LENTEN LEARNING ALONGSIDE LAVRANS’ DAUGHTER

I am singularly uninspired tonight, battle-weary and fatigued, but I have to write about my Lenten reading:  I said I would. And in spite of this blogger being a woman, and in spite of the book being “about” a woman, this is actually a man’s book about real men, about being a good man – or, by contrast, realizing what a defective man is.

(Later, I shall direct you to a “Gentleman” to tell you more.)

Sackcloth

Among the things we do during Lent — fasting, abstinence, extra almsgiving, extra praying, penitential acts ( just “in case” we’ve ever sinned!), mortifications, and extra spiritual reading, it is the extra or additional spiritual reading that will probably last the longest in our memories when Lent is over.

So I’ve added to my normal Lenten reading an important book this year, one I’ve read before and “liked” but I was only a teenager, and I missed all the significance this book has to offer.

 SAMSUNG

The book is Kristin Lavransdatter. That’s a photo of my old “genuine antique” clothbound copy of the book (Archer translation, if you know these things) – a gift from my sister, long ago.

Kristin lived in 14th century Norway, and this is the story of Life through her life, as she experiences people, death, the men around her, death, much death, the common dreadful challenges of life in the beautiful, natural Scandinavian world of greens and grays and blues and white — fields and mountains and sky, ocean and snow.

I read it long ago because I too was a young Scandinavian woman, (Lavrans’ family was from Sweden, after all); I must have looked like her, I was familiar with the names she knew and the personality traits of those around her. We seemed to have so much in common, but I was depressed and disturbed by all the harsh things that happened to her. Is this what Life is going to be like? And the ending almost didn’t seem to belong to the rest of her life.

But Kristin had one thing that I didn’t have when I was a teenager, and that is she had the Catholic Faith that put it all together and gave purpose and significance to life as she lived it and to death as it happened all around her and finally to her.

I’m eager now to read it with “Catholic eyes” — because I know this is a significant book in Western Civilization and, more importantly, it’s a book with meaning for the whole human race. I don’t think I’m overstating it; the author, Sigrid Undset,  won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

I’ve just begun the book, but the author is so skilled that I feel I’ve entered Kristin’s world.  I am already humbled.

I need to make clear that Kristin was a woman because the men around her were real men.   A case could be made that this is actually a book for men — “it will grow hair on your chest” as one man puts it.

With wonderful funny hyperbole, this man makes the case for this book better than I could:

(He says) Kristin Lavransdatter will make you weep and shout and stay up way too late with eyes as big as saucers. But you will sleep like a baby, and in the morning you will wake up with a bonfire in your heart. “That’s right,” you’ll say, your voice husky from drinking mead with kinsmen after a long Alpine hunt. “Real men read novels.” You’ll make your morning offering and kiss your brown scapular, and then you’ll drive to the jobsite…with your tear-stained copy of Kristin Lavransdatter tucked somewhere between your toolbox and your Stanley thermos.”

Here is a link to his wonderfully funny but important reasons for reading Kristin Lavransdatter:   “Be a man”:    The Catholic Gentleman.”

Her epic trilogy is a call to arms. Do not be content to watch from the sidelines. . .”

Enjoy.   He writes so much better than I.

 

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