Check out National Review Online for a list of great books for Lenten reading.
I was surprised and quite excited the other day when I got an email from Kathryn Jean Lopez asking me to recommend something. I don't know how she found out about my blog. Anyway I suggested Cardinal Van Thuan's great book, Testimony of Hope. He was truly a saint. Shortly after he became the coadjutor bishop of Saigon, he was arrested by the communists and thrown into prison. Then began 13 long years of suffering, 9 of which he spent in solitary confinement.
One story he tells in the book is how his people managed to smuggle in a copy of the New Testament, and the prisoners divided the pages among themselves. They hid them in the sand so the guards wouldn't find them. Then each of the Catholic prisoners memorized verses, and when they were able to at night, they would recite out loud the verses they had memorized. Van Thuan recounts how moving it was to hear God's word proclaimed like that. "There is no chaining the word of God."
A couple years before he died, the cardinal visited our convent in Boston. I was so impressed by him because he was one of the most serene and peaceful persons I have ever met. He also had a great sense of humor. He was one of those persons who just radiated holiness. The crucible of his sufferings turned him into a saint because he was so open to God's grace. He showed us the small wooden cross he persuaded one of the guards to let him make, which he then hid in a bar of soap. After he was finally released, he cherished it as a special reminder of God's care for him.