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The Monastery of the Heart: Benedictine Spirituality for Contemporary Seekers

The Monastery of the Heart: Benedictine Spirituality for Contemporary Seekers

by Joan Chittister


Available for Pre-Order. This item will be available on November 30, 2019


Every century, every culture has sought the spiritual dimensions of life in particular ways, through teachings and lifestyles it could embrace. Across the ages, for some women and men the longing to unite with the Divine took the form of an existence in solitude and prayer. For others, it lay in communal life and worship. For many, it was an attempt to withdraw from the secular world in order to be better attuned to the sacred.

But for one seeker in sixth-century Italy, for Benedict of Nursia, the spiritual life lay in simply living this life, our daily life, well. All of it. Every simple, single action of it. Benedict turned the ordinary into an experience of the extraordinary, a union with the sacred in the here and now. Benedict’s Rule—his guide for communal living—and Benedictine spirituality are his enduring legacy.

The Monastery of the Heart is Joan Chittister’s beautiful, practical guide for those who are looking for the rhythm of a better life in this time of social upheavals and global transformations. Anchored in Benedict’s ancient Rule, rooted in its values, The Monastery of the Heart offers a fresh approach to spiritual living in the very center of our own world—without ever withdrawing from it. Written for seekers of any faith or none—for individuals, couples, families, and small groups—it is a gentle invitation to embrace the sacred in the everyday.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781629190204
Publisher: BlueBridge
Publication date: 11/30/2019
Sales rank: 617,028
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

JOAN CHITTISTER is an internationally known author and lecturer, and the executive director of Benetvision, a resource and research center for contemporary spirituality. She has received numerous awards for her work for justice, peace, and equality. She currently serves as co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women. Her books include The Friendship of Women , Two Dogs and a Parrot , and the bestseller The Gift of Years.

Read an Excerpt

INTRODUCTION [uncorrected proof]

To the Many Seekers,

After more than fifty years of life in a monastery, I have begun to sift and sort the effects of it all, asking myself, what−if anything−of monastic life is worth passing on to others in this day and age? What of this life has any impact or import to populations other than monastic communities themselves−and how can those outside traditional monasteries, too, join throngs of monastics over the centuries who have found this life both enriching and enlightening?

This book is, then, a kind of guide and invitation for those seekers who stand in the midst of a seething, simmering world of spiritual as well as secular options, overwhelmed by choices, and looking for the rhythm of a better life. It suggests a model upon which to build−or rebuild−their own lives. It offers a template to guide them through the maze of empty promises, seductive dead ends, and useless panaceas the modern world, a spiritless culture, has to offer.

The search for God is an eternal one. It plagues every generation. It stalks every soul. It is the insistent, eternal cry for meaning, for answers to the questions, Why? And what? And for what purpose? It is the unending awareness that I am not alone in the universe, despite the fact that I do not know where I have come from or to what I’m going. It is the soulful pursuit launched to understand the Beginning of Life and to find the answer to its End. The search for God is the attempt to complete the incomplete in us. And it never stops eating away at the innards of our soul.

Every age, every path, has answered the questions of the spiritual dimensions of life in ways peculiar to itself, in language and symbols and lifestyles it could understand. For some, in the past, the search to unite with the One, with the Energy, with the Life of life, took the form of desert asceticism. For others, it lay in community and communal worship. For many, it was an attempt to withdraw from the business of this world in order to be better attuned to the next.

But for one man, for Benedict of Nursia, the spiritual life lay in simply living this life, our daily life, well. All of it. Every simple, single action of it. History attests to the proof of the power of such a life lived to turn the ordinary into an experience of the extraordinary union with the God of the Universe−here and now. Benedictine spirituality, the ongoing legacy of this sixth-century founder of cenobitic monasticism in the West, to our own times, is proof of its enduring value.

This spirituality based on the Rule of Benedict, a communal lifestyle, is over 1,500 years old. It developed at a time when Europe lay in political, economic, communal, and social disarray. And it exists to this day−around the world. Anything that survives the ages with new vitality in every age is surely worthy of serious spiritual examination in our own.

Most significant, perhaps, is that instead of setting out to reform the decadence of sixth-century Italy, Benedict of Nursia simply ignored the cheap and chaotic superficiality of it all to live according to different standards, to walk a different path, to live the life everyone else lived−but differently. Through the ages, thousands of others have done the same. As a result, Benedictinism has evolved from age to age, until many different forms of its past impulses exist yet−but all of them as carriers of the original impulse.

Today, in this time of cataclysmic social upheavals, of global transitions, of technological breakthroughs of unimagined proportions, we must do the same. Old patterns are breaking down; individuals, families, and small groups everywhere−in intentional communities and home worship, in parishes and prayer groups, through committed lifestyles and private disciplines−are seeking to shape new ways of living for themselves in the shell of the old.

This small guide−following the ancient Rule of Benedict that is still the basic worldview and organizational pattern for life in Benedictine monasteries everywhere−is meant to be a new way to live a meaningful spiritual life in the center of the world today, rather than withdraw from it. It does not abandon traditional Benedictine spirituality in favor of some new or exotic spiritual practice. On the contrary, it is anchored in the Rule, rooted in its values. It is an apple falling off an ancient tree, a cutting meant to grow steeped in its history, fresh in its form.

May the women and men, the families, the intentional communities who seek to create within themselves a Monastery of the Heart, find there the God who is forever seeking them.

Table of Contents



1. A Seeker’s Path

2. A Gentle Invitation

3. A Single Vision


4. Prayer

5. Silence

6. Prayerful Reading

7. Retreat and Reflection


8. Mutuality

9. Equality

10. Spiritual Guidance and Counsel

11. Sufficiency and Sharing

12. Nourishment


13. Good Work

14. Co-Creation

15. Loving Care

16. Responsibility

17. Hospitality


18. A Listening Heart

19. Conversion of Heart

20. Stability of Heart


21. Humility

22. Spiritual Tools

23. Sacred Art

24. Good Zeal

25. Peace