This latest book, by one of our favorite spiritual teachers, was compiled by two of her friends and colleagues: Mary Hembrow Synder, a retired Catholic religious studies university professor, and Mary Lou Kownacki, the director of Monasteries of the Heart and Benetvision Publishing, two enterprises begun by Chittister, her fellow Benedictine Sister.
Joan Chittister, a Roman Catholic religious sister, is one of our Living Spiritual Teachers. She is broadly ecumenical and often interfaith in both her outreach and spiritual vision, and she focuses closely on issues of peace and justice. She is featured in The Practicing Democracy Project on our website as well. See, for example, her powerful spiritual practice for bringing about change.
Awakenings shows Chittister, with a focus on the Divine Feminine, trying to rouse the members of her own church and people of good conscience everywhere to reform close-minded institutions. “Trees are cut down, pruned, in order to cut away the old growth so out of the same roots new life can spring,” she says.
She focuses, too, on nonviolence and peacemaking as weaving throughout world history, always showing people the path to the good. Also, the virtues and habits of a monastic way of life, very familiar to Chittister, are raised up in these pages, showing how simple living and gestures may speak to our increasingly mobile world.
Always, her writing comes from personal experience and reflection. At one point she says: “It never crossed my mind when I was growing up … that a Christian’s real responsibility was not to the church but to the gospel, not to the country, but to the world, not just to my own kind but to everyone, not simply to the private things that I wanted to do but to the great things that had to be done whether I wanted to do them or not.”
Chapters focus on overcoming the “theology of domination” (ch. 1), understanding God as not only a father, but a mother (ch. 7), the importance of “prophecy in dark times” (ch. 10), the countercultural values of fasting (ch. 17), and monastic values of beauty, conscience, contemplation, and social service (chs. 23 and 24).
“Monasticism does not require spiritual heroics,” she writes; “it requires spiritual consciousness of the power of simplicity, humility, equality and care of the earth.”