The Cloister Walk

The Cloister Walk Why would a married woman with a thoroughly Protestant background and often doubt than faith be drawn to the ancient practice of monasticism to a community of celibate men whose days are centered aro

  • Title: The Cloister Walk
  • Author: Kathleen Norris
  • ISBN: 9781573225847
  • Page: 309
  • Format: Paperback
  • Why would a married woman with a thoroughly Protestant background and often doubt than faith be drawn to the ancient practice of monasticism, to a community of celibate men whose days are centered around a rigid schedule of prayer, work, and scripture This is the question that poet Kathleen Norris asks us as, somewhat to her own surprise, she found herself on two extWhy would a married woman with a thoroughly Protestant background and often doubt than faith be drawn to the ancient practice of monasticism, to a community of celibate men whose days are centered around a rigid schedule of prayer, work, and scripture This is the question that poet Kathleen Norris asks us as, somewhat to her own surprise, she found herself on two extended residencies at St John s Abbey in Minnesota Part record of her time among the Benedictines, part meditation on various aspects of monastic life, The Cloister Walk demonstrates, from the rare perspective of someone who is both an insider and outsider, how immersion in the cloistered world its liturgy, its ritual, its sense of community can impart meaning to everyday events and deepen our secular lives In this stirring and lyrical work, the monastery, often considered archaic or otherworldly, becomes immediate, accessible, and relevant to us, no matter what our faith may be A New York Times bestseller for 23 weeks A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

    One thought on “The Cloister Walk”

    1. This review was originally published on my blog, ShouldaCouldaWouldaBooks.In the early 1990s, Kathleen Norris spent nine months at the Benedictine monastery of St. John’s in Collegeville, Minnesota. She signed on, several years before the book begins, to become an “oblate” of the order. The word "oblate" comes from the old Latin for “offering”, but in reality has come to mean someone associated with the order who tries to live by their ideas as much as possible, while maintaining their [...]

    2. (4.5) Like Amazing Grace, this is an impressively all-encompassing and eloquent set of essays on how faith intersects with everyday life. In particular, the book draws lessons from the time Norris spent as a Benedictine oblate. From this experience she learned the benefits as well as the drawbacks of solitude and communal living. She also considers the place that celibacy and monastic living might still have in modern life: “The fact that Christian monastics, men and women both, have been sing [...]

    3. Read this book many years ago but I can't recall exactly how many. I'm 99% sure it was in the late '90's. In any event, I was still so ignorant about my own Catholic heritage at that point I hadn't even heard of The Rule of St. Benedict,* which I promptly went out, bought and read from cover-to-cover. (Now I have three -- or four -- copies of it!) When I think of a good 'rule of life' I think of St. Benedict's Rule and I am grateful to this Protestant woman for teaching me about it!The Cloister [...]

    4. This book is not an easy read but is beautifully written. It is definitely not for everyone. I have been quietly reading it over the last two months. It is the author's own "walk" through the male monastic life and in particular the Benedictines. She looks at the relevance of their ordered life, their community living, their ritual devotion to prayer to society today. It is of interest to me because of my own connections and impressions of the Benedictine's and their openness to the world outsid [...]

    5. I was rather uneasy with this book, although I did manage to struggle through to the end.There were a few definite mentions of Orthodox Christianity when referring to "ancient" saints, but everything else was the black-and-white Protestant/Catholic divide. I don't know about many Protestant monastic communities, but there are several Orthodox monasteries in the United States. While I stop short of insisting she be completely inclusive, I thought it odd that Orthodoxy was relegated to antiquity, [...]

    6. This book changed my life.It's hard to explain. You really have to read it. (Based on my experience, it helps to be a Catholic who loves books.) Kathleen Norris is a poet and has a poet's perspective on Catholicism and the ways of Benedictine monks. But she's also a Protestant, with a refreshingly level-headed outsider's perspective on the seemingly impenetrable world inside a monastery. The monks and nuns she describes are real, honest, witty and faithful people, with great stories and a passio [...]

    7. The Cloister Walk offers “food” for the soul at a time when many of us are hungry. Norris’s book chronicles her experiences as a lay oblate at St. John's Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Collegeville, Minnesota. What makes this book fresh, wonderful, surprising, and completely relevant to people of all faiths (or non-faith) is that Norris is not—-as one would anticipate—-a Catholic, but rather a Protestant filled with spiritual doubt. When I first read The Cloister Walk and Dakota (al [...]

