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Paulist and U of M Newman can add to your Lent and beyond

February 23, 2010


Lent-Behnke cover

“Lent and Easter Reflections for the Younger Crowd,”

by John Behnke, CSP

Father John Behnke would make a great editor.

The Paulist priest has a terrific ability to condense Scripture readings to the meat of their messages, and that’s what he offers for each day of Lent, the Triduum and Eastertide for all three of our liturgical cycles. What is many verses in the original becomes 2-3-4 sentences in common, understandable English.

Packed into this 140-page Paulist Press paperback are these summaries of the readings, the Psalm and the Gospel for each day, a thought to reflect on from Father Behnke, plus two unique touches.

First there’s an unfinished prayer that invites personal completion. A sample is:

“Dear God, sometimes I jump the gun and blow things all out of proportion. Help me to keep a good perspective on life. Please help me to ….”

Each day also includes a thought from a college student, so the young readers this book was written for can get an idea of what their peers think about the day’s message.

Father Behnke was for several years chaplain of the St. Lawrence/Newman Community that serves the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and he invited students to add their voices to the work. For example, student Annette Johnson wrote this in her “My thoughts” comment about the Gospel story in which the Sanhedrin blast Jesus for performing a miracle on the Sabbath:

“Help me to not be such a hypocrite when it comes to people that I don’t like. Help me to stop having such a selfish view of my beliefs. help me to open myself to learning from others.”

I think you’ll find the comments brutally honest and touchingly personal.

A toe into the meditation pool

In the suggestions for using the guide, it’s pointed out that the re-written Scripture is a supplement to, not a substitute for, the readings contained in the Lectionary. “The author’s intent is an easy-to-read primer to help initiate the almost adult person into the joys and peace of spirit and mind one gains through personal contact with God that can be achieved by means of a structured meditation.”

The whole book is a great aid for anyone needing a useful tool to help get into the habit of prayerful reflection. This may be a worthwhile gift to someone upon their Confirmation, something that gets them started on a daily quiet time, time for prayer, reflection, a conversation with God.

And Father’s re-writing is so spot on.

Take his take on Exodus 20:1-7, better known as the Ten Commandments:

“One day God said to his people, ‘Here are some rules I want you to always follow:

1. Pray only to me because I’m the one who made you and saved you.

2. I don’t want to hear any of you swearing.

3. I want one day out of the week to be a special day for you. Don’t do too much work that day so you can relax and spend some time praying to me.

4. I want you to listen to your parents (even when you grow up) because they have lived longer and know more about life than you.

5. Don’t kill anyone for any reason.

6. Don’t fool around with someone you’re not married to.

7. Don’t take anything that isn’t yours.

8. Don’t lie about anybody.

9. Don’t always be wanting things that belong to other people.

All I’m really asking is that you ‘love me and keep my rules.'”

Although there are only nine re-written commandments, I still highly recommend “Lent and Easter Reflections for the Younger Crowd.” — bz

Paulist Press publications are available at many bookstores that sell religious goods and books, and are available by phone by calling the customer service department at 1-800-218-1903.

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