This book will be mostly for Christians, because it is structured around the season of Lent, the forty days before Easter. But many of the teachings and practices offered here would benefit people of every religious tradition or of any spiritual practice.
Author Joyce Rupp is profiled in our Living Spiritual Teachers Project. We recommend all of her work and have done so for several decades. She is a Roman Catholic religious sister, a retreat leader and conference speaker, and a teacher who infuses her spirituality with transpersonal psychology and a strong background in hospice care.
She writes in the introduction: “We become more compassionate and kindhearted when we acknowledge and care for our broken-open hearts because we sense our solidarity with other persons’ sufferings.” She crafts this book as a spiritual retreat for any person carrying a heavy burden, suffering a personal loss, or struggling with pain and sorrow.
Chapters are organized according to the time and themes of Lent, starting with the period from Ash Wednesday to the First Sunday of that season, then the six weeks of Lent itself which culminate in Holy Week through Easter.
As Rupp organizes the last few days of the book, relating the events in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus to her readers’ lives, it is meant to feel that you, as a suffering person, might also be going through these things. In summary: “Wednesday: Powerless”; “Holy Thursday: The Hour of Anguish”; “Good Friday: Feeling Abandoned”; “Holy Saturday: Giving Our Life for Another”; and then “Easter Sunday: Joy beyond Suffering.”
Always, Sister Joyce is attentive to the role and voices of women in the texts and tradition. On the last day, for instance — Easter Sunday — she focuses the reader’s attention on the women who hurried in the early dawn to anoint the body of Jesus. These women, “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome” (Mark 16:1) were in terrible pain and sadness. Their hearts were completely broken. But the lesson, according to Rupp, is that “our wounded hearts have something of value to offer…. If we are willing to look beyond self, to reach out to those who bear life’s injuries and sorrows and anoint them with our kindness, we will find our own pain lessened.”
This mini-retreat is for anyone in pain or sadness, and its message is to look outside yourself at the pain and sadness of those around you.