dambrosio-cover-40-days-40-ways-fullI’ll admit it: I was DREADING reading Marcellino D’Ambrosio’s new book, 40 Days, 40 Ways: A New Look at Lent (Servant Books). It didn’t help that it arrived and demanded my attention on the cusp of fall, when I DID NOT want to think about LENT.

(Granted: I NEVER really want to think about Lent. I am NOT one of those “I love Lent” people.)

However, this book was exactly what I needed. I found myself appreciating that I was reading it then, long before Lent. My thought was that, when Lent came around, I would have this book beside me for round 2, even though I’m not a big re-reader of books.

And that’s the plan.

This book is part treasury, part practical toolbox, and part kick in the pants. D’Ambrosio has tapped into his experience as a normal guy and his expertise as a theologian-type, wrapped it up into a book that’s both digestible and good reading, and then shared it with all of us.

The premise of this book is that it provides you with 40 different activities, one for each of the 40 days of Lent, and then a reflection for Sundays. As someone who’s in a season of “Easily Overwhelmed,” I’ll say this: I will NOT be doing all 40 activities. Not even close.

For example, there is NO WAY that I’m planning a contemplative retreat this Lent as day 20 so cheerily suggests. Nope. Not happening. (I’m about 100 weeks pregnant. I have all the contemplation I can handle living within me.)

However, the suggestion on day 10 to learn the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and then start incorporating one — ONE! — into my life? That I can do. And should do. More than once.

Here’s a look at day 12:

Make a decision to read a portion of Scripture every day. Consider getting involved in a parish, online, or CD/DVD Bible study so as to learn more about God’s Word. During special seasons such as Lent, the Mass readings are thematically coordinated and make for a fantastic Bible study! So get a Daily Missal, go online, or get a smartphone app such as Laudate or iMissal to follow the daily readings from Mass.

There is a myth that we must lay to rest, once and for all: Protestants are all about the Bible, while Catholics are all about the sacraments. While I can’t speak for my Protestant brethren, I can say this with certainty: The Catholic Church has never tolerated any such “either/or.” Both Scripture and the sacraments are precious gifts from the Lord, gifts we desperately need.

There’s more commentary from D’Ambrosio, but only two pages…and each day is set up that way. There’s the brief introduction of the activity, and then a longer explanation, tapping into the common sense, good humor, and experienced insight of the theologian/normal guy.

This book is full of suggestions that I think I’ll be carrying around with me for years. In ten years, I’m sure I’ll still be picking up this book and finding room for improvement. This book may well be a handbook to holiness for those of us who may otherwise have no shot at it.

I fail at Lent pretty much every year, and I guess that’s how I know I’m succeeding, to some extent. This year, I will fail with 40 Days, 40 Ways in hand. And then I’ll get back up, dust myself off again, and try again.

Because this book makes me want to. It makes me want to try. And then try again. And then, because I know I’ll have to, try yet again.

At some point, I’ll stand before the empty tomb, rejoicing for the chance God keeps giving me.

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