Lenten Reading: Accompanying Jesus Toward Holy Week
3 New Books Offer Spiritual Sustenance
A trinity of books from a trio of well-known Catholic authors offer timely reading for Lent. All three books will propel readers in the right direction this Lent and beyond.
Stations for Loved Ones
Father Jeffrey Kirby, pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Indian Land, South Carolina, speaker and author of books and videos, has composed Way of the Cross for Loved Ones Who Have Left the Faith (Our Sunday Visitor, $8.95) to help the many faithful Catholics troubled over children, relatives and friends who have left the Church.
“The sorrow and anxiety over loved ones who have left the faith has been the most consistent and pressing pastoral issue of my priestly ministry,” he told the Register. “It affects almost every family.”
While finding many people looking for ways to respond to someone leaving the faith, Father Kirby knew of “great catechetical and pastoral resources,” but he “couldn’t find any strong spiritual resources to help in bringing people back.”
That prompted him to provide this one. “Since the loss of faith is a spiritual problem, I thought we needed a stronger spiritual solution,” he explained, “And so, I turned to the Stations of the Cross, one of our traditional devotions, for help in giving such a response.” It is the “actual path by which the Lord Jesus redeemed us and provides us with the means to be reconciled with the Father,” he said. “With this in mind, I thought there was no better devotion to use than the Stations.”
It was also a natural focus because “the Stations have always been a very dear devotion to me,” he added. “Whenever I have a heartache or hard decision to make, I walk the Stations. I ask the Lord to carry the weight of things with me. In reflecting on this personal practice, I wanted to offer the same experience to others who are hurting or anxious.”
Father Kirby mentioned another essential reason why the powerful devotion of the Way of the Cross is a timely and suitable response — currently the Church loses six Catholics for every one convert — and that was before the pandemic. “The reality of such a hemorrhaging requires a strong response. The Stations allow us to walk with the Lord in his saving work of our redemption. With this reality, the Stations are a natural fit as a means of prayer and supplication for those who have left the faith.”
Father Kirby said this Way of the Cross for Loved Ones Who Have Left the Faith addresses both the reality of those who have left and the possible things we may have done to cause such a departure from the faith. Each Station begins with the traditional introduction; the first prayer is marked by intercession and supplication for those who have left the faith. Then the prayer of the particular Station “is about our acts of commission or omission that may have led to, or allowed, them leaving the faith,” he explained. The particular Station concludes with the traditional Act of Faith and the Prayer to the Guardian Angel.
For example, part of the first prayer for the Seventh Station, Jesus Falls the Second Time, petitions, “Lord Jesus, our loved ones have fallen under the burdens of this world. They have refused your Cross. They avoid it and the hope that comes with it. Without such hope, they cannot trust you or see you. And without firm trust in you, they cannot trust others. … They have fallen, Lord, and they need you.”
The Station closest to Father Kirby’s heart is the Fourth Station, Jesus Meets His Mother. He explained, “The thought of Mary and the Lord Jesus united in bringing about our salvation — and in bringing our loved ones back to the faith — is very consoling and encouraging. The tenderness of this encounter can inspire all of us to pray and show compassion to our loved ones who are away from the faith.”
His great hope is that this Way of the Cross — for all-year use, not only Lent — will “give people hope for their loved ones and will contribute in a spiritual way for the conversion and return of their loved ones to the faith.”
Father Chris Alar, of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, is director of the Association of Marian Helpers at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy. He is an author, writer and producer of Divine Mercy 101 and Explaining the Faith DVD series, as well as host and guest on EWTN. In addition, he has written Understanding Divine Mercy (Marian Press, $14.95), an essential year-round companion to the mercy message and devotion.
Father Alar’s book brings Divine Mercy to readers in an effective new way. “There is so much material and so many books out on Divine Mercy, but I’ve yet to find one place that summarizes everything from the diary of St. Faustina to the Scriptures in a concise way,” he explained. Consequently, he set out “to put into one place and to get a one-stop, easy-to-follow book that explains everything you need to know about Divine Mercy.”
Written in conversational style, Understanding Divine Mercy really “summarizes the entire Divine Mercy message and devotion because there is nothing out there bringing together in one place both the message of Divine Mercy, which is scriptural, and the devotions of Divine Mercy, which are the channels of grace given to us through St. Faustina.” In this book Father Alar links both of them together.
