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Lenten Reading

Of Shakespeare Ben Jonson wrote that he had "little Latin and less Greek." That describes me more or less although my Latin is bit beyond serviceable. A few years ago I took on, as a Lenten exercise, reading the Gospels in Greek. I only managed to get through Mark but this year I am going to tackle John. The best thing about reading the scriptures in another language is that it forces one to slow down and not permit the eye to skim over what one thinks one knows. Sometimes I have done this in the modern languages with my favorite being French because of the wonderful version in the original Bible de Jerusalem. Starting tomorrow It will be John although, as poor as my Greek is, I doubt if I will make it through the whole Gospel. That is ok, however, because I do not see this as a speed reading exercise.Last Advent I stuck with English and read Isaiah in the version edited by Robert Wilekn with commentaries from the fathers of the church. What inspired me to do that was Ambrose's suggestion to the new convert, Augustine, that the book of the bible he should start with is Isaiah. Good advice.Anyone out there in virtual world have other reading plans?

About the Author

Lawrence Cunningham is John O'Brien professor of Theology (Emeritus) at the University of Notre Dame.



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Always good for Lent. Always good for any time of the year, too. "Cosmas, or the Love of God," by Pierre de Calan, the lovely story of a monk's confusing, confounding, and ultimately consoling vocation. "Mariette in Ecstasy," Ron Hansen's lyrical tale of a young nun's mystical experiences in early 20th century convent. "The Mind of Jesus," a fascinating study of the Christ of faith and the Jesus of history, by the Scripture scholar William Barclay," and, if you've not read it yet, "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light," a new classic.

Fr. Martin,The Mind of Jesus sounds like a book I would definitely be interested in. When I went to Amazon to put it on my Wish List, I noted the following in the book description: "Jesus suffered, doubted, hoped, feared, dreamed, wept, knew loneliness, planned, and built." There is another thread (with only three comments in it so far, as opposed to the 98 comments in the thread about communion in the hand versus on the tongue) there is a link to Luke Timothy Johnson's article "Human & Divine: Did Jesus Have Faith?" in which we find out that the CDF says the answer is no. Jesus didn't have faith. The CDF says, in response to statements that Jesus had faith and was a believer like us:

The relationship between Jesus and God is not correctly expressed by saying Jesus was a believer like us. On the contrary, it is precisely the intimacy and the direct and immediate knowledge which he has of the Father that allows Jesus to reveal to men the mystery of divine love. Only in this way can Jesus bring us into divine love. Presumably, the CDF is saying Jesus didn't believe--he knew. That seems to me to rule out not just faith, but doubt and hope as well (and maybe loneliness). I am just wondering if the Barclay book is useful in sorting out issues like this. (Apologies for the very long question.)I just started The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus by Peter J. Gomes, and I have also begun an online course from Yale called "Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)." I don't know how compatible the former is with Catholicism, and the latter is Jewish rather than Christian, but at least I am learning something from both Harvard and Yale at the same time!

A few months ago, our parish book club read William T. Walshs Our Lady of Fatima. The book caused quite a stir among the clubs members, and it generated one of the liveliest discussions weve ever had. Written some 60 years ago, it contains a wealth of information about the extraordinary events in Portugal in 1917. For example, almost no one in the group (myself included) was aware that the multiple apparitions by the Blessed Virgin were preceded by three apparitions by the Angel of Peace (thought to have been the Archangel Michael), who, during his last appearance, gave the children Communion. [Aside: The odds are very high they were kneeling. ;)] In our post-modern world, it is easy for many to write Fatima off, including the October 1917 Miracle of the Sun witnessed by 70,000 people. If nothing else, however, the book brings home the reality of the events and the unimpeachable credibility of the children. I confess to still being unnerved by Lucias description of the horrific vision of Hell the BVM provided to the children.If you havent read this book, which is easily and affordably available at, it would be an excellent choice for Lent. The Passion and Resurrection remind us of Gods most important intervention in human history; Fatima reminds us that Divine intervention continues to take place. Ive become so fascinated with Fatima that Ive been spending time accumulating some of the source material that Walsh relied one.g., the memoirs of Sr. Lucia, testimony given by the children to ecclesiastical authorities, and documents compiled by Fr. Joao de Marchi, whose own book about Fatima is available in its entirety in English on the Internet (google John de Marchi). Also available on the Internet is the Vaticans 2000 commentary on the famous Third Secret of Fatima. Im looking forward to working my way through all of these materials during Lent.

Emilie Griffin has some suggestions in this week's America:

Technically, my Lenten vow of cyber-silence doesn't kick in until I get my ashes in a couple of hours, and assuming i can make it through the blizzard here, so I'll throw in a plug for "The Long Loneliness" by Dorothy Day before I shut up for 40 days.I ordered this as well as the movie version of her life, "Entertaining Angels," after hearing Commonweal's Patrick Jordan speak at MSU's student parish last week.If you want to hear the podcast of his talk it's here:

Jean,My older sister gave up television for Lent one year. It must have been the late 1950s or early 1960s. But there was a rock singer or band (I can't remember) on Dick Clark or Ed Sullivan that she desperately wanted to see. Her solution was to stand in the room with her back to the set, and look into a mirror so she could see the reflection of the set, which is not the same as seeing the set itself, and consequently is not really "watching television." I will consult her on your behalf as to how you can maintain cyber-silence and still post on dotCommonweal.

"The Long Loneliness," Dorothy Day's autobiography...Also a favorite of our parish book club. (Soon Jean and I will be agreeing on the high literary value of LOTR.)Another book to recommend about a future saint: "Martyr of the Amazon" by Roseanne Murphy, the story of Sr. Dorothy Stang and her murder 3 years ago in Brazil because of her tireless efforts on behalf of the poor.

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