    8. Recently reread after completing In This House of Brede. Norris is a married Protestant poet and a Benedictine oblate. As a poet and a Benedictine she is drawn to the Psalms in the Bible and their poetic imagery. This book is about the time she spent studying at a Benedictine monastery in the 1990's. Sadly, I find her prose uninspiring. I didn't "feel" the joy that comes through the pages of Merton and Godden. It just seemed forced to me.

    9. I love Kathleen Norris and all she synthesizes here. Chipped away at this before bed for a long time. Wanted to start it again when I got to the end. For me, the poet as theologian sure hits the spot.

    10. Norris is introducing us, one by one, to the core religious aspects of Christianity as she comes to know and understand them. We explore every key dimension of monastic life with her: Why celebacy; why community; why Scripture reading; why choir and music; why poverty; why we are not perfect. I think, like many people, I expected this book to be a straighforward description, something like, "This was my year in the monastery. We ate beans and prayed, blah, blah, blah" However, we as readers rece [...]

    11. One of my all time favorite quotes by this author from another book:"This is my spiritual geography, the place where I have wrestled my story out of the circumstances of landscape and inheritance. The word "geography" derives from the Greek words of earth and writing."This was so disappointing. It is not about a spiritual journey as far as I could tell. It is a dry, boring,factual account of the readings they did, why they are meaningful to her, and what being a monk means in this day and age. T [...]

    12. This book moved me in a way few books dod I guess it's because it was like very few books I've ever read. It's such a raw, open, personal book, but the writing and the sensibility of it are just exquisite.

    13. Kathleen Norris has an uncanny way of being theologically astute and real-world practical at the same time. This book was amazing. It was hard to put down. Her chapters were usually short, but the book was over 350 pages. It provided a lot of bite-sized chunks of wisdom gleaned from interacting with monks as an oblate, living life in a small, South Dakota town, and being a professional writer and poet. Norris would usually tackle an issue concerning monastic life, such as celibacy, for example, [...]

    14. I remember this book from when I first started working at Politics and Prose. This was one of the big, non-fiction best-sellers in the store. I remember, in particular, Kathleen Norris coming to speak and sign at the store. It was a very interesting event. I was intrigued by the subject matter and I loved the cover (I have always loved this picture of trees). At the time I was living with my ex and kids in an apartment at Bishop's Gate - an old Church and oblates' residence that had been turned [...]

    15. What a fascinating book. There is a blurb on the cover from The Boston Globe which says in part "This is a strange and beautiful book." and I have to say I agree completely with that sentiment. The book is strange because of the variety of things included. Some chapters are basically journal entries from the author, diary entries of her life. Some chapters are her thoughts about the Benedictines that she has spent time with, about their beliefs, their practices, their lifestyle, etc. Some chapte [...]

    16. OMG.I got the chills approximately every 5 minutes reading this book. Norris meanders through her stays in a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota, her thoughts (and Benedictine thoughts) on the scriptures and on early saints and theologianse poetry of liturgies and the sacramental and sacred in daily life. Oh, dang, so great. Norris has lived in DC, Illinois, Hawai'i, Vermont, and NYC, but ended up in South Dakota. There is a peaceful prairie way about her work and a great sense of curiosity in it [...]

    17. This is a book that I thought I could read straight though and move on to the next novel on my TBR list, but it wasn't that simple. Norris has the poet's eye for insight and the material written here includes some beautifully written prose with keen observations on life and humanity. The reflective nature of the book caused me to pause between sections to let her stories and observations sink in. While she writes about monastic life, she doesn't romanticize it. Instead, we're drawn to examine ou [...]

    18. I took longer to read this book than I have ever taken to read any book. Not because it was difficult but because the author gave me so much to think about. I had to go & get books to read that she was commenting on & wanted to think about things she brought up carefully. I especially liked Ms Norris' take on the Book of Revelation. I also realized that one of the things I most love about litugy is the sanctifying of the everyday things. I love ritual, I love liturgy & I am going to [...]

