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Why would a married woman with a thoroughly Protestant background and often doubt than faith be drawn to the ancient practice of monasticism to a community of celibate men whose days are centered around a rigid schedule of prayer work and scripture This is the uestion that poet Kathleen Norris asks us as somewhat to her own surprise she found he. This review was originally published on my blog ShouldaCouldaWouldaBooksIn the early 1990s Kathleen Norris spent nine months at the Benedictine monastery of St John’s in Collegeville Minnesota She signed on several years before the book begins to become an “oblate” of the order The word oblate comes from the old Latin for “offering” but in reality has come to mean someone associated with the order who tries to live by their ideas as much as possible while maintaining their secular life otherwise As I understand it this means living by the text of The Rule of St Benedict a ninety six page volume that as I understand it is really the slimmest of all rulebooks for an order like theirsThe monks live communally and share everything food living space chores it is written into the rules that not even the abbott is excused from kitchen duty and the prioress of nuns herself washes bodies for burial Many of them have jobs in the wider community as well as teachers and counselors and nurses but not all Some serve the order itself tending their farms cleaning their abbeys as liturgical directors musicians administrators The Benedictines believe deeply in hospitality the monastery is not considered complete without a guest or two staying with them The most interesting of these principles to me however was the order’s deep engagement and focus on the psalms It is a first principle of their worship that they read the psalms straight through at least some portion of it each day When they reach the end they start over again month after month year after year until the verses become as familiar to them as breathing until they occur to them unbidden while out watching a sunset one evening deep in the midst of depression suddenly appearing and able to save them from themselves with a seemingly spontaneous gift of praise a beautiful gift of a thing that happens to Norris after she returns home to the bare plains of South Dakota after her stay with the monksThe most obvious comparison for this book is Fermor’s A Time to Keep Silence which I read last year They are both writers who have chosen to live with and like monks for extended periods of time They both have engaged with different orders and repeatedly returned to the Benedictines as the most human of the lot the ones they consider their closest friends They both use their time to inwardly reflect on who they are at the moment and to get to know the monks and nuns they’re living with But what’s different is that Norris focuses far on the texts that are at the center of life there while Fermor is far concerned with explaining the how the orders work to others and looking into their history and of course with navel gazing about his own inner transformations minutely examining his emotions from one day to the next Norris shares her life with us in glancing ways but never makes herself the point the way that Fermor does There’s value in both but I thought Norris’ book likely approached what it was like to live as a member of a monastic community far than Fermor's didThis book therefore is really about what engagement with literature with pure words as much as it is about religion Norris is a poet and approaches her time with the monks from that perspective Each chapter is structured around a reading a line or a life of a saint she encounters while attending worship with the monks The readings appropriately follow the wheel of the year and the saint’s days and feast days that mark its change She tells the tales of obscure saints we’d never otherwise hear of attempts to genuinely engage with parts of the bible that others consider a drag poor complaining doleful Jerome and looks hard at other bits that are generally politely excised from modern day worship such as the really angry vengeful not at all admirable bits of the psalms and reframe their meaning and purpose for what she calls a modern “literal minded” audienceIndeed one of her repeated insights is that we as a society have lost the knack of living metaphorically read the rest on the blog at

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The Cloister WalkS ritual its sense of community can impart meaning to everyday events and deepen our secular lives In this stirring and lyrical work the monastery often considered archaic or otherworldly becomes immediate accessible and relevant to us no matter what our faith may be A New York Times bestseller for weeks A New York Times Notable Book of the Year. The Cloister Walk offers “food” for the soul at a time when many of us are hungry Norris’s book chronicles her experiences as a lay oblate at St John's Abbey a Benedictine monastery in Collegeville Minnesota What makes this book fresh wonderful surprising and completely relevant to people of all faiths or non faith is that Norris is not— as one would anticipate— a Catholic but rather a Protestant filled with spiritual doubt When I first read The Cloister Walk and Dakota also by Kathleen Norris the evocative prose reminded me of writing by other women such as Annie Dillard Greta Ehrlich or Nancy Mairs that I’ve also enjoyed A critic from Commonweal Lawrence S Cunningham makes the same observation It is one of the graces of our time that the best of our contemporary spiritual writers are women who are also poets We have thus been blessed by the writings of among others Nancy Mairs Patricia Hampl Annie Dillard and Denise Levertov Gifted with the power of language and disinclined to get mired down in petty ecclesiastical suabbles or sidetracked by the banality that often passes for spirituality they like the householder of the gospel bring forth ‘old things and new’ Among that number one must include conspicuously Kathleen Norris who can bring alive the old desert fathers and mothers the saints of the calendar the idiosyncrasies of community life the travails of small town living the joys and pains of marriage and old age

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review The Cloister Walk ¹ PDF, DOC, TXT or eBook Ò ➸ [Read] ➳ The Cloister Walk By Kathleen Norris ➽ – Why would a married woman with a thoroughly Protestant background and often doubt than faith be drawn to the ancient practice of monasticism to a community of celibate men whose daRself on two extended residencies at St John's The Cloister eBook #10003 Abbey in Minnesota Part record of her time among the Benedictines part meditation on various aspects of monastic life The Cloister Walk demonstrates from the rare perspective of someone who is both an insider and outsider how immersion in the cloistered world its liturgy it. This book is not an easy read but is beautifully written It is definitely not for everyone I have been uietly reading it over the last two months It is the author's own walk through the male monastic life and in particular the Benedictines She looks at the relevance of their ordered life their community living their ritual devotion to prayer to society today It is of interest to me because of my own connections and impressions of the Benedictine's and their openness to the world outside of their monastic life situated in York many years ago