Monastic Practices: Books On Our Summer Reading Lists

Monastic Practices: Books On Our Summer Reading Lists August 1, 2019

Our Summer Reading Lists

Do you have a summer reading list of books you hope to read this summer?

When I was growing up the public library had a reading program each summer. I read a lot. Now my summer reading list is a combination of books I have recently discovered and some I have been hoping to read for some time.

What books have you discovered recently?

Which books have you been hoping to read for a long time?

Are you reading anything right now? Do you have suggestions for books to read next?

The good news is we have more than a month before Labor Day. There is enough time to make a beginning on the summer reading we said we wanted to do this year.

I have tried to make resting, reading, and recovery my priorities for this summer. There are a few books I have discovered you might want to add to your summer reading list.

Summer Reading: Stages of the Soul

Stages of the Soul is a new book by Nancy Kane. Nancy is an associate professor and the director of the Christian spiritual formation certificate program at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

I first met Nancy when we were in college together. Nancy’s underlying belief is spiritual life is about love.

Nancy writes about growing spiritually through a series of five loves, the stages of the soul.

The stages of spiritual growth Nancy explores are 1. Our First Love, 2. Obedient Love, 3. Persevering Love, 4. Sacrificial Love, and 5. Intimate Love. Each stage is characterized by an aspect of God’s love for us and our love for God. Nancy describes the qualities and obstacles we typically experience within each of the stages. Each stage concludes with questions for reflection.

In a section called Before We Part, Nancy reminds us of the importance of putting our insights into practice. She also writes with insight about why many of us seem to get stuck in one of the middle stages.

Nancy also includes an epilogue entitled What’s Next? Which gives practical suggestions about applying our insights and asking our questions in community.

Stages of the Soul has taught me valuable lessons about my own spiritual path and the paths of people I help. It is a great addition to my summer reading list this year.

Summer Reading: The Monkhood of All Believers

I recently discovered two books by Greg Peters, the author of The Monkhood of All Believers. He also wrote The Story of Monasticism a few years ago.

Greg Peters is a Benedictine oblate, spiritual director, ordained pastor in the Anglican tradition, and associate professor of medieval and spiritual theology in the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University.

I read quite a few books about monks and monastic life. Many of them are written by people who tend to be contemplative, or even mystics. Their writing can feel a little vague or soft. Greg Peters does not write like that. These books are well researched, insightful and informative, and filled with useful helpful references.

Reading The Monkhood of All Believers is a contemplative experiences. Each chapter, each paragraph sparks our reflection and our curiosity to learn more.

Greg Peters believes the contemporary Christian church, in all its forms, grows from monastic life. Monastic spirituality provides the foundation and the framework of Christian spiritual life. He lays out his case in compelling detail.

One chapter of the book I found particularly helpful focuses on the vocation of monasticism. Greg explores how our theology and practice of discerning vocation have developed over time.

The Monkhood of All Believers shapes and expands my own understanding of monastic life and spirituality.

Summer Reading: The Beloved Community

Charles Marsh is a professor of religion at the University of Virginia and director of the Project on Lived Theology. The Beloved Community is his exploration of the civil rights movement and Christian community. The book tells the story of how a vision of Christian love, particularly nonviolence, has transformed our culture.

The Beloved Community is filled with new insights about events many of us have almost forgotten. It helps me remember people who have sparked my imagination and inspired me. This book teaches us lessons about the past and present and gives us hope for the future.

Charles Marsh describes how the civil rights movement exists within the context of our culture. He incorporates specific examples into the story of how the spirituality of the movement has changed the ways we see the world.

The Beloved Community introduces, and reintroduces, us to people who have changed our lives by their examples. It is not only, though, a history of what has happened. Specific chapters highlight ongoing work, practical aspects of building the beloved community, and strengthening activist faith.

This book is summer reading which inspires my enthusiasm for the future.

Benefits of Summer Reading 

Some of us take time during our summers for new experiences and fresh perspectives. We open ourselves to consider creative ideas and explore our beliefs from perspectives we have not considered before.

A few of us have summer reading lists we have compiled to help us take steps in new directions.

Many of us, though, never take the first step of opening a book and starting to read. It is as if we believe the actions of buying or receiving a book and storing it somewhere are end results. We may think books inspire us by osmosis if we carry them around.

My experience is books can be some of the most inspiring tools in our lives. Books have helped open my heart and my mind to new ideas and experiences. The most significant steps in reading a book are opening the cover, taking a look, and beginning to read.

Books can help us change our lives if we give them the opportunity. Each book we read is like having a conversation with the author.

How will our summer reading help us appreciate things with new insights today?

When will we take time for summer reading and reflection this week?

[Image by amidfallenleaves]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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