite of what they mean.”

Do plan on using Remember Jesus Christ this Lent; however. It is, unquestionably, a book that knows no season — and one that engenders hope for our troubled world.

Ann Applegarth writes from Roswell, New Mexico.