The Cloister Walk

The Cloister Walk❴PDF / Epub❵ ★ The Cloister Walk Author Kathleen Norris – A New York Times bestseller for 23 weeks A New York Times Notable Book of the Year A strange and beautiful bookPart memoir part meditation it is a remarkable piece of writing The Boston GlobeThe Clois A New York Times bestseller for weeks A New York Times Notable Book of the Year A strange and beautiful bookPart memoir part meditation it is a remarkable piece of writing The Boston GlobeThe Cloister Walk is a new opportunity to discover a remarkable writer with a huge wise heartNorris resonates deeply for a lot of people She's one of those writers who demands to be handed The Cloister MOBI :¼ around You want to share this great discovery giving her work as a giftor you simply shove a copy in the face of a friend saying 'Read this' Minneapolis Star Tribune. 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 45 Like Amazing Grace this is an impressively all encompassing and elouent set of essays on how faith intersects with everyday life In particular the book draws lessons from the time Norris spent as a Benedictine oblate From this experience she learned the benefits as well as the drawbacks of solitude and communal living She also considers the place that celibacy and monastic living might still have in modern life “The fact that Christian monastics men and women both have been singing such gentle hymns at dusk for seventeen hundred years makes me realize that ceremony and tradition things I’ve been raised to distrust as largely irrelevant can be food for the soul”Sometimes her topics are drawn from the liturgical year feast days patron saints and martyrs chosen scriptures and wisdom from the Desert Fathers or other spiritual gurus Emily Dickinson is among her favorites Other times she simply reflects on her own life the blessings and challenges of being a freelance poet and lay theologian; the daily discipline involved in marriage keeping a house and gardening; and childhood memories from Virginia Illinois and HawaiiThese are disparate pieces rather than a straightforward narrative I read two or three at a time over a period of several weeks and found them to be a very peaceful way to start or break up the day My favorite individual essay is “Dreaming of Trees” contrasting the treelessness of her adopted Dakotas with the other landscapes she’s known Norris wonders how to cultivate simplicity of spirit “What would I find in my own heart if the noise of the world were silenced? Who would I be? Who will I be when loss or crisis or the depredations of time take away the trappings of success of self importance even personality itself?”There are profound lines on nearly every page but here are a few of my favorite passages“The hard work of writing has taught me that in matters of the heart such as writing or faith there is no right or wrong way to do it but only the way of your life Just paying attention will teach you what bears fruit and what doesn’t But it will be necessary to revise—to doodle scratch out erase even make a mess of things—in order to make it come out right”“if the scriptures don’t sometimes pierce us like a sword we’re not paying close enough attention”“if you’re looking for a belief in the power of words to change things to come alive and make a path for you to walk on you’re better off with poets these days than with Christians”“we exist for each other and when we’re at a low ebb sometimes just to see the goodness radiating from another can be all we need in order to rediscover it in ourselves” Read this book many years ago but I can't recall exactly how many I'm 99% sure it was in the late '90's In any event I was still so ignorant about my own Catholic heritage at that point I hadn't even heard of The Rule of St Benedict which I promptly went out bought and read from cover to cover Now I have three or four copies of it When I think of a good 'rule of life' I think of St Benedict's Rule and I am grateful to this Protestant woman for teaching me about it The Cloister Walk as best as I can remember it is a collection of essays written by Kathleen Norris about her discovery of and journey with The Rule of St Benedict and the monks of a Benedictine Abbey in Minnesota It is a very uiet meditative book which touched me deeply when I read it much like Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain I pray that it isn't just a desire for escapism but a real hungering after that 'still small voice' which can only be heard when one voluntarily abandons the outer world for the uiet and peace of inner communion with HimA beautiful book partly biographical deeply reflective and very spiritual Highly recommendedSadly I gave away my original copy of this bookso I need to get another This is a book worth owning Even though I was in my early forties at the time and a cradle Catholic product of 12 years of parochial schools I was rather uneasy with this book although I did manage to struggle through to the endThere were a few definite mentions of Orthodox Christianity when referring to ancient saints but everything else was the black and white ProtestantCatholic divide I don't know about many Protestant monastic communities but there are several Orthodox monasteries in the United States While I stop short of insisting she be completely inclusive I thought it odd that Orthodoxy was relegated to antiuity but for a few brief mentionsShe seemed like a very scatter brained art teacher waving her arms with flowy sleeves and talking about the Poetry of CreationBut she didn't really talk about Christ or God much That mostly clinched the I don't like this book feeling Granted it's a difficult subject to write about well but she kept approaching it and she's already set the scope of the book as Benedictine monastic experience and then nothing of any depth for meI feel kinda bad like I'm giving a harsh critiue to a fifth grader's poem about his dog who died Oh well 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 This book changed my lifeIt's hard to explain You really have to read it Based on my experience it helps to be a Catholic who loves books Kathleen Norris is a poet and has a poet's perspective on Catholicism and the ways of Benedictine monks But she's also a Protestant with a refreshingly level headed outsider's perspective on the seemingly impenetrable world inside a monastery The monks and nuns she describes are real honest witty and faithful people with great stories and a passion for their religion that seems very accessible My favorite of the chapters in the book are her essays on Catholic women saints one on St Maria Goretti and 1950's American Catholic misogyny and one on the virgin martyrs They're very frank about the problems in the way the church has treated women and how Catholic women of faith including nuns have struggled with that over the years Very fresh compelling stuff I love Kathleen Norris and all she synthesizes here Chipped away at this before bed for a long time Wanted to start it again when I got to the end For me the poet as theologian sure hits the spot 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 Norris is introducing us one by one to the core religious aspects of Christianity as she comes to know and understand them We explore every key dimension of monastic life with her Why celebacy; why community; why Scripture reading; why choir and music; why poverty; why we are not perfect I think like many people I expected this book to be a straighforward description something like This was my year in the monastery We ate beans and prayed blah blah blah However we as readers receive something much wonderful rare and important While we DO receive a description of monastery life we experience it as Norris's personal spiritual journey all her revelations confusions doubts and certainties Essentially we see what happens to her FAITH What a brave and miraculous thing to show to strangers And much holy After all the material aspects are not what matter to Holy People or poets which is what Norris is first and foremost As much as I enjoyed this book at times I found it difficult to get through it It is not the most entertaining read but rather something for contemplation You need not be religious but you must be poetic and spiritual For the down times I gave it only four stars One of my all time favorite uotes by this author from another bookThis is my spiritual geography the place where I have wrestled my story out of the circumstances of landscape and inheritance The word geography derives from the Greek words of earth and writingThis was so disappointing It is not about a spiritual journey as far as I could tell It is a dry boringfactual account of the readings they did why they are meaningful to her and what being a monk means in this day and age They make jokes They watch TV Or maybe just the nuns do Oh and they make better friends because they are celibate Trying to convince us listening to someone yell at us with fire and brimstone and insulting our hearts and intelligence as a way to know God is my least favorite thing in the worldI just did not connect to this book and I didn't find it lyrically written No luminous glowing prose None At all It jumps around in a very confused way and she spends uite a bit of time on her fellowship group who are academics and their distrust of her as a poet with no letters behind her name That was a strange and dissonant aspect of the book

The Cloister Walk Kindle · The Cloister  MOBI :¼
  • ebook
  • 416 pages
  • The Cloister Walk
  • Kathleen Norris
  • 26 December 2014
  • 9781101215661