Joan Chittister, executive director of Benetvision, a resource and research center for contemporary spirituality, and the author of over 50 books, speaks to the events of our lives and the search for meaning in these days of peril, fear, and depression. A global virus shows no signs of going away any time soon. Climate change has led to devastating weather events; this month fires aggravated by drought are threatening the 1000-year-old Sequoia trees in California. The times call for the message that Chittister brings us.
In her long and extraordinary career as a Catholic nun, a social activist, a contemplative master, and a prolific commentator on American culture, she challenges us in this profound book "to live a mature spiritual life (that) requires that we chose the values that will ground our hearts, stretch our vision, and give new energy to our hopes." Tapping into the values and the visions of the Benedictine monastic tradition will enable us to grow in strength of soul and be transformed by 50 spiritual practices.
In our book Spiritual Literary we created an Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy as markers of a meaningful spiritual life. Chittister identifies seven of them as part of the monastic mindset encouraged by St. Benedict:
- Zeal (see excerpt)
In all, she covers 50 practices in the book. Each chapter contains a substantive definition and discussion of the practice along with a section titled "Integrating the Practice." She sums up each four - five page chapter with a short prompt. Here are a few examples:
Statio: On Involvement
"Statio, giving your whole self to the present moment, is an exercise in consciousness. Statio, stopping to collect your heart and mind before you begin something, is the sign that you are about to do the will of God for the world."
"Hospitality is meant to be civilization making. It is the model of inclusion. It is the foundation for world peace in its openness everywhere to everyone, no racial national, religious credentials necessary. Hospitality interrogates each and all of us still about our own acceptance of the foreigner, the stranger, the seeker, the lost, the ones who are not like us."
The Beginner's Mind
"For those with a beginner's mind, empty of agitation, free from old 'shoulds,' open to life. not frozen by past assumptions and absolutes, every day is a new day, not simply another day. This day will hold surprise and depth -- and new possibilities forever."
Chittister has always been a master of devotion and here she shares prayers, rituals, soulful actions, and spiritual prompts. Among these are bells, choir, metanoia, the oratory, solitude, blessing, manual labor, incense, humility, stewardship, purity of heart, and good zeal.
We've read and reviewed many of Chittister's books over the years, and we've been pleased to have the opportunity to offer her e-courses, including one based on this book, "A Journey through the Monastic Heart." We have to say that this book is one of her very best -- poetry, inspiration, and above all, incredibly practical and down-to earth. We can't recommend it enough!
Chittister ends with the following prayer, which we share:
"May your own heart be touched by this monastic spirit so that you, too, may both know its fullness and -- as have so many thousands over the years -- pass it on. Again."