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The Cloister Walk Paperback – April 1, 1997
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In the tradition of Thomas Merton, Kathleen Norris gives us an intimate look at how religious life fills a gap in the soul. Her poetic sensibilities internalize the monastery as a symbol of spirituality, with its sanctity and humor, questioning and uncertainty, rhythm and vigor. Beyond moral precepts and Bible stories, Cloister Walk is a very personal account of religion lived fully. It depicts a depth and beauty of spirituality in monastic life that has survived the vicissitudes of Roman Catholic politics and pomp.
From Publishers Weekly
The allure of the monastic life baffles most lay people, but in her second book Norris (Dakota) goes far in explaining it. The author, raised Protestant, has been a Benedictine oblate, or lay associate, for 10 years, and has lived at a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota for two. Here, she compresses these years of experience into the diary of one liturgical year, offering observations on subjects ranging from celibacy to dealing with emotions to Christmas music. Like the liturgy she loves, this meandering, often repetitive book is perhaps best approached through the lectio divina practiced by the Benedictines, in which one tries to "surrender to whatever word or phrase captures the attention." There is a certain nervous facility to some of Norris's jabs at academics, and she is sometimes sanctimonious. But there is no doubting her conviction, exemplified in her defense of the much-maligned Catholic "virgin martyrs," whose relevance and heroism she wants to redeem for feminists. What emerges, finally, is an affecting portrait?one of the most vibrant since Merton's?of the misunderstood, often invisible world of monastics, as seen by a restless, generous intelligence.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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In "The Cloister Walk," Norris, an apathetic Christian turned agnostic turned yearning Protestant, relates her experiences (physical and spiritual) as an oblate with the Benedictines. This is an accessible memoir of one woman's account of opening the eyes of her heart in her search for God and one that can be enjoyed by anyone striving to hear a still small voice within.
Overall, they are thought-provoking and reveal a person who is more than a visitor to the ways of the Benedictine.
I only gave four stars, since I found her writing style a bit distracting and the organization of the book not exactly conducive to easy reading. It's true that each chapter is a handful, but the editor might have done Norris a favor by facilitating the outline of the book.