Posted 20 hours ago

The Cloister Walk

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According to Norris, monasticism is all about poetry because, you know, she is a poet which is apparently on a par with being a monk because "monks and poets are the best degenerates in America. Poetry lovers, English-literature students, marriage counsellors, monks, hairstylists, unemployed people, teachers, Catholics, Protestants, agnostics, Buddhists. Monks and nuns are often seen in such a light, as useless figures who hide from society and whose devotion leaves out one of the greatest commandments, spreading the gospel. The older I get, the more I see that it is the daily rhythm of your life, how you allow your body and mind to experience the world, that matters more than your job title, or even the content of what you do each day, in making you the person that you are, so this really resonated with me.

It reminded me of that feeling I get reading Possession, Anna Karenina, Austen, Elizabeth von Armin. The author is continually amazed by the perspective of time in a monastery as compared to that of the world outside. It’s like the much older sister you weren’t quite ready to understand yet, and to love openly despite her flaws. The path to faith she points us toward is neither straight nor narrow—rather, it wends through the wilderness of metaphoric imagination. Despite my constant waiting for the “right” moment to read this book, it found me right when I needed it.Combine the poetic nature of the psalms with the old-school war language, the defeating enemies and praying calamity on them, and you have me distanced and more than a little uncomfortable. A beautiful new edition of one of the most beloved books of the Bible, with insight and illumination from Kathleen Norris. Part record of her time among the Benedictines, part meditation on various aspects of monastic life, The Cloister Walk demonstrates, from the rare persp

By the time I finished the book I realized I was reading while listening to the CD of chants prepared at the monastery I most often visit. 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. I bought it because I thoroughly enjoyed Patrick Leigh Fermor's 'A Time to Keep Silence' and wanted something along the same lines. Why would a married woman with a thoroughly Protestant background and often more 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?Whereas time is considered by the Benedictines to be a gift, what is our culture’s attitude toward it? This is the question that poet Kathleen Norris asks us as, somewhat to her own surprise, she found herself on two extended residencies at St. She can be patronising in places too, such as in her discussion of celibacy: "Ideally, in giving up the sexual prsuit of women (whther as demons or as idealized vessels of purity), the male ceibate learns to realte to them as human beings. Norris doesn’t really fall into this, but sometimes her literary leanings can leave me a bit perplexed as to what she is actually saying and what her own beliefs are. And in the essays of The Cloister Walk, Norris is concerned with the question of how we read and interpret the language of scripture, of liturgy, knowing that our grasp on its meaning will always be imperfect.

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