Prior to my arrival I was required to read four books that we will use as the basis of our discussions this week. I purchased all of them on Amazon, so if they intrigue you, you can find them there (assuming you aren’t reading the latest Harry Potter book):
• The Rule of St. Benedict, written in the sixth century by Benedict of Nursia. It is this rule that drives the pattern of living that I will experience at St. Gregory’s Abbey. It has 73 chapters over 95 pages that spell out everything from what is prayed when to how the door should be answered. The longest chapter and the one that some would say I need the most, is the seventh chapter, which addresses the twelve steps of humility. People have been living by this rule for the last fifteen hundred years, so it has stood the test of time. You can read the rule on-line here.
• The Rule of Benedict by Sister Joan Chittister. She takes each of the rules outlined in Benedict’s original rule and explains what they teach us and how those of us who do not live in monasteries can apply them in our lives. I found it too be full of insight, though I do not agree with everything she says and feel that she glosses over some of the more punitive elements of the rule (which have been abandoned).
• Living Faith Day by Day by Debra Farrington. This author pulls ideas from many different monastic movements and uses them to help us understand how we can apply the lessons of monasticism in our walk with God. If you are interested in spiritual formation, this might be a useful book for you.
• Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr. Rohr is a Franciscan monk and this book is on contemplative prayer. There are lots of interesting ideas in this book – some real wisdom. On the other hand, I felt like he did not do a good job of describing approaches to reaching the contemplative state. Maybe I want a multiple step approach (put your hands here, think this thought, and voila, you’ll be talking to God) that is too easy. I’m sure contemplative states require years of practice – practice of forgetting the years of what I’ve already learned, but still I wish there had been more substantive information about reaching those states. Of course, Rohr would probably answer that it’s not about “getting there”.