The cloister walk

Kathleen Norris, 1947-

Book - 1996

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2nd Floor 255/Norris Checked In
New York : Riverhead Books c1996.
Main Author
Kathleen Norris, 1947- (-)
Physical Description
384 p.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

This exquisite chronicle of spiritual discovery, which begins with the dawn, ends with the night, and spans a liturgical year, picks up where Norris' highly acclaimed Dakota (1992) left off. Here she delves even more deeply into the source of her initially "incomprehensible" attraction to the Benedictine order. Why would a poet and a married woman, raised as a Protestant and long disaffected with the church, find solace and inspiration in the monastic life? In the process of answering this question, Norris reassesses the profound significance of community, ritual, and symbol. As she describes Benedictine liturgy and how hearing Scripture read aloud fine-tunes the soul, she discerns the alignment of imagination and faith, of "monastic practice and the discipline of writing." Poets, Norris explains, like men and women of the church, are devoted to recognizing and celebrating the sacredness of life. Norris expands upon this insight as she considers celibacy, virgin martyrs, metaphor, marriage, the poetry of Emily Dickinson, and the benefits of living intentionally rather than casually. A deeply moving encounter with the heart and mind of a writer devoted to the highest level of inquiry. --Donna Seaman

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

The allure of the monastic life baffles most lay people, but in her second book Norris (Dakota) goes far in explaining it. The author, raised Protestant, has been a Benedictine oblate, or lay associate, for 10 years, and has lived at a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota for two. Here, she compresses these years of experience into the diary of one liturgical year, offering observations on subjects ranging from celibacy to dealing with emotions to Christmas music. Like the liturgy she loves, this meandering, often repetitive book is perhaps best approached through the lectio divina practiced by the Benedictines, in which one tries to "surrender to whatever word or phrase captures the attention." There is a certain nervous facility to some of Norris's jabs at academics, and she is sometimes sanctimonious. But there is no doubting her conviction, exemplified in her defense of the much-maligned Catholic "virgin martyrs," whose relevance and heroism she wants to redeem for feminists. What emerges, finally, is an affecting portrait‘one of the most vibrant since Merton's‘of the misunderstood, often invisible world of monastics, as seen by a restless, generous intelligence. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Norris's acuity, writing talent, and ten years as an oblate at a Catholic Benedictine monastery have well equipped her to enlighten outsiders to the true ways and spirit of monastic life or, as she refers to it, the real world. Norris, a Protestant, describes how community life is the essence of humanity and celibacy an opportunity for transformation. She demonstrates the applicability of ancient scriptures and liturgies to modern times and tells how daily psalm-reading and prayer, ceremonies, and rituals helped her to overcome depression and gain inner peace. Norris, herself a poet, draws many parallels between the monastic and the poet, both of whom are fine-tuned to see the sacred potential in all things. Actress Debra Winger reads Norris's refreshing and highly inspirational book. For popular spirituality collections.‘Barbara J. Vaughan, State Univ. Coll. at Buffalo Lib., N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Ruminations on the perennial relevance of Benedictine monastic life from Norris (Dakota: A Spiritual Biography, 1993), who acts as a sympathetic and perceptive outsider. Ten years ago Norris, a Protestant who had not been to church for 20 years, became an oblate, or lay associate, of the large Benedictine community of St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minn. Since then she has spent two nine-month periods studying and teaching at one of the abbey's many academic institutes. She sets out her experiences in the form of 75 short reflections, which cover the course of the monks' liturgical year and touch on many aspects of their life and her reactions to it. We hear how the Benedictines find a meaning in the passing of time through their daily rhythm of prayer and work. Norris is struck by the way communal recitation of the Psalms, with their paradoxical, violent emotions, breaks through the conventions of church language and American optimism. She speaks of the monastic lectio divina as a mode of reading that involves the heart and aims at a surrender to whatever word or phrase catches the attention. She reports conversations with the monks and visiting sisters on the pressures of community life and the struggle to remain faithful to the prayer in a culture that values independence and putting self first. We hear how celibacy is about a primary relationship with God and demands a self-awareness and emotional wholeness that often makes monastics invaluable counselors to laypeople. Norris is also aware of the tensions in American Benedictine life, e.g., she powerfully presents the cases for and against wearing the traditional habit and outlines some of the impact of feminist thought. A down-to-earth and accessible introduction to a powerful tradition. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.