The monastic heart 50 simple practices for a contemplative and fulfilling life

Joan Chittister

Book - 2021

"The activist, nun, and esteemed spiritual voice who has twice appeared on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday sounds the call to create a monastery within ourselves--to cultivate wisdom and resilience so that we may join God in the work of renewal, restoration, and justice right where we are. "In every beating heart is a silent undercurrent that calls each of us to a place unknown, to the vision of a wiser life, to become what we feel we must be--but cannot name." So begins Sister Joan Chittister's words on monasticism, offering a way of living and seeing life that brings deep human satisfaction. Amid the astounding disruptions of normalcy that have unfolded in our world, Sister Joan calls readers to cultivate the spiritual ...seeker within all of us, however that may look across our diverse journeys: "It is only the depth of the spiritual well in us that can save us from the fear of our own frailty." This book carries the weight and wisdom of the monastic spiritual tradition into the twenty-first century. Sister Joan leans into Saint Benedict, a young man who sought moral integrity in the face of an empire in the sixth century, not by conquering or overpowering the empire, but by simply living an ordinary life extraordinarily well. This same monastic mindset can help us grow in wisdom, equanimity, and strength of soul as we seek restoration and renewal both at home and in the world. At a time when people around the world are bearing witness to human frailty--and, simultaneously, the endurance of the human spirit--The Monastic Heart invites readers of all walks to welcome this end of certainty and embrace a new beginning of our faith. Without stepping foot in a monastery, we can become, like those before us, a deeper, freer self, a richer soul--and, as a result, a true monastic: "that in all things God may be glorified.""--

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Subjects
Published
New York : Convergent [2021]
Language
English
Main Author
Joan Chittister (author)
Edition
First edition
Physical Description
xviii, 264 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9780593239407
  • Introduction
  • 1. Bells: On Remembering
  • 2. Statio: On Involvement
  • 3. Antiphon: On Mantras of the Moment
  • 4. Monastic Procession: On the Display of Oneness/Unity
  • 5. The Rule of Benedict: On Seeking God
  • 6. Horarium: On Parsing Time
  • 7. Hospitality: On a Spirit of Welcome
  • 8. Choir: On Singing Praise
  • 9. Beauty: On the Invisible in the Visible
  • 10. Silence: On Inner Quietude
  • 11. Lectio: On Reading Between the Lines
  • 12. Cloister: On Sacred Space
  • 13. The Monastic Cell: On Privacy
  • 14. Metanoia: On Growth
  • 15. Fuga Mundi: On Living in the World or Not
  • 16. Community: On Spiritual Companionship
  • 17. The Oratory: On Holy Space
  • 18. Hermits: On the Solitary Life
  • 19. Solitude: On Discovering Calm and Clarity
  • 20. Blessing: On Recognizing the Gifts of Life
  • 21. Divine Office: On the Daily Presence of God
  • 22. Manual Labor: On the Purpose of Work
  • 23. Serenity: On Inner Peace
  • 24. Lauds: On Morning Praise
  • 25. Vespers: On Evening Praise
  • 26. Holy Leisure: On Quality of Life
  • 27. Service: On Caring for Humankind
  • 28. Listening: On Attentiveness
  • 29. Private Prayer: On God and Self
  • 30. Obedience: On Mutuality
  • 31. Stability: On Perseverance
  • 32. Peace and Justice: On Peacemaking
  • 33. Chant: On the Sound of Angels
  • 34. Incense: On the Sweet Balm of Life
  • 35. Memento Mori: On Valuing Yesterday
  • 36. Candles: On Spiritual Illumination
  • 37. The Abbot/Prioress: On Leadership
  • 38. Contemplation: On Seeing as God Sees
  • 39. Humility and the Presence of God: On the Presence of God
  • 40. Humility and the Essence of the Self: On the True Self
  • 41. Humility and the Making of Community: On Building Community
  • 42. The Monastic: On "One Thing Only"
  • 43. Stewardship: On the Conservancy of Creation
  • 44. The Desert: On Difficult Times
  • 45. The Beginner's Mind: On Newness and Possibility
  • 46. Oblates of St. Benedict: On Extending the Common Enterprise
  • 47. Purity of Heart: On a Life Worth Living
  • 48. Marian Hymns: On Mary, Model Woman
  • 49. Good Zeal: On Ardor for Holiness
  • 50. The Making of the Monastic Heart: On Developing the Heart of God
  • Acknowledgments
Review by Booklist Review

