Aprile is a journalist who spent enough time at Kentucky's Abbey of Gethsemani while researching her book The Abbey of Gethsemani: Place of Peace and Paradox to earn her the rare privilege of being considered a sister to the brothers there. It is from this unique perspective that she has written a comprehensive guide to the oldest Trappist monastery in North America. Made famous by Thomas Merton, it is a place where men dedicate themselves to "God alone." Using a week-long retreat as the framework for her "insider's view" of Gethsemani, Aprile draws on anecdotes and conversations recorded in the many notebooks she has filled with her impressions over the years. She describes the monks' daily routines, their interaction with outsiders, and their struggles to live out their vows of stability, fidelity and obedience. Aprile writes with sensitivity to the secular reader who may be unfamiliar with the trappings of Catholic religious life, and her special relationship with Gethsemani enables her to sketch a balanced picture of the oft-romanticized monastic world. Her closeness with the community is evident in such charming details as the fact that the monks celebrate the feast of St. Bernard each year with pizza and beer. Although this book has the flavor of a primer, anyone who has ever visited a monastery will appreciate it for the texture it gives to life behind the monastic enclosure. (Jan.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
To the average person, monasteries seem dreadfully forbidding. Yet for all their isolation and austerity, monasteries are hospitable and welcoming places where you may go to be apart and center yourself. This is true of both Trappist and Zen monasteries, as we discover in these two accessible books. Journalist Aprile (Louisville Courier-Journal) is a longtime friend of many of the Trappist monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani, one of 17 Trappist abbeys in the United States. Like most Roman Catholic monks, the Trappists follow rules devised by St. Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century. Trappists do not insist that guests have a purpose, so a retreat is usually informal. The guest makes a reservation to stay for a weekend or a week (their guesthouses are booked for months in advance); he or she may attend church or meet the guestmaster or another monk for spiritual advice. Aprile offers a thorough, readable introduction to the Trappists and experiencing one of their monasteries. Maguire (The Power of Personal Storytelling) takes us through a week at Zen Mountain Monastery (Mount Tremper, NY) under the guidance of its abbot, John Daido Loori. The retreat experience here is very different. While Trappists impose little structure on guests, at a Zen monastery visitors follow a formal schedule and an ideal style of observance. Guests have a specific goal: waking up to oneself and one's life. The principal means of waking up and becoming attentive is zazen ("sitting meditation"), but other activities are also directed to that end: kinhin ("walking meditation"), dokusan or daisan ("meeting with a teacher"), and mondo ("informal question-and-answer sessions"), among other activites. Both books are well worth reading, and if they inspire one to spend time with the Trappists or Zen monks, so much the better. For both public and academic libraries.--James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.