Spend Lent With Father … and the Father

Lent transports Catholics to Jesus’ side as he prepares to glorify the Father on the cross. So Does Father Michael Gaitley’s new book, 33 Days to Greater Glory.

Father Gaitley is a priest of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception who has a gift for “Do it yourself retreats” in book form, with his unique style that is both engaging and deep.

His newest book completes a trilogy of 33 Days books dedicated to Marian consecration, consecration to Divine Mercy, and now consecration to the Father. I have nearly completed my 33 days with the new book, and highly recommend you get it for Lent.

First of all, we all need a Father.

I love the way 33 Days to Greater Glory begins with the dedication “To my dad” and an opening quote: “’I love the Father.’ –Jesus.”

The book focuses on a profound mystical reality in the devotion of God the Son to God the Father, and vice versa. But it stays rooted in that very human “love of dad.”

That means the book helps heal wounds we all have. Father Gaitley speaks about his own disappointment in Church leadership. We each also have our own “father wounds” of various sizes — from mere scratches to gaping, bleeding holes.

“The image of the Father from the Gospel of John is one of shocking humility and self-giving, which are two virtues that aren’t always immediately associated with fatherhood,” Father Gaitley said. The book brings readers to a place where we can pray, with Father Gaitley, “Come, Holy Spirit …  move me to cry out with love, ‘Abba, Father!’”

Second, we all need immersion in Scripture.

I’ll admit I have always had a love-hate relationship with the Gospel of John, which Father Gaitley uses as the basis for the book. I love the high poetry of “The Word was made flesh … and dwelt among us,” and its great stories — the Woman at the Well, the Man Born Blind, and the Woman Caught in Adultery.

But I have always been frustrated by the long passages of Jesus explaining his relationship with the Father, what constitutes acceptable testimony, etc.

I simply didn’t understand them — and Father Gaitley admits that he didn’t either, until he heard Leonardo Defilippis. He was fascinated by the Catholic thespian’s one-man presentation of the Gospel. He got a copy of it on CD and listened to it incessantly, finding himself particularly drawn to the very readings I always dreaded.

Father Gaitley invites readers to do what he did, and listen only to Defilippis’s The Gospel According to John through the duration of the 33 days. At first I balked at this — I love my books on tape — but when I embraced it, I found it a very powerful practice. I listened to Defilippis and John from an Audible New Testament, and it transformed my experience of the Gospel of John.

Third, Father Gaitley puts spiritual depths within reach.

Just listening to the Gospel of John caused me to make all kinds of connections I never noticed before, and Father Gaitley helped me make sense of them.

There is a through-line of water and thirst themes, for instance, from Baptism, to the woman at the well, to Jesus crying out in the Temple, to the thirst of Christ on the cross and the water flowing from his side.

Father Gaitley makes the most of that and many other themes in the retreat, giving “beginners” access to deep spiritual riches.

Fourth, it all adds up to helping you be a better son or daughter of God.

It is a profound truth of the Catholic faith that more depends on who we are than on what we do. The end of Father Gaitley’s consecration isn’t a to-do list of things you need to get done, but an identity card that changes your perspective on everything you do.

Father Gaitley’s approach helps you find your personal identity in Jesus Christ, who invites you to enter into his life of love and intimacy with his Father. That transforms all your relationships.

Fifth, the book delivers what Father Gaitley promises: It makes you less worldly.

In order to be as recollected as possible for the retreat (and because I often didn’t have my reading done until later at night) I gave up alcohol. Next, I found myself turning off the Gospel of John to just be in silence.

“Our amazing devices … connect us with just about everything,” writes Father Gaitley, “which often includes an overwhelming dose of darkness.”

In the retreat, you pray, “Father, purify my heart of the noise and the ways of the world, that I may always hear your word of love for me: ‘You are my Beloved.’” I am eternally grateful to this book for helping me experience that joy.

This appeared at Aleteia.
Image: Father Michael Gaitley at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. His book What Pope Francis Really Said is now available on Audible. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, Hoopes served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.