Benedictine nun and prolific author Chittister writes with insight about 50 monastic practices, ranging from Bells to The Making of the Monastic Heart. Each one is divided into two parts; a reflection on the subject and its place in monastic life, and a section called "Integrating the Practice," offering thoughts on implementing the practice. One example is Lectio Divina, the art of sacred reading. It is meant, the author states, "to prod thought," not to finish pages. She continues, "This reading becomes a dialogue among writer, reader, and the spirit of God within us." She then examines what she says are the five levels of Lectio Divina: reading a text, praying to understand it, questioning oneself, reflecting on the text, and making decisions about one's life. Integrating the practice then offers a process consisting of five actions, beginning with reading the words over and over and concluding with another reading. The book is obviously rooted in Catholic rituals, practices, and traditions, but its offerings are well nigh universal. A wise and helpful book.

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

Chittister (The Time Is Now), a Benedictine nun and social activist, addresses how ordinary people can apply the practices and wisdoms of monastic traditions to their daily lives in this impeccable guide. After all, she writes, "Monasticism does not flee the world." Each of the 50 brief chapters examines a nugget of monastic tradition (the practice of hospitality, the place of the cloister, dedication to peace and justice) before providing advice for lay readers on how to apply the practice to everyday life. For instance, Chittister explains how going through a monastic procession of religious offerings and prayers can be a community forming tradition which declares "everybody here has melded into a new kind of family" and becomes "a lesson about what is really sacred in life." Filled with many suggestions for ways to forge greater connections with one's community and God's will, Chittister's program will serve as a powerful corrective to those looking to slow down. Those interested in the Benedictine tradition should take a look. (Oct.)

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

Chittister's (The Time Is Now) latest offers timely wisdom for readers seeking purpose and peace during the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Benedictine nun and theologian writes from a human perspective steeped in the quiet wisdom of her monastic tradition. She presents 50 monastic mindfulness practices in beautiful, uncomplicated language that encourages contemplation and quietude; each chapter reads quickly. Blending spirituality, self-help, and Chittister's own influences (including Muslim poet Rumi and Jewish philosopher Maimonides), the book also discusses navigating life's tougher moments. True to Benedictine practice, this volume uses a lens of personal devotion and spirituality, making it useful for readers who are spiritual but not religious or are from a non-Christian religious tradition. VERDICT For readers seeking solace and a deeper spiritual practice, or anyone with an interest in Benedictine monastic practices. With its advice on contemplation, this is also a helpful guide for groups.--Angela Forret, State Lib. of Iowa, Des Moines

