Would you like to learn more about the beautiful spirituality of Christian monks and nuns?
Are you drawn to the silence, the chanted liturgy, the ongoing commitment to prayer and compassion, the simple life where both manual labor and spiritual study are valued and celebrated?
Here is a book which distills the best elements and characteristics of the monastic way into a useful and informative overview of this ancient, yet still relevant, way of life.
Forget about Rod Dreher — here is a book that celebrates the real “Benedict Option.”
Sacred Rhythms: The Monastic Way Every Day is a collection of sixteen essays by a variety of authors, monks, nuns, and others who have been influenced by the monastic way.
The list of authors is impressive, ranging from those who are well-known (Kathleen Norris, Joan Chittister), to highly respected monastic scholars (Michael Casey, Laura Swan), and a few other recognizable names (Dwight Longenecker, Macrina Wiederkehr).
Not all of the contributors are monks or nuns; indeed, not all of them are Catholic. Before you raise your eyebrows, consider the audience: this is a book for those of us who aren’t monks or nuns, and likely never will be.
So having a Catholic laywoman, or an Episcopal priest, or a Presbyterian poet, chime in with their experience of the monastic way makes sense. Sometimes the best people to explain the life of the cloister to those of us outside monastic walls are others whose lives are just like ours, shaped by the chaos and frenzy of “worldly” living. I think that’s what makes this book so essential — it opens up this rich way of life for everybody, including you and me.
The essays are grouped into four categories: Ora (Pray), Labora (Work), Fidelitas (Faithfulness), and Conversatio (Conversion). The first two represent what is known as the Benedictine motto: Ora et Labora. In these sections you’ll find essays on praying the Psalms, lectio divina (sacred, meditative reading), hospitality, and living simply.
The latter two categories encompass the vows of Benedictine life, including not only faithfulness and ongoing conversion, but stability and obedience as well. These essays look at topics such as how to apply Benedictine spirituality to family life, the importance of caring for creation, and learning from monastic serenity in the face of dying.The lead essay in the book is Michael Casey’s “Listening to God: The Value of Silence in the Spiritual Life.” Acknowledging that silence can “be uncomfortable and even frightening,” Casey gently guides the reader to understand why silence is such an essential part of monastic life — and how everyone can find the wisdom and beauty of silence in our own lives, even far away from the still serenity of the cloister.
“Silence not only provides the environment for prayer, it progressively becomes the content of prayer,” notes Casey. “Monastic prayer is an attentive and respectful stilling of the voice, the imagination, and the mind in anticipation of the Lord’s presence, slowly revealed.” It’s one of the most concise and elegantly written invitations to contemplation that I have ever read — and it is only the first step in this book’s detailed and rich celebration of this ancient form of spirituality.
Sacred Rhythms: The Monastic Way Every Day just might be the best one-volume introduction to monastic spirituality for those of us who are not monks or nuns. I realize that is a bold claim to make.
Indeed, I would recommend you order it soon if you want to read it — Saint Meinrad’s Archabbey recently made the decision to get out of the publishing business, and so it is possible that this book could go out of print sometime in the future. That would be a tragedy, in my humble opinion; but in the meantime, you can still purchase this item through Amazon. I encourage you to do so soon!
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