Preparing to Enter the Desert: A Book Review of “A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary”

A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary was provided to me free of charge by the publishing group, Sophia Institute Press, in exchange for an honest review. Any Amazon links in this piece are affiliate links, simply meaning I may make a finder’s fee for referral, at no cost to you, for purchasing through the link provided.

I am always looking for a daily devotional, but honestly don’t have much time to journal. I have previously enjoyed the 33 Days to Morning Glory Consecration to Jesus through Mary, and Small Steps for Catholic Moms: Your Daily Call to Think, Pray, and Act  precisely because they do not require journaling. Rather, they are guided devotionals that encourage me to ponder “all things in [my] heart” as the days progress.

Therefore, when the representative from Sophia Institute Press contacted me about Fr. Edward Looney’s A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary, I was immediately curious. Would this devotional be able to capture a similar sense of wonder, while inviting me deeper into a relationship with God during Lent?

I can’t entirely answer the second part of the question yet, since I haven’t spent 40 days with the book. But, as I share my insight of what I have experienced so far, I will say that A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary will definitely invite readers to experience a sense of wonder, while deepening their relationship with the Blessed Mother. And, in my personal opinion, to know and love Mary is to know and love her Son, Jesus.

Fr. Looney’s book, A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary, is written for men and women alike, inviting all to delve into the woman who bore the Son of God. It is meant to be read a “chapter” a day, but is specifically designed so that if a reader (like a busy mom) misses a day, the prayers do not build on each other. Rather, it is a 40 day prayer guide, inviting readers into focusing on one of those pillars of Lent: prayer. Fr. Looney makes it even simpler for busy moms readers by identifying the specific daily prayer intention.

Furthermore, calling it a “chapter a day” is misleading, since the “chapters” are, on average, approximately two pages in length. If you are looking for a brief “time filler” in the carpool line (idling in park), standing with a purse sling over your shoulder in a check-out line, or waiting for your cup of coffee to brew, then this book very well could be ideal to keeping your hands free from fasting from social media, or assisting in a more guided prayer time.

A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary introduces readers to many of the approved apparitions of Mary, opening each day with a small quote attributed to the apparition. The quotes are placed strategically to coincide with the theme of prayer for the day, and plants a seed for the person who wants to know a little more about Marian apparitions. Some Marian apparitions, such as Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Kibeho are well known; others, such as Our Lady of Beauraing and Our Lady of Banneux had me making a mental note to explore these apparitions… perhaps during the Lenten season, as I sit with my smartphone, rather than scrolling through social media. If the opening quote of the page does not have a Marian quote, then there is a Bible verse, or a verse from other prominent Catholics (cue Pope Francis, Saint Faustina, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, etc.).

Each day concludes with a “Lenten Action,” which could, in a spiritual sense, be considered a form of almsgiving. Most of these “actions” would fall under a category of giving time to God – through prayer, through Scripture reading, or through interacting intentionally with others. However, there are other ideas, such as donating diapers to a local pregnancy center, or writing notes/letters of encouragement to certain people in your life, that involve hands-on giving.

While most “Lenten Action” segments are friendly to the working parent, there are a couple which make me wonder if I will truly have time during a busy week to complete. Having some days struggled to complete the 33 Days to Morning Glory consecration, I am a little worried that even reading some of the “longer chapters” at three and a half pages may be asking too much some days. But, overall, the genius of A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary lies in the ability to miss a day or two – or, yes, even a full week – and still pick right up and continue on the journey. While each week of Lent seems centered on a theme introduced on Sundays, the daily readings themselves are manageable.

As I read through the pages, a couple times I bristled at the way a question was posed. I would get a little defensive as I silently answered the question before inquiring further into the written prose. As I sat back and questioned my defensiveness, I realized that some of the questions made me squirm precisely because they were most likely doing their job – they were holding up a mirror to reflect an area of weakness that I could work on strengthening. Therefore, I encourage any reader of this book to be prepared to be a little introspective as they journey through Lent with the thoughts, actions, and prayer embedded within the cover of this book.

There are many things I can “give up” or “do” for Lent this year, and technically, since I am still nursing my youngest, I am exempt from fasting or abstaining on the designated days of Lent. So, I haven’t fully figured out what I will do for the fasting pillar of Lent. Because our family is preparing to move across the country, most likely my almsgiving will take the form of preparing to donate many of our unneeded and unused toys and clothing.

Non-traditional ideas of what to fast from, or what to give up for Lent #catholicsonline #beautifulcamouflage #fastingideas #lent

Yet, when considering prayer, I have decided that I will use A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary to assist with that particular pillar of Lent. It is a well-rounded, beautifully written, thoughtfully organized book meant to strengthen our relationship with Christ through a relationship with His mother. It was Mary who stood faithfully at the foot of His Cross, and gently cradled His lifeless Body on Good Friday. And, if centuries of Vatican-approved apparitions are to be believed, it is also Mary who continues to invite us into prayer with her.

 The action in this book doesn’t even end with Good Friday or Easter Sunday – instead, it ends on my favorite feast day on the liturgical calendar – Divine Mercy Sunday.

I encourage you, dear reader, to accept her outstretched hand, written through Fr. Looney’s guided hand, as she ushers each of us personally to her Son.

Will you join me in reading A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary this Lent?

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