    19. Warning: more personal essay than review.The Cloister Walk as My Guide: Skidding between Catholics and Catholicism(I use the capital G, when I’m writing about Norris’s ideas, and the small g, when I’m communicating my ideas about god. For Norris god is spelt with a capital G.)Prayer in praise of god, I understand. Ritual prayer, like saying the rosary, I understand. Praying for life events to turn out well, I don’t understand.I’ve had a long running and combative relationship with Cath [...]

    20. I have been meaning to read this for about 15 years and am glad I finally did. I laughed out loud reading it, as well as got teary at a few parts. I enjoyed some interesting literary/biblical connections, and I didn't understand some other references that were made. Some thoughts I enjoyed:p. xix: Gradually my perspective on time had changed. In our culture, time can seem like an enemy: it chews us up and spits us out with appalling ease. But the monastic perspective welcomes times as a gift fro [...]

    21. I wanted to read this book ever since it was in a box of books to add to the collection back in 2012 when I worked at a college library. The title suggested nuns to me more than monks, but that is a minor quibble. For the first 200 pages, this was a solid, four star reading: thoughtful, quoting the Desert Fathers, a Presbyterian who likes hanging out with Benedictine monks, which did make me a little nervous about if she was illicitly going to Communion all those times she talks about going to M [...]

    22. I write this review in joyful tears. This book is such a mysteriously profound, simple, surprising and timely read. I shouldn't be surprised. It touches and inspires much like Dakota, The Virgin Of Bennington and her collections of poetry. Kathleen Norris has grown to become one of my favorite authors. I always find it amazing how we find our way to the right books at the right time. Though I've read most of her other works I for some reason never picked up The Cloister Walk until now. She has a [...]

    23. I found myself more interested in the beginning of the book and parts of the last third, but I found it hard to get through. I did, however, find many quotes to be very insightful“A friend who was educated by the Benedictines has told tme that she owes to them her sanity with regard to time. ‘You never really finish anything in life,’ she says, ‘and while that’s humbling, and frustrating, it’s all right. Liturgical time is essentially poetic time, oriented toward process rather than [...]

    24. Wonderfully moving and engaging book describing Kathleen Norris's experience living in a cloister. I read this book years before I converted to Catholicism, so it's clearly not required to have "insider knowledge" to relish this book.There was a passage somewhere in the book that has stayed with me. I can't remember enough of the wording to even Google it successfully. Norris was speaking to a monk, I believe, who had a view of the many and varied people walking by. She asked him, given that the [...]

    25. In The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris recounts her communal experience with the monks at St. John's Abbey in Minnesota. The author is an outsider to the Catholic faith, especially to the community of celibate men. She is a married woman with a Protestant background, and as a poet, she likens her role to that of a monk, something that the modern world had written off as entirely useless. She writes the book in the pattern of the liturgical year, celebrating the seasons of Lent, Advent, Christmas, [...]

    26. This is a re-read for me. In fact, I've re-read this book so often that I've lost count. One reason for that is that I found Kathleen Norris so calming a writer that, on those occasions when I'm on edge, I tend to pick up one of her books and read a few pages at random to get some perspective. Like Norris' other Christian non-fiction, Cloister Walk makes observation from Norris' Benedictine and small town South Dakota perspective (which, oddly, remain highly congruent). She weaves in the spiritu [...]

    27. I first read Dakota by Kathleen Norris not long after having my first child. It was a timely coincidence that I found myself reading her again shortly after having my second child. While not as good as Dakota, this book was still moving.The Cloister Walk is like a collection of essays; each chapter reflecting on Norris' year long stay at a Benedictine monastery and the following year outside of one. Her earthy view of spirituality illustrates how every day life can be sacred. Apparently this mes [...]

    28. For some reason I had the idea that I didn't like this author. Did I not care for Dakota? Did I start reading her in a hectic place? Anyway, I thought this book was lovely. I appreciated that fact that she could come out of her box as a Presbyterian and look thoughtfully and appreciatively at the Benedictine order- their customs, history, how they live- and apply it to her walk. It is sometimes a stretch for me, but a healthy one. I was really moved by her take on the Psalms, and the value of li [...]

    29. Kathleen is a beautiful writer. What I appreciated most were the stories and reflections upon her time with the Benedictines,and the knowledge conveyed through her stories about this order and monasticism in general. These were interwoven with other stories that contained connective and broader reflections, but I sometimes lost interest in these and/or felt that the stories went to far in different directions in regard to time, subject matter, theme. That could be because I was so enthralled and [...]

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