He reminds us that it is very important the message gets widely spread. Jesus told St. Faustina that Divine Mercy is mankind’s last hope of salvation, and St. John Paul II stated that it is the most important message for our times. The last three popes have reiterated the same. Of his book, Father Alar said, “This is the easy way to do that.”
Father Alar points out the book is so timely “because we exist in a time when there is a decreasing presence of religion and spirituality. At no time in human history has the world become so paganized. Even in ancient times there was a turning to the spiritual. Even with pagans, their lives were based on some form of spirituality. Now, more than any other time in human history, there is less importance placed on religion in peoples’ lives, let alone the true faith of Catholicism. This is a world that is desperate for the message of Divine Mercy because it has lost its way since cultural relativism has replaced our moral compass.”
Understanding Divine Mercy brings a message of hope. Father Alar explains that readers will respond to something if it gives them hope. “The message of Divine Mercy is one of hope that goes all the way back to the Garden, to Adam and Eve.”
But, he continued, “You cannot love what you do not know. To love something, you have to know it. If we come to know God’s mercy, we will better be able to embrace and love it; and that is the way to turn around the paganism and secularism and atheistic ideology we’re facing in the world today.” Understanding Divine Mercy is intended to bring people that knowledge and hope, he explained, with its combination of the message and devotion and easy format.
Father Alar further noted that Jesus told St. Faustina that she would help him prepare the world for his final coming. “The hope for this book is to continue the important message that Jesus gave to St. Faustina by showing how we can receive the many graces Jesus promises through his mercy. Jesus said mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to his mercy, so it is time we do just that. Then we may finally find the answer to the many problems facing our world today.”
Pray With Jesus and St. Faustina
For Susan Tassone’s sixth book on St. Faustina, this bestselling author has written Praying With Jesus and Faustina During Lent and in Times of Suffering (Sophia Institute Press, $16.95).
Tassone takes a unique approach to both.
“My book focuses on the Passion through the words of Jesus and Faustina,” she told the Register. “The focus is coming from Our Lord and Faustina, from the actual words of Jesus and Faustina, which makes it like no other. You don’t find contemporary books that focus on this, but this book does. There is no contemporary combination like it.”
Tassone said that in this book she wanted “to capture Jesus’ words about his sorrows and his sacrificial death as he told them to St. Faustina and to us.”
She gave the example of the Ash Wednesday entry in which Jesus tells us what is important to him. “Jesus said: ‘You please me most when you meditate on my sorrowful passion. The contemplation of my painful wounds is of great profit to you and it brings me great joy.’”
This example “opens the window on how to please and delight the Lord,” the author said, indicating the book helps us learn may ways. Another plus in this book is St. Faustina’s wisdom and example, showing readers how to live Lent in a powerful way.
Tassone also focused on a section she calls “in times of suffering” because “we all know suffering is not limited to Lent.” Again, the book’s unique approach reveals how Faustina suffered physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally, as many others do, and how Jesus shared with her the value of suffering. He “taught her to treat trials as a positive opportunity to learn love of neighbor,” Tassone said.
“This book perfectly addresses the terrible times and the terrible sufferings we are experiencing today,” she added, to emphasize the book’s timeliness. We can “think each day of the passion of humanity” and realize how our daily work can be transformed into a sacrifice for peace in the world, in our hearts, in our families, for conversion of sinners and eternal rest for our deceased loved ones when offered to God.”
“We will see, not only the evil of the world, but also the love that exists,” she said.
Praying With Jesus and Faustina During Lent and in Times of Suffering includes among the prayers different litanies, such as one by St. Clare of Assisi meditating on the five wounds of Jesus: on his hands, feet and in his Sacred Heart. There is also a Litany of the Precious Blood, and a prayer written by St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
Along with a chapter on confession called “Jesus and St. Faustina on Making a Good Confession,” there are reflections on this sacrament and its necessity found throughout the book, such as highlighting that “Jesus calls the sacrament of reconciliation the ‘fountain of mercy.’” Tassone said she wanted to make clear where mercy is found: “The key to opening this fountain of mercy is incredibly simple — go regularly to confession. It sounds too easy, but that’s really all it takes. No secrets. No hard labor. Jesus understands that it isn’t easy to go to confession.”