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Cloister Talks: Learning from My Friends the Monks - eBook
Brazos Press / 2009 / ePub
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"We can show you how to be quiet, how to listen, but only God can show you the other stuff," Father Ambrose told Jon Sweeney long ago. "What stuff?" he replied. "You."
This is just one of the many conversations Sweeney shares in Cloister Talks-a series of glimpses into his decades-long friendships with Cistercian and Benedictine monks in various monasteries across the country. The contemplative way embodied by these communal brothers has been the single greatest source of guidance in Sweeney's journey of faith. Here he shares with poignant honesty the wisdom and insight for everyday living he has gained along the way.
Sweeney's conversations with monks engage various universal areas of life, including life, death, love, work, play, and spirituality. Readers will emerge with a deeper understanding of this ancient way of Christianity-a much needed antidote to the hurry of contemporary life. The monastics who populate these pages have spent a combined century and a half in their sacred vocation. They hold the keys to many of the things we all yearn for: stillness, solitude, simplicity, contemplation, and clarity of purpose.
Come along as author Jon M. Sweeney sits in the warm October sun talking with Father Luke or enjoys a December afternoon in the monastery with Father Ambrose.
In Cloister Talks, Sweeney offers a rare glimpse into his decades-long friendships with monks and shares the wisdom and insight for everyday living he has gained along the way. The contemplative monasticism Sweeney practiced with these monks has been the greatest source of guidance in his journey of faith, and here he shares it with poignant honesty.
Sweeney's conversations with monks engage various universal areas of life, including life, death, love, work, play, and spirituality. Readers will emerge with a deeper understanding of this ancient way of Christianity, a much needed antidote to the hurry of contemporary life.
Ambrose has such an interesting mind. When he talks it's as if he's painting the circles on a target, beginning at the outer ones. "If I had to give you one piece of advice it would be this: Don't look for sudden enlightenment. People call them ah-ha moments; don't worry about those. I know that you may feel your time is wasted here if you haven't had enough ah-has, but I assure you it won't be."
"So what should I be doing?" I asked him, feeling confused.
"When you finally quiet down enough you'll begin to hear the divine voice.
"Don't walk around looking for moments of enlightened insight," Ambrose continued. "For one thing, we're not that smart!" He laughed. "Instead, you should walk around praying. Sit in the church before dawn, praying. Or just shut your mouth for a few days. Listen to the talks given by the retreat master, if you like. Just sit. Try your best to stop thinking."
It sounded too easy to me. I told him that.
"What I'm suggesting is much harder than you might think. You'll see."
Jon Sweeney is the associate publisher of Paraclete Press and the author of several books, including Light in the Dark Ages: The Friendship of Francis and Clare of Assisi and Born Again and Again.
We still thirst to know what goes on behind the walls of closed religious communities, even as vocations for those communities dwindle. Sweeney has written an account of his visits to a number of Cistercians and Benedictines, who gradually draw him closer to the experience of contemplation, to "be quiet, sit down, and listen." Benson, a member of an ecumenical lay order, asks us to consider the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursiathe founding document of the Benedictinesas an oblique guide to the more loosely knit modern communities we wish to build or of which we are a part. VERDICT Reaching well beyond Catholic readership, these will be valuable to the thoughtful reader, Christian and non-Christian. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Protestant author Jon Sweeney (Almost Catholic) reports on more than 20 years of conversations he's had with monks in Massachusetts, Kentucky and Georgia. In his search for God, he encountered Trappist monk M. Basil Pennington and a number of other memorable characters who were eager to share their decades of cloistered experience with him. As a non-Catholic layman, Sweeney asks pointed questions about many aspects of monastic spirituality and elicits warm reflections on abbey life. Background information on Cistercian and Benedictine orders and quotes from such writers as Thomas Merton, Graham Greene, Evelyn Underhill and George Herbert provide a counterpoint to the voices of a fast-disappearing generation of contemplatives. While the dialogues are vivid, Sweeney's account of his own faith task of incorporating the monks' wisdom is too sketchy to be satisfying, and he offers little information about the directions his life has taken as a result. Adding to the monks changed my life genre is tricky, especially given the height of the bar set by Kathleen Norris's remarkable Cloister Walk. Less reticence, better writing and deeper insight would have strengthened Sweeney's endeavor to distill experiences that were clearly significant to him. (May) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
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