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Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today Paperback – March 17, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

An examination of how the Rule of St. Benedict is still a relevant model for contemporary spiritual growth and connecting with God, with others, and with the inner self.

About the Author

Joan Chittister is a member and former prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie and currently the executive director of the Alliance for International Monasticism (AIM). She is the author of Psalm Journal, Winds of Change, and WomanStrength: Modern Church, Modern Women.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (March 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060613998
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060613990
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joan Chittister, OSB (1936- ) is a Benedictine Sister of Erie, PA. She is the author of over 50 books--and has won fourteen Catholic Press Association Awards for them. In September 2015 two books by Sister Joan were published, as well as her first biography. She authored: Two Dogs and a Parrot (BlueBridge) and In God's Holy Light (Franciscan Media). The biography is by Tom Roberts--Joan Chittister: Her Journey From Certainty to Faith (Orbis).

Last spring Random House published: Between the Dark and the Daylight and in the fall of 2014 Orbis Books released--Joan Chittister: The Essential Writings, which is a collection of the best from her many books, interviews and articles.

Sister Joan is an international speaker who inspires both her audiences and readers with her passion for justice, equality and peace, especially for women in both society and the church. She is a regular web columnist for the National Catholic Reporter ( and Huffington Post ( Her PhD is from Penn State University in Speech-Communication Theory, where her literary archives are now housed. An opening exhibit of her works will be on display there at the Paterno Library through December 2015. Her masters is from the University of Notre Dame. She serves as Executive Director of Benetvision, a research and resource center for contemporary spirituality. See the website to follow her upcoming speaking engagements and latest news.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 57 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 30, 1998
Format: Paperback
Joan Chittister has written a most beguiling and yet practical reflection on the ancient Rule of Benedict. This charming book, though nearly ten years old, is as fresh as the day it was written. "Wisdom Distilled from the Daily" is a timely and welcome guide for all who seek moments of grace and personal spiritual growth in and from their daily lives. Each of the fifteen short chapters is prefaced by a direct citation from the 1500 year old Rule of St. Benedict. Each begins with a description of some physical characteristic of the Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, Pennsylvania, home of her religious community, to whom Chittister dedicates the book. The author uses each of these concrete realities from in daily life in her monastery as a root metaphor which she breaks open in flowing, nearly-musical prose to reveal the timeless wisdom of Benedict on such topics as Listening, Prayer, Work, Humility, and (my personal favorite) "Holy Leisure". But this is not a book about monasticism. St. Benedict was a layman. While his Rule has been adopted and used by monastic brothers and sisters of various religious orders since the sixth century, it was meant to be a spiritual guide for all -- particularly lay persons. More importantly, its purpose is to help us build our spirituality from the bricks and mortar of the lived experiences of our daily lives. The author reminds us that we can find sanctity in the world around us: "If we are not spiritual where we are and as we are, we are not spiritual at all". This book is a gem! It is an easy read. If you think highly enough of someone to want them to read it also, buy them a copy. Don't lend them yours. This one is a "keeper" you will want to refer to frequently. In "Wisdom Distilled from the Daily", Joan Chittister has remade the timeless sixth century Rule of St. Bendict into a much-needed Rule of Living for the twenty-first century.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Sophia VINE VOICE on May 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
In "Wisdom Distilled from the Daily", Joan Chittister modernizes the Rule of Saint Benedict and applies it to modern living. Each chapter covers a different aspect of the Rule, including such topics as prayer, work, mindfulness, hospitality, peace, and listening.
Her stories from the desert sages are wonderful and extremely funny, and several of her insights are insightful and very helpful. I found the chapter on obedience in particular to be one of the most pithy, eloquent, and well-written summaries on such a loaded topic that I have ever encountered. One can tell that she is a clinical psychologist from that chapter!
The only criticisms I have are that the content is definitely dated: many of her specific images no longer apply, especially in world politics, her language is occasionally didactic and flat. "Prayer is not magic. Prayer is not..." and so on. Also, a minor linguistic point: she tends to start each chapter with an image, relate the image to the topic, discuss the topic, and then return to the image. This is fine for occasional use, but grates on repetition. Also, those not familiar with Christianity, especially with monastic communities might want to do some background reading first, as some of the images are quite specific. Overall, a very interesting discussion on how to apply the Rule of St. Benedict to today's world.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
`Daily life is the stuff of which high sanctity can be made.'
Near the beginning of Joan Chittister's wonderful treatment of the Rule of St. Benedict, she makes this statement, something that is agreed upon by most who are serious about the spiritual life. The old phrase 'little things mean a lot' is very true with regard to spirituality. After all, it is not the big crises that cause the most problems in life -- in fact, it is often a crisis that brings people together and deepens spiritual feeling and commitment. It is in the day-to-day struggle to maintain sanity and security that the spirit can be ignore most easily, unless paying attention to spiritual things is made intentional.
This is part of what Benedict was driving at so many centuries ago. Beyond the specific rules for his community, which are variously applicable and irrelevant toward living in today's world, is the overarching idea that some kind of rule, some kind of daily intentionality, some sort of deliberate pattern that puts us in community with each other and with the divine is very necessary for today's people.
`After years of monastic life I have discovered that unlike spiritual fads, which come and go with the teachers or cultures that spawned them, the Rule of Benedict looks at the world through interior eyes and lasts. Here, regardless of who we are or what we are, life and purpose meet.'
Spirituality of this sort is far more than ritual action. It is far more than churchiness or how often one does any particular thing, including prayer. This spirituality calls upon the individual to incorporate a way of life on top of daily life, a defining context of life that puts all things, prayer, church, family, work, play, study, sleep, indeed all parts of life, in connection and community with God.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By joshua feldmeth on April 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
I. Synopsis
Chittister believes that the everyday life of every person contains wisdom, truth, beauty, potential, and perhaps even God. But it's not her idea, at least originally. The Rule of St. Benedict, penned by a humble 4th century monk, has for centuries served as the corner-stone text and instruction manual for the Benedictine religious order, and now reemerges as the basis of Chittester's "Wisdom."
In short, the Rule is a guide to Christian spirituality that at its roots emphasizes balance, community and a lifetime of personal conversion. It is simple in that it is for everyone, regardless of education and status. It is comprehensive in that it proposes a complete way of life. Finally, the Rule is realistic: it advances balance between work and leisure, promising only peace at the end of a life of trying yet not necessarily accomplishing.
Chittester's frames the highlights of the Rule in an effort to guide 20th century Christians in the ways of ancient monastics. She begins simply with the core skills of Benedictine living: listening, and prayer or lectio. Listening means living with ears attuned to the call of Christ (to Benedictines, this is represented in a Monastery bell), thus creating a spirituality sentient of the presence of God in our lives and also the presence of others. Prayer and lectio, the act of prayerful meditation on scripture, for the listening Christian then becomes the center of life. It is regular, universal, reflective, communal and converting (p. 29) thus cracking open the door and letting God enter daily life.
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