Virgin Time: In Search of the Contemplative Life

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A gifted writer's inquiry into one of the most profound yet least discussed issues of contemporary American life: the individual's search for faith. It tells of Hampl's quest to escape the indelible brand of a Catholic upbringing, following her to the "old world" of Catholocism in Spain and France, where she meets other pilgrims, back home again, and finally to a monastery in northern California, where she is able to settle into the real goal of her search: the silence of ...

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Overview

A gifted writer's inquiry into one of the most profound yet least discussed issues of contemporary American life: the individual's search for faith. It tells of Hampl's quest to escape the indelible brand of a Catholic upbringing, following her to the "old world" of Catholocism in Spain and France, where she meets other pilgrims, back home again, and finally to a monastery in northern California, where she is able to settle into the real goal of her search: the silence of prayer.

By turns witty and skeptical, emotionally honest and deeply moving, Hampl's account of her pilgrimage draws readers along as she visits strongholds of Catholicism, encounters colorful fellow seekers, and discovers a sense of spiritual meaning beyond organized religion. A New York Times Notable Book.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In Catholic parochial school, writes Hampl ( A Romantic Education ), she learned the virtue of contemplation: ``Pondering was the highest vocation. . . . Pondering was a special kind of thinking. It was not done in the mind, that chilly place, but in the heart, where the real mystery of intelligence--intuition rather than thought--lay catlike and feminine, ready to pounce.'' Accordingly, as she seeks the meaning of faith--by visiting several Catholic pilgrimage sites in Europe and a California-based Cistercian women's monastery, and by musing over her religious upbringing in Minnesota--she exercises her observational skills with a fury. She describes the wildflowers of Umbria and the quirks and passions of English agnostic travel companions; she relates how, in Assisi, touring Franciscans ``spoke of Francis and Clare as of people who had just left the room for a moment''; in Lourdes, she is overwhelmed by a crowd of supplicants, many of them in wheelchairs; and in the California monastery, she probes the meaning of silence. But for all its prettiness and earnestness, Hampl's prose is finally prolix and enervating. (Aug.)
Library Journal
``People like me, fused by fascination to their past, find themselves taking planes to distant places,'' observes Hampl, whose A Romantic Education ( LJ 2/1/81) reported on growing up Czech in America. To sort out her feelings about the Catholicism she rejected as a young woman, Hampl heads for Europe--the past of dusky cathedrals and centuries-old monasteries where her religion was forged. But along the road to Assisi, at the Poor Clare monastery on the Borgo San Pietro, and at Lourdes, she encounters not religious exaltation but vapid tourists and an American nun who is singularly unwilling to share her feelings. Only at a retreat in Mendicino, California, where religion is being remade, does she find true spirituality, learning to accept rather than to impose. Poet Hampl's prose is beautifully incisive, delivering her cascading reflections and sardonic asides on some loutish fellow pilgrims with equal vigor. Unfortunately, the reflections don't quite cohere--it's hard to follow the development of her thought--but her beautiful scattering of ideas is still well worth reading.-- Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal''
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780865477162
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/20/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 326
  • Product dimensions: 5.44 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Hampl is the author of A Romantic Education, Woman Before an Aquarium, Resort and Other Poems, Spillville, and I Could Tell You Stories. She lives in Minnesota.

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