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Cloister Talks: Learning from My Friends the Monks

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Monastic Insight for Everyday Living

Cloister Talks is a series of glimpses into Jon Sweeney's decades-long friendships with Cistercian and Benedictine monks in monasteries across the country. These communal brothers hold the keys to many of the things we all yearn for: stillness, solitude, simplicity, contemplation, and clarity of purpose. Here Sweeney shares with poignant honesty the wisdom he has gained among these holy yet still very human men. Their conversations engage a ...

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Cloister Talks: Learning from My Friends the Monks

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Overview

Monastic Insight for Everyday Living

Cloister Talks is a series of glimpses into Jon Sweeney's decades-long friendships with Cistercian and Benedictine monks in monasteries across the country. These communal brothers hold the keys to many of the things we all yearn for: stillness, solitude, simplicity, contemplation, and clarity of purpose. Here Sweeney shares with poignant honesty the wisdom he has gained among these holy yet still very human men. Their conversations engage a wide range of topics, including life, death, love, work, play, and spirituality, offering a deeper understanding of this ancient way of Christianity—a much-needed antidote to the hurry of contemporary life.

"In this poignant, richly nuanced book, Sweeney gives us our best record yet of the sweet tension between the cloister and the world that, like a leitmotif, sings always within those of us who yearn for both."—Phyllis Tickle, The Divine Hours

"If you ever wondered what a monk's life might be like, if you don't mind looking into a mirror to see the craziness of life in our culture, if you think you might splurge and go deeper with God, Sweeney shares his cloistered, very human, and wise friends with us as companions along the way."—James C. Howell, author of The Beautiful Work of Learning to Pray

"Cloister Talks is a contemplative conversation inviting us to know ourselves in the deep, deep love of the One by whom we're already known."—Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of New Monasticism

"This will be a very encouraging book for those who want to glean insights from monks for everyday life outside the cloister and need permission to fail from time to time in implementing what they have learned."—Dennis Okholm, author of Monk Habits for Everyday People

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Protestant author Jon Sweeney (Almost Catholic) reports on more than 20 years of conversations he's had with monks in Massachusetts, Kentucky and Georgia. In his search for God, he encountered Trappist monk M. Basil Pennington and a number of other memorable characters who were eager to share their decades of cloistered experience with him. As a non-Catholic layman, Sweeney asks pointed questions about many aspects of monastic spirituality and elicits warm reflections on abbey life. Background information on Cistercian and Benedictine orders and quotes from such writers as Thomas Merton, Graham Greene, Evelyn Underhill and George Herbert provide a counterpoint to the voices of a fast-disappearing generation of contemplatives. While the dialogues are vivid, Sweeney's account of his own faith task of incorporating the monks' wisdom is too sketchy to be satisfying, and he offers little information about the directions his life has taken as a result. Adding to the "monks changed my life" genre is tricky, especially given the height of the bar set by Kathleen Norris's remarkable Cloister Walk. Less reticence, better writing and deeper insight would have strengthened Sweeney's endeavor to distill experiences that were clearly significant to him. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
We still thirst to know what goes on behind the walls of closed religious communities, even as vocations for those communities dwindle. Sweeney has written an account of his visits to a number of Cistercians and Benedictines, who gradually draw him closer to the experience of contemplation, to "be quiet, sit down, and listen." Benson, a member of an ecumenical lay order, asks us to consider the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia—the founding document of the Benedictines—as an oblique guide to the more loosely knit modern communities we wish to build or of which we are a part. VERDICT Reaching well beyond Catholic readership, these will be valuable to the thoughtful reader, Christian and non-Christian.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781587432682
  • Publisher: Brazos Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2009
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 8.44 (w) x 5.56 (h) x 0.42 (d)

Meet the Author

Jon M. Sweeney is the author of several books, including Light in the Dark Ages: The Friendship of Francis and Clare of Assisi, which was a selection of the History Book Club, the Book of the Month Club, and Crossings Book Club. He lives in Woodstock, Vermont.

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Table of Contents

1 Changing My Perceptions 9

2 The Way of the Camel 21

3 Becoming Real 45

4 Friendship and Meaning 59

5 Sit. Pray. Listen. 75

6 Work and Play 95

7 Unlearning Ambition and Originality 111

8 Life and Death 121

9 Be Home. Love. 133

Postscript 149

Acknowledgments 153

Notes 155

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Honest spirituality

    A slight, honest account of the authors journey of faith and the monks that helped to guide him along the way. Interestingly, Mr. Sweeney is(was?) a Protestant living in Vermont who becomes drawn into the world of the Benedictine and Cisterian monks in monasteries in Kentucky and Georgia. Probably not for everyone, but recommended for those that want to get a basic idea of monastic thought. On a side note-after reading this book, I went to visit the Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Ky.-a peaceful and rewarding experience.

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