Kathleen Norris, a married woman with a thoroughly Protestant background and often more doubt than faith, finds herself, somewhat to her own surprise, on two extended residencies at St John's Abbey in Minnesota. Part record of her time among the Benedictines, part meditation on aspects of monastic life, The Cloister Walk demonstrates from the rare ...
Kathleen Norris, a married woman with a thoroughly Protestant background and often more doubt than faith, finds herself, somewhat to her own surprise, on two extended residencies at St John's Abbey in Minnesota. Part record of her time among the Benedictines, part meditation on 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, ritual and sense of community - can impart meaning to everyday events and deepen our secular lives. In this stirring and lyrical work, the monastery becomes immediate, accessible, and relevant to us, no matter what our faith may be. n 'Who's this book for? Poetry lovers, English-literature students, marriage counsellors, monks, hairstylists, unemployed people, teachers, Catholics, Protestants, agnostics, Buddhists. Anyone with an open mind and a love of words, in short' RTE Guide
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Kathleen Norris is a nationally known poet and was a non-practicing Protestant when she found herself involved with an order of Benedictine nuns in North Dakota, and from there was drawn to monastic life. In Cloister Walk, she records experiences and insights during a year at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, where she trained as an oblate, or, she explains, an "associate." Norris shares the relevance she finds 1.) in the liturgy--the scheduled praying, singing and reading of scripture the Benedictines practice; 2.) in the Rule of Benedict--the code of behavior the order follows; and 3.) in the writings and wisdom of people involved in monastic life, past and present. From the liturgy, she receives unexpected gifts of insight that apply to her personal trials and frustrations. As she observes the Rule of Benedict applied to the everyday interactions of the monastics, she realizes the people who live at the abbey function as a big family, so they experience same benefits and difficulties as lay people. As she studies the writings of people in church history and talks to her contemporaries, she sees how similar struggles are repeated at many times and in many locations. Strange as it may seem to people like me, immersed in a hectic, demanding secular culture, Norris' observations are often applicable to my life, very refreshing, and worth contemplating. My husband and I read Cloister Walk together in a boat on the upper Mississippi. Normally, he fishes and I read to myself, and I was reading Cloister Walk. I kept coming to passages I just had to talk about, so I would read to him and we would talk. It took us a long time, because we kept finding parallels in our lives for the concepts she presents. Norris has shown us how to see some things in different ways as she has shared the experiences that have helped her see things in new ways. I think that's what being a poet is about, and that's what God is about. This year's fishing season has started, and we're in the middle of reading Norris' book, Dakota. When we're done with that, we've got Amazing Grace.
Publishers Weekly, 1996-02-26 The allure of the monastic life baffles most lay people, but in her second book Norris (Dakota) goes far in explaining it. The author, raised Protestant, has been a Benedictine oblate, or lay associate, for 10 years, and has lived at a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota for two. Here, she compresses these years of experience into the diary of one liturgical year, offering observations on subjects ranging from celibacy to dealing with emotions to Christmas music. Like the liturgy she loves, this meandering, often repetitive book is perhaps best approached through the lectio divina practiced by the Benedictines, in which one tries to "surrender to whatever word or phrase captures the attention." There is a certain nervous facility to some of Norris's jabs at academics, and she is sometimes sanctimonious. But there is no doubting her conviction, exemplified in her defense of the much-maligned Catholic "virgin martyrs," whose relevance and heroism she wants to redeem for feminists. What emerges, finally, is an affecting portraitŠone of the most vibrant since Merton'sŠof the misunderstood, often invisible world of monastics, as seen by a restless, generous intelligence. (Apr.)
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