I know, I know. How can that be possible? One minute you're unwrapping Christmas presents and the next you're trying to figure out what to give up for Lent. Well, don't panic. I'm here to help. Actually, I'm just here to point you in the right direction. Author Paula Huston is the one coming to your rescue. Her recently released book, Simplifying the Soul published by Ave Maria Press, is just what you need to get focused for the Lenten season.
Usually, most of us cradle Catholics spend Lent giving up vices like sodas, chocolate, or coffee. A few young Catholics may even try (unsuccessfully) to give up things like broccoli. I'll admit that I was never bold enough to try to give up vegetables but I've done my fair share of slacking in Lents past. Thanks to Huston's book, this Lent stands a good chance of being one of my more fruitful spiritual endeavors.
We all know life is busy. And, the idea of taking on an ambitious Lenten devotion can be overwhelming to already-stressed worshippers. But, Simplifying the Soul is designed for busy people. It's purpose is to help us to slow down, detach from this world, and focus on the next.
Huston gently guides us through Lent with small but concrete daily assignments that are a physical application of the meditation of the day. She skillfully illustrates, for example, how cleaning a neglected corner of your home can bring you closer to God. Hinting of Ignatian spirituality, Soul teaches us how to find God in everything from that dirty corner to our Facebook usage.
Simplifying the Soul stands out in a sea of devotionals primarily because of its focus on monastic principles, such as stories from the lives of the "desert fathers" who laid the foundation for modern Christian monasticism. But, what I enjoyed about this book the most was its structure and its stories.
The book is divided into weekly themes that challenge us to simplify different aspects of our lives. Beginning with Ash Wednesday and taking us through the Wednesday of Holy Week, each week is divided into daily meditations with personal stories and an assignment that puts your faith into action. Paula's stories of her own spiritual journey inspired and challenged me. And, I couldn't help thinking that her example of a simple life is a wonderful model of earthly stewardship. (Very Green 4 God, don't you think?)
So, in the spirit of Simplifying the Soul, I wish you a simpler Lent.
Next week: Q&A with author, Paula Huston AND a chance to win a copy of her book, Simplifying the Soul! Don't miss it!