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Prisoners find inspiration in new Lenten guide

By Sarah Mac Donald - 11 March, 2020

A new book containing thought-provoking scripture readings and reflections for the season of Lent is being used by prisoners in one Irish prison.

‘Return to Me with All your Heart’ was compiled by Gerard Gallagher and published earlier this year by Veritas.

The accessible and practical guide to Lent, contains inspirational quotations and provides questions to prompt the reader to effect change in their day-to-day lives.

Gerard Gallagher works as a pastoral coordinator in the Archdiocese of Dublin. He is the author of ‘Are We Losing the Young Church?’ (Columba Press), ‘Your Child’s Confirmation’ (Redemptorist Publications) and ‘Making Your First Holy Communion: A Guide for Parents’ (Amazon).

Speaking to CatholicIreland.net about the success of his new book, he explained that he was invited by a prison chaplain to speak to some prisoners about Lent and his book.

“There are now a number of prisoners who are actually reading the book this Lent,” he explained. It is also being used by some students in DCU.

He said the book “is reaching out to people who don’t go to church normally or don’t do Lent normally”. His hope is that its accessibility will inspire readers to reflect on the scripture provided for each day as well as the inspirational reflection and to take up the action for that day too.

“It is a pocket-sized book – people have told me that they like that. Each day contains three things to do – read, reflect and respond.”

“A number of bishops have been in touch to say they are reading it themselves personally for Lent and teachers are using it in the classroom or for assembly.”

Mr Gallagher explained that he wrote each of the reflections during Lent of last year. “So the book actually came from my own personal experience of Lent last year. That is how it started. When I finished Lent, I paused for a month or two and then I revisited what I had written, tidied it up and submitted it to Veritas and they were very happy.”

“You need to know who your audience is. I was thinking of people who are disconnected from faith or the church. If they were to pick up this up, you would have them for about 2-3 minutes. That is the idea behind its brevity.”

The father of three, who is one of the organisers behind the hugely successful Emmanuel concerts for young students currently taking place at the Helix Theatre in DCU, said people are reading the book on their daily commute to work.

“It is discrete enough for people to use in those moments waiting for a bus or in a doctor’s surgery or just having a cup of coffee somewhere.”

It is available in all Veritas bookshops as well as online from Veritas and Amazon and through bookshops in Newbridge and Kilcullen.

As ‘Return to Me with All your Heart’ doesn’t follow the three-year cycle, it can be used for any Lent and not just Lent 2020.

According to Gerard Gallagher, the success of this Lenten resource has prompted him to think about another book for Advent in a similar format.

‘Return to Me with All your Heart’ can be ordered here: https://www.veritasbooksonline.com/return-to-me-with-all-your-heart-9781847309518-45108/

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