Review of “A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary”

Book cover of "A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary"

Looking for a daily Lenten Meditation? A way to grow closer to Mary and Jesus this Lent? Check out Lenten Journey with Mother Mary by Fr. Edward Looney, a brand new book from Sophia Institute Press. Whether you’re new to Marian devotion or already pray the rosary every day, this book will help enrich your relationship with Mary and Jesus.

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A Meditation a Day

Lenten Journey with Mother Mary has a meditation for every single day of Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday! As an additional bonus, Fr. Looney continues the devotions through the Easter Octave to Divine Mercy Sunday! Each day’s devotion begins on a very personal note with a direct quote from Our Lady, such as: “Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.” These quotes are drawn from a variety of approved Marian apparitions and set the theme for the day. The devotion then continues with a 2-3 page meditation, a sentence-long prayer, and a suggestion for a Lenten action.

Theme of the Week

Each week has a broad theme under which the individual days fall. Themes include intentional prayer, praying for others, healing, and examination of conscience. I particularly enjoyed the meditations during the Easter Octave, which focus on faith and trust in Divine Providence.

A Lenten Journey

The title about journeying is very appropriate for this book, which certainly leads you on a journey to deepen your relationship with Mary. By increasing your Marian knowledge and deepening your prayer life, this book leads you closer to Jesus through Mary. The heart-warming takeaway message in this Lenten devotional is: Mary prays for you. Mary loves you.

Want to learn more? See a full preview of Lenten Journey with Mother Mary on the publisher page.

Have children? Check out my list of favorite picture books to prepare for Lent and Easter!

I received a free copy of “Lenten Journey with Mother Mary” from Sophia Institute Press in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

"Lenten Journey with Mother Mary" cover

9 Reasons to Prioritize Reading even as a Busy Mom

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AT THE END OF A LONG DAY…

The kids have been up since o-dark-thirty. You’ve cooked and cleaned and worked and changed a dozen diapers and played referee to a hundred fights and gone over the silent e rule for the thousandth time and cooked again and cleaned again and read that story the kids want to hear for the zillionth time and finally, they’re asleep. You’re too tired to clean any more, and really what sounds best is dropping on the couch and binge watching a TV show until you can’t keep your eyes open anymore.

I know, I’m there too most nights. And I’ll confess there was a period where I did exactly that nearly every night: watched TV because it seemed like my brain was too foggy for anything else. But eventually, I broke the cycle and got back to my first love: reading books. Not because it’s easier, because it’s not. And not only because it’s better for me, though it is. I read because it makes me a better mom, wife, and person.

There are at least 9 great reasons to spend some time reading at the end of the day, even as a brain-fogged, busy mom.

1. Read to stimulate your mind. I know the brain fog that can descend from hour after hour of talking with little kids and doing the mundane housework and reading Goodnight Moon over and over. Reading a good book helps your focus and memory improve. Defy entropy and improve your intellect! Find a subject you are interested in and read a book on it. Does World War II fascinate you? Try reading Victor Frankl’s moving story of incarceration in a death camp in Man’s Search for Meaning. Interested in learning more about finances and psychology? Try Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

2. Read to grow spiritually. Here’s an obvious one, but spiritual reading is a easy and accessible source of spiritual growth. What better way to form a more personal relationship with Christ than by studying His life and learning from His friends? Maybe you like to sit down with your Bible and a journal. Or perhaps you prefer to read a spiritual classic like St. Francis de Sales’ An Introduction to the Devout Life or St. Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle.

3. Read to give a better perspective on your life. We all get mired down in the difficulties of our particular here and now. Like little kids, we feel miserable because we’ve got a cold, or our favorite mug shattered, or the air conditioning broke, in July, in Florida, at 36 weeks pregnant. Reading other people’s stories can help us both gain perspective on our minor everyday woes and learn to embrace true suffering when it comes with grace. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was a major wake-up call to me recently to be grateful for how blessed my life really is. A Severe Mercy had a similar effect, but also is an inspiring account of suffering leading to growth and hope.

4. Read to set an example for your kids. We all know the old “do what I say, not what I do” advice doesn’t work with kids. Telling your kids they should be reading instead of glued to electronics doesn’t carry much weight unless you’re following your own wisdom. I intentionally read in front of my kids sometimes so they see that I enjoy it. In fact, at breakfast time in our house I encourage everyone to read at the table!


5. Read to improve your vocabulary. Of course, I don’t think we all need to speak in words with a minimum of 12 letters at all times. But since what you read impacts your writing and speech, you will find reading well-written books helps your vocabulary and diction. Our family favorite for this purpose is P. G. Wodehouse. His mastery of the English language is truly unparalleled. His books are the perfect blend of easy to read, yet studded with wonderful words like ephemeral, insoluble, dearth, peremptory, and poltroonery. Really, though, any literary classic cannot but help improve your diction. Try some Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, L. M. Montgomery, or George Orwell.

6. Read to lower stress and improve sleep quality. Did you know that less than ten minutes of reading drastically lowers your stress levels? Studies show that your stress levels drop by 68% by the time you’ve read a book for ten minutes! If you struggle with falling asleep or insomnia, try curling up with a good book for a half hour before turning off the lights.


7. Read to avoid repeating history. Remember that famous quote attributed to Santayana: “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” There’s certainly truth there, which is why I like to work a little history into my reading stack. If you are a scholarly type who likes a true history book, you may enjoy a tome like The Founding of Christendom. If, like me, you prefer to learn your history indirectly, try historical fiction, like Treason: A Catholic Novel of Elizabethan England or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

8. Read to escape to a better place. We all have difficult seasons. Maybe we struggle with depression, loss of a loved one, or financial trouble. A good book can be a refuge for a time from the stress of the moment. Our minds can be soothed and our hearts lifted for a time, at least by an engaging adventure, romance, or comedy. You can find some of my favorite “light” reads like Gerald Durrell’s Corfu Trilogy on this list.