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

1 BELLS On Remembering In every Benedictine monastery around the world, bells and bell towers are a common part of the architecture--­even now when bells are no longer a common part of human communication. Every afternoon, as I sit in my upstairs office, I hear the old monastery bells begin to ring in the once Benedictine church that then adjoined this inner-­city monastery. In fact, the bells from Benedictine monasteries everywhere still peal out around the world. Our original monastery moved over 50 years ago from an in-­town property to the edge of the city. So we have another bell tower and a new electronic carillon. The big old brass bell, "Theodore," shipped here from Germany ages ago, now rests retired and reverenced on a brick base in the memorial garden of the new monastery. New bells go on ringing over our lakeside property daily, just as the old one did here in the inner city for more than 150 years. No bedroom clocks, no personal watches take their place as harbingers of spiritual time. But why? The monastic heart is a heart that goes through life on a wave of common time. Its hours are counted out and set up in unchanging and perpetual order. In the monastery, over and over again, every day of a monastic's life, the community bells mark the passing of the moment, of the work, of the hours of prayer, of our lifelong promises, of life's important things. No, we don't ring bells because monastics can't tell time. We ring them because we are as prone to being swept away from the center of life by all its tempest and trivia as is anyone else in the modern world. The purpose of Benedictine bells is not to spell out the hour of the day at all; that task is left to horologists. Our bells, on the other hand, are there to wrench our attention back to what is ­really important in life: The memory of God in our midst. The memory of the purpose of life. The memory that time is moving on and so must we. The recognition that life today is different than life was yesterday and we must not try to hold life back. The bells jog the memory that there are actually more important, more meaningful, more demanding dimensions of life than anything ordinary we can possibly be doing as they ring. The bells stop us in midflight to prod us to ask ourselves again if what we are doing is what we are really meant to be doing. But most of all, they are begging us to listen to the great issues of life, to the rest of life. They are asking us to hear the cries of those in need, to confront our own reservoirs of pain. When loss drains the dregs of the heart, the bells remind us that another day is coming and with it the grace we need to confront it. When fear captures us, the bells are there to remind us not to be afraid. When the past has disappeared from our sights and there is not even a glimpse of the future to be found, the bells remind us that the only way to deal with the future is to accept its call to shape it. Integrating the Practice It's what you pay attention to in life that determines both your commitments and your inner happiness. Time is its indicator. One of the most important questions of life is surely, Where do I spend my time and what am I doing there? The second is, What calls me back to where I'm meant to be? Money? Work? The crowd? What . . . ? Monastic bells can draw your attention again and again to what is really of great concern: the call of God in you to remember the suffering; to comfort the grieving; to feed the underfed; to continue the work of God's love for all the earth. If those are the bells of life that waken our hearts, then, perhaps, we will finally become a country again, a people again, families again, and reflect more signs of humanity than of nationalities and clans and colors. Monastic bells are meant to remind you to get back up on your feet and go on. It is time to reach across borders and backyard fences and family separations and refuse to allow politics and viruses and the hurts of the heart to destroy your humanity, your community, your role in life. The bells you choose to listen to deliberately interrupt what you're doing and make you listen to life as it goes on around you, to make you think again about what must be dealt with now if you are ever to go beyond the chaos that threatens you, beyond the pain and confusion within. The questions should nag at you: What needs are around me? What pain, what sorrow, what grief must be dealt with before life can ever become life again? What is weighing me down? Here. In my private little world? Now. The truth is that what consumes your thinking controls you. What is getting your attention now? Status? Personal success? Loss? Fear? Better yet, what should be getting your attention now? The Benedictine bell is there to interrupt your distractions, to put you back on course. When the sound of these bells rings in your heart a message of obligation, a signal of God's call to you to be aware of your task in life, then you shall have come to the point of spiritual adulthood. Then the presence of God will be a living, breathing grace in you. You will know that, whatever the struggle of doing what must be done, you are being called to do it. And doing it will change your little part of the world and make it better in the end. Then the world will grow on because you have been here and listened to the bells call you to that other part of yourself where what you do really means something to someone. The bells remind you that though God created the world, God did not finish it. That part of creation was left to you and me to do for ourselves. For that great enterprise we all need a bell to ring us awake. Bells and gongs bring the soul to attention. But they do more than that; they interrupt the purposeless in life and focus your heart. They make you ask yourself what it is that is absorbing you now and, then, what it is that should be centering you now. In every life there is something that takes more of your attention than anything else. Which brings you to the real question: Should it? What is really important now? What means more to you: the value of your work or the amount of money you get for doing it? Or, better yet, what is really more important to you: what you do to make a living or the way you live life when you're not working? The truth is that we all need a bell: the one we set on our watches, the chime we put on the windowsill to invite the call of the wind. The one that's programmed on our cellphones to remind us to say a prayer for strength before we begin the first effort of the day. We need some kind of bell that not only distracts us from the worry, the irritation, the boredom, the fear, the disappointment of the day. We need something that calls us to something greater than the little worries of life and so brings our soul to its center again. The important thing is that you put some sound into your life that stops you and turns you toward the real purpose of life. Then, when the tiny ring of it comes, you will pause long enough to thank God for life, to ask for the strength to commit yourself to a greater question than what the daily brings. We each need a personal call at specific moments to point us to life as it should be, not simply life as it is. The bells remind us that though God created the world, God did not finish it. Excerpted from The Monastic Heart: 50 Simple Practices for a Contemplative and Fulfilling Life by Joan Chittister All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.