In Virgin Time: In Search of the Contemplative Life poet and professor Virginia Hampl offers a bird's eye view of her spiritual odyssey as an on-again, off-again Catholic. She recalls her earliest impressions of the faith and the focus of her convent school education with "its stubborn habit of trust and its taste for finding meaning in everything."
After a sojourn in the wilderness of secularism, Hampl returns to Mass. She heeds the advice of a nun in a Minnesota monastery who tells her that "God is in the details." To reacquaint herself with the old world of Catholicism, she heads off to Europe. On a walking tour to Assisi, Hampl tries to delve deeply into the experience but is distracted by the idiosyncracies of her fellow pilgrims.
On a Franciscan Study Tour and on a trip to Lourdes, the author examines the meaning of Catholic faith and the strange parameters of Catholic miracles. More importantly, she comes face-to-face with a childhood mystical experience which still baffles her.
In the final portion of this travelogue and memoir, Hampl visits a monastery in California. She savors the solitude and comes to a deep appreciation of prayer as "a need to surrender." And along with it comes a realization that she doesn't have to live life with a capital "L." She can rest in the pleasures and potencies of a normal existence where the present moment is sacred. Hampl's reverence for the small miracles on her spiritual journey is what makes this book so salutary.