Archives For Benedictine

 

A Calm and Quiet Presence
 
A Feature Review of 
 

Radical Spirit: 12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life
Joan Chittister

Hardback: Convergent Books, 2017
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 Reviewed by Alexander Steward
 
 
We are a people that search. We search for the things we have lost. We search for the latest and greatest item that will make our life that much easier. These searches tend to focus upon the outward self and what will benefit us as individuals the most. The search that is easily avoided because it takes too much time and a lot of patience, is the search for the inward self. The self that is called to be in relationship with God. It is in this search that we are able to grow as individuals and nurture our relationship with God.

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The Deep Waters of Suffering

 
A Review of 
 

The Mystery of Suffering
Hubert van Zeller

Paperback: Ave Maria Press, 2015
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Reviewed by Charlotte Donlon
 
 
I have been a member of a Reformed, Protestant church since I became a Christian twenty years ago, but I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the wisdom I’ve gleaned from other Christian traditions. Ever since I was introduced to Benedictine spirituality in Kathleen Norris’ The Cloister Walk, I have sought out others who write from a similar perspective. Benedictine monks’ commitment to praying the Psalms and practicing lectio divina, silence, and solitude appealed to me as a young mother of two small children, and it continues to appeal to me now ten years later. In a world that largely discourages a contemplative lifestyle in favor of busyness and achievement, the Benedictines have taught me how to rest and receive.

So it was with a sense of appreciation and expectation that I approached The Mystery of Suffering by Benedictine monk and sculptor Hubert van Zeller. This book was originally published in 1964 as Suffering in Other Words: A Presentation for Beginners. It was re-released and published with the new title in September of 2015.

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How Then do we Pray Together?

A Review of

No Peace Without Prayer: Encouraging Muslims and Christians to Pray Together, A Benedictine Approach

Timothy Wright

Paperback: Liturgical Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Amy Gentile and Liz Strout

 

Notes: This review, a fitting one for the Feast of St. Francis this weekend, was co-written by Amy Gentile and Liz Strout, who grew up in the same Baptist church and later converted to Eastern Orthodoxy and Sunni Islam, respectively. We read and discussed this book together, requesting it for review as we found the topic both timely and personally important.

 

Through the advent of technology, the world has grown increasingly more connected. We no longer have the privilege of remaining in isolated, homogenous communities (ethnic, religious, or sociopolitical). Ultimately, we would argue that’s a good thing, but it is not always easy, especially when there is a long-standing history of conflict and even violence. We must move forward with avenues of dialogue and peace-making, even when it is difficult. It is in this vein that Abbot Timothy Wright writes No Peace Without Prayer: Encouraging Muslims and Christians to Pray Together, A Benedictine Approach. He brings his experiences organizing dialogues between Catholic monks and Shi’a Muslims as well as a generous spirit to this text, setting forward a “framework, adaptable to the widely differing situations in which Muslims and Christians live side by side.” (16) This type of dialogue—whether between Christians and Muslims or any other differing communities—is a necessity in a globalized age, and we should all be echoing the call for dialogue, compassion, and ultimately peace.

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A Love Story at Day’s End

A Review of

Prayer as Night Falls: Experiencing Compline
Kenneth Peterson

Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2013
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Reviewed by Scott E. Schul

 

Author Kenneth Peterson has an eclectic biography: music teacher, software engineer, early music enthusiast and Benedictine oblate. Perhaps not surprisingly then, his book Prayer as Night Falls: Experiencing Compline is similarly eclectic. One might appropriately categorize it as equal parts history, memoir, travelogue, theology, and music theory.

 

But at its core, Prayer as Night Falls is a love story – one which slowly builds and evolves throughout Peterson’s life and that builds his faith, binds him to God and connects him to a remarkable “cloud of witnesses” within the Compline Choir in which Peterson regularly sings.

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Conversatio: The Work of Everyday Life

A Feature Review of

Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home, and a Living Faith
Judith Valente

Paperback: Ave Maria Press, 2013
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Reviewed by Heidi Haverkamp
 

The stained-glass windows of the Mount Saint Scholastica Monastery chapel are a striking grey-blue. They were made in the mid-20th century by a German immigrant and artist who intended an altogether different shade of blue. But the fierce wind and sunshine of eastern Kansas bleached that color into “Atchison blue,” a shade of blue which “exists nowhere else” (2) according to author Judy Valente. (I wish I could find a photo of the color of these windows – I’ve looked online to no avail.)

 

The windows, of course, are a metaphor of Valente’s own journey with the monastery and also of Benedictine life. Benedictines make vows to conversatio morum: often translated as “conversion of life” or allowing the self to be changed over time by monastic life and the Holy Spirit. They also make a vow of stability, or a commitment to remain in one place and be committed to that place for their entire lives, no matter what. The stained glass of “the Mount” has gone through its own conversatio, shaped and transformed over time by its stability and steadfast exposure to Kansas weather!
 
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Crafting a Rule of Life would be an effective adult education study, seasonal endeavor, or personal exercise in pausing to organize one’s thoughts and feelings around a central calling from God. While it provides a taste of Benedictine thought, the Rule of St. Benedict is not the featured flavor of the month. Instead, it is a quiet, historic partner in the background and is accompanied by other classic and traditional flavors meant to provide accompaniment for a modern person of faith’s journey.

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“To Become More Fully Human”

A Review of
Two New Books on Christian Spirituality

Reviewed by Kevin Book Satterlee.


Monastery of the Heart - Joan ChittisterThe Monastery of the Heart:
An Invitation to a Meaningful Life

Joan Chittister.
Hardback: Bluebridge, 2011.
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[ Amazon ]


Soulful Spirituality:
Becoming Fully Alive
and Deeply Human
David G. Benner
Paperback: Brazos Press, 2011.
Buy now:
[ ChristianBook.com ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]


SOULFUL SPIRITUALITY - BennerAlthough Christianity has long been understood as by many as a set of doctrines confining people into a religion in which God and Jesus became life-depleting and discipleship was a soulless death, there has always been an undercurrent of life-giving, fulfilling Christian spirituality.  Thomas Merton helped many Christians to reimagine a life-giving spiritual pursuit over doctrinal stuffiness.  There are still many skeptics, but the publishing industry is pumping out new Christian spiritual books on a monthly basis.  Spirituality is en vogue in pop culture, especially in Christian pop sub-culture, but many of the resources are valuable.

Sister Joan Chittister’s newest book, The Monastery of the Heart:  An Invitation to a Meaningful Life, (BlueBridge) and David G. Benner’s book, Soulful Spirituality:  Becoming Fully Alive and Deeply Human, (Brazos) are two new books for 2011 about life-giving and distinctly human spiritualities.  Chittister is a Benedictine nun and writes from her half-century in the monastic life.  Benner is a professor of psychology at Richmont Graduate University, whose work focuses on psychology and spirituality.

While the two books are about spirituality, they take very different approaches.  Benner writes about the psychology of spirituality and the spirituality of psychology.  He is a clinical therapist and applies the principles of spirituality to psychological health.  He comes from a Christian background and writes with Christian influence, however his pluralism of spirituality also dramatically influences his writing.  Chittister’s work, on the other hand, is a poetic commentary on St. Benedict’s monastic rule.  She is thoroughly Christian in her approach.

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Here is a wonderful video introduction to Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s brand new book THE WISDOM OF STABILITY (Paraclete Press 2010), which is perhaps my most anticipated book of 2010, and this video only makes me more eager to get my hands on it!

Watch for a review coming in about a month…