9. Read so you can answer your kids’ questions. My kids are like sponge-shaped question marks. They ask questions like “Why can’t the devil be forgiven?” and “How do we know there isn’t life on the moon?” and “Why is that flower yellow?” Now, I know there’s no way I will ever be able to answer all their questions offhand, but I hope that if I continue to learn, I’ll be able to answer some of them anyway. Particularly that one about the devil.

Good Books on Spirituality, Womanhood, and Motherhood for Catholic Moms

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All of us moms need some fresh inspiration occasionally, and what better place to find it than in good books? I am passionate about making time to fill my own mind with nourishing food for thought. Here are some of my favorite books on Catholic motherhood, parenting, spirituality, and family life.

The Foundation

I believe that the key to a happy family is a serene mother. The foundation for this peaceful spirit can be found in a deep trust in God’s will, as St. Alphonsus de Liguori explains in his classic work Uniformity with God’s Will. This little gem is only $5, and can be read in less than an hour. St. Alphonsus explains the key to happiness and serenity is resignation to God’s will as seen in your lot in life.

Father Jacques Philippe’s Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart outlines a similar vision to St. Alphonsus: that finding peace is tied to confidence in and surrender to God. I love how Father Philippe not only explains the path to interior peace in theory, but then spends the majority of the book explaining how to maintain that peace in real-life circumstances.

Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence: The Secret of Peace and Happiness by Father Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure and Blessed Claude de la Colombiere is a third spiritual classic explaining that peace lies in surrender to God’s will. Written over 300 years ago, this is a denser read than the two previous titles.

Retreats and Reflections
Daily Bible reading has been recommended by several popes and countless saints as a fast track to deepening your spirituality, and Take Up and Read is doing amazing work in creating daily Bible Study guides by Catholic women, for Catholic women. I loved Consider the Lilies, and Rooted in Hope is on my wish list!

St. Therese of Lisieux’s little way is infinitely practical for and applicable to motherhood, so I highly recommend I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

For the overwhelmed mom, Danielle Bean and Elizabeth Foss have created the perfect daily verse, reflection, and action prompt all on one page: Small Steps for Catholic Moms: Your Daily Call to Think, Pray, and Act

Catholic Womanhood


Rooted in Love: Our Calling as Catholic Women is a wonderful introduction to seeing your very womanhood as a vocation to embrace. Donna Cooper O’Boyle quotes extensively from encyclicals, John Paul II, and a plethora of saints in this extremely readable exploration of our calling as Catholic women.

Momnipotent: The Not-So-Perfect Woman’s Guide to Catholic Motherhood is a funny, affirming, inspiring book that will leave you empowered to dive back into the beautiful mess that is raising a Catholic family. A quick read with thought-provoking questions in each chapter.

The Reed of God is a spiritual classic which explores Mary and her relationship with God. Carryl Houselander makes Mary seem human and accessible, and thus teaches the reader to imitate Mary’s example of womanhood.

Dr. Alice von Hildebrand’s books on womanhood are insightful and inspiring. I enjoyed The Privilege of Being a Woman, which is a response to feminist ideology about man and woman’s equality. Man & Woman: A Divine Invention is an even more fascinating sequel in which von Hildebrand reflects on how man and woman are each part of God’s infinitely wise plan.

Catholic Motherhood and Parenting

Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising almost Perfect Kids is, in my opinion, a nearly perfect blueprint for what Catholic parenting should look like. Catholic psychologist and father Dr. Greg Popcak joins with his wife Lisa in writing this awesome guide to raising Catholic children. Dr. Popcak takes John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and applies it to raising children in a unique and perspective-changing way, that is backed up by extensive scientific research.

I also love Dr. Popcak’s Beyond the Birds and the Bees: Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids as a practical, how-to guide for teaching kids about sexuality from a Theology of the Body perspective.

Matthew Kelly’s The Seven Levels of Intimacy is a wonderful resource about building healthy relationship- whether with your spouse, your children, extended family, or friends. Kelly’s books are deceptively simple reads, but the concepts he shares are of immeasurable importance.

The Temperament God Gave Your Kids: Motivate, Discipline, and Love Your Children by Art and Laraine Bennett brings the classical concept of four temperaments into the modern day and age. Complete with quizzes and plenty of examples of each temperament, this book will help you understand how best to parent your children’s different personality types. I also highly recommend the Bennett’s book on temperaments for adults: The Temperament God Gave You: The Classic Key to Knowing Yourself, Getting Along with Others, and Growing Closer to the Lord.

The 5 Love Languages books have gotten a lot of publicity in recent years, and I did find some good ideas for helping my children feel loved inThe 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively. Personally, I consider this less helpful than the temperament books.

The Religious Potential of the Child: Experiencing Scripture and Liturgy With Young Children by Sofia Cavaletti is the landmark work that established Catechesis of the Good Shepherd principals. This program is a way of teaching children to approach their relationship with God in a natural, free, joyful manner. Although the book is aimed at an Atrium experience, many of these ideas can and should be implemented in the home with young children.

A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul is an interesting work that applies classical monastic wisdom to the home. If you are seeking a way to better order your life, this would be a good book for you.

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace is the sort of book you read and immediately pass on to a friend because it’s so good you can’t wait to share it! Sarah Mackenzie has broken down homeschooling into manageable steps and strategies, all based on the foundation of trusting God and aiming to create a well-rounded child who loves God. If you are a homeschooler, or considering being one, or know one, read this book!