The Taste of Silence  -     By: Bieke Vandekerckhove
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The Taste of Silence

Liturgical Press / 2015 / Paperback

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Product Description

At the youthful age of nineteen Bieke Vandekerckhove was diagnosed with ALS (a degenerative neurological disease, aka Lou Gehrig's disease). Unexpectedly, three years later her disease went into remission and, even though partially paralyzed, she has lived with ALS now for more than twenty years.

In twenty-seven short chapters, written at various points in her life, the author shares her search for meaning and strength. Much to her own surprise, she found both in the stillness of contemplation, in the richness of silence. The practice of Benedictine spirituality and Zen meditation became, as she says, the two lungs through which she breathes.

Along the way of her painful but illuminating journey, she shares insights learned from artists of all stripes, whether poets, painters, sculptors, or moviemakers, and from great contemplatives and thinkers. The result is a work that offers a deep trove of spiritual wisdom for every reader, whether afflicted with debilitating illness or in perfect health.

This book won the Best Spiritual Book 2011 award in the author's home country of Belgium.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 124
Vendor: Liturgical Press
Publication Date: 2015
Dimensions: 8.25 X 5.38 (inches)
ISBN: 0814647731
ISBN-13: 9780814647738

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Publisher's Description

At nineteen Bieke Vandekerckhove fell ill. The diagnosis was devastating: the fatal motor neuron disease ALS. Life expectancy: two to five years. So what did she do with the paltry bit of life that was left?

By force of circumstance she was led to Saint Lioba Convent in Egmond-Binnen. There she learned Benedictine spirituality and to pray the psalms, which influenced her life for good. Three years later she learned that her illness had gone into remission but that it could flare up again at any time. She has been living with ALS for twenty years now. She is married and has two assistants to help her as necessary.

Ten years ago she found the silence of Zen. This encounter also proved decisive. The Taste of Silence reflects what she experienced, saw, and tasted in the stillness of life: "Benedictine spirituality and Zen Buddhism became the two lungs through which I breathe."

Author Bio

Bieke Vandekerckhove (born 1969) lived in Kuurne, Belgium. In 1988, when she was a psychology major at the University of Leuven, she was diagnosed with ALS and became paralyzed from the pelvis up. With round-the-clock help from husband Bart Verhulst and various assistants, she led an active life of teaching, counseling, and writing for, among others, Volzin and Tertio. Until recently she regularly conducted Zen meetings and retreats at the Benedictine Sint-Andries Abbey in Zevenkerken, Belgium. In 2014 Bieke Vandekerckhove received formal transmission as Zen Master (Ch'an Ssu) in the Chinese Ch'an tradition from internationally known Zen Master Prof. Ton Lathouwers, himself the Dharma-Successor of Ch'an Master Teh Cheng, longtime head of the Guang Hua Ch'an School in China. On the occasion, she received the name Xia Fan Zhi Guang, meaning "Light of Kenosis." Bieke passed away in her home, early in the evening on September 7, 2015.

Editorial Reviews

"Learn to be still and learn to do nothing and learn to wait. The secret of those who became giants always lay in this: they were prepared for the long haul." —Thus wrote poet Henriette Roland Holst. It is what Bieke Vandekerckhove wanted to learn—living with an incurable disease, she had to. Listening, meditating, persevering in the silence, she became one of the giants, and she wrote a book that consoles.
Huub Oosterhuis, Dutch theologian, poet, author, liturgist, and ecumenist

Life is full of trials—yet sometimes we may suddenly perceive an eternal light in the midst of the worst tribulations. There is much in life that does not make any sense, so we need witnesses whose life says: and yet! and who keep on smiling through their tears. This book is such a smile, compelling in its authenticity.
Benoît Standaert, Benedictine Monk of Saint Andrew's Abbey in Bruges, Belgium, Author of Sharing Sacred Space: Interreligious Dialogue as Spiritual Encounter

Bieke Vandekerckhove's story shows the way spirituality and religion get synchronized in the paradox classically stated by Polonius in Hamlet: 'by indirections find directions out.
Patrick Henry, On Being blog

An insightful and absorbing memoir. Written poetically, the chapters-some only a page and a half-evoke the connectedness that Vandekerckhove felt toward the divine.
Diane Scharper, National Catholic Reporter

"They say that the book you need to read finds you at the time you most need to read it. That was the case here. After an initial descent into darkness, [Bieke] found strength by making an inner journey into the deep silence that resides inside us all. Her description of her journey is remarkable."
Ron Rolheiser, OMI from "My Top Books for 2015"

"The author's experiences prove that Benedictine spirituality can be a healing grace. Many of us have had to face an impenetrable wall. Contemplative prayer and meditation can bring down that wall-helping us to endure the winter of our life and move forward to the hope inherent in spring."
Thomas J. Rillo, Saint Meinrad's Benedictine Oblate Newsletter

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