The Cloister Walk by Kathleen NorrisThe Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris

The Cloister Walk

byKathleen Norris

Paperback | April 1, 1997

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 A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER AND NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR

“Vivid, compelling... An embrace of moral and spiritual contemplation.” –The New York Times

“A remarkable piece of writing. If read with humility and attention, Kathleen Norris's book becomes lectio divina, or holy reading.” –The Boston Globe

From the iconic author of Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, a spiritual journey that brings joy to the meanings of love, grace and faith. 

Why would a married woman with a thoroughly Protestant background and often more doubt than faith be drawn to the ancient practice of monasticism, to a community of celibate men whose days are centered on a rigid schedule of prayer, work, and scripture? This is the question that poet Kathleen Norris asks us as, somewhat to her own surprise, she found herself on two extended residencies at St. John's Abbey in Minnesota.

Part record of her time among the Benedictines, part meditation on various aspects of monastic life, The Cloister Walk demonstrates, from the rare perspective of someone who is both an insider and outsider, how immersion in the cloistered world-- its liturgy, its ritual, its sense of community-- can impart meaning to everyday events and deepen our secular lives. In this stirring and lyrical work, the monastery, often considered archaic or otherworldly, becomes immediate, accessible, and relevant to us, no matter what our faith may be.

Kathleen Norris is the award-winning, bestselling author of Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith; The Cloister Walk; and Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, in various anthologies, and in her own three volumes of poetry. She divides her time between South Dakota and Hawaii.
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Title:The Cloister WalkFormat:PaperbackDimensions:416 pages, 8.2 × 5.5 × 1 inPublished:April 1, 1997Publisher:Penguin Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1573225843

ISBN - 13:9781573225847

Reviews

Table of Contents

Preface

Dawn

September 3: Gregory the Great

St. John's Abbey Liturgy Schedule

The Rule and Me

September 17: Hildegard of Bingen

September 29: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Archangels

The Difference

September 30: Jerome

October 1: Thérèse of the Child Jesus

October 2: Guardian Angels

Jeremiah as Writer: The Necessary Other

November 1 and 2: All Saints, All Souls

November 16: Gertrude the Great

Exile, Homeland, and Negative Capability

New York City: The Trappist Connection

Los Angeles: The O Antiphons

Borderline

The Christmas Music

January 2: Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzus

Passage

The Paradox of the Psalms

Baptism of the Lord: A Tale of Intimacy

January 10: Gregory of Nyssa

February 2: Candlemas/Presentation of the Lord

Celibate Passion

February 10: Scholastica

Good Old Sin

Acedia

Pride

Anger

Noon

Degenerates

New Melleray Abbey Liturgy Schedule

Chicago: Religion in America

The War on Metaphor

March 18: Mechtild of Magdeburg

April 2: Mary of Egypt

Saved by a Rockette: Easters I Have Known

Triduum: The Three Days

Triduum Notes

Cinderella in Kalamazoo

The Virgin Martyrs: Between "Point Vierge" and the "Usual Spring"

Minneapolis: Cocktails with Simon Tugwell

May 15: Emily Dickinson

Maria Goretti: Cipher or Saint?

Evening

Genesis

Road Trip

Places and Displacement: Rattlesnakes in Cyberspace

Learning to Love: Benedictine Women on Celibacy and Relationship

The Cloister Walk

The Garden

The Church and the Sermon

June 9: Ephrem the Syrian

Small Town Sunday Morning

At Last, Her Laundry's Done

Dreaming of Trees

Monks and Women

July 11: Benedict's Cave

A Glorious Robe

Women and the Habit: A Not-so-glorious Dilemma

The Gregorian Brain

Oz

Generations

Monastic Park

August 28: Augustine

The Lands of Sunrise and Sunset

The Nursing Home on Sunday Afternoon

One Man's Life

"It's a Sweet Life"

Coming and Going: Monastic Rituals

"The Rest of the Community"

"The Only City in America"

Night

Acknowledgments

Bookclub Guide

INTRODUCTIONThis reading group guide has been created to enhance your group's enjoyment of The Cloister Walk, which can be read as a chronicle of spiritual discovery or as a meditation, like daily passages of scripture. We hope it will prove to be a valuable accompaniment to Kathleen Norris's unique work --- "a gift of insight... one of those rare books too rich to race through" (The Kansas City Star).Part memoir, part meditation, The Cloister Walk is the movingly written and thought-provoking record of a married, Protestant woman's time spent in a community of men in a traditional Benedictine monastery in Minnesota. Any reader seeking a meaningful life - not necessarily a religious one - will be inspired by author Kathleen Norris's experiences among monks who, while so little understood in our society, are admirable bearers of tradition, incorporating in their lives the values of stability, silence, and humility that we so desperately need, yet relentlessly avoid. An award-winning poet, Kathleen Norris brings her appreciation for language and metaphor to the reading of Bible, especially the psalms, and shares the way she slowly, sometimes painfully, "let words work the earth of her heart." Gradually she learns much about simplicity, patience, forgiveness, the value of community, and the responsibility of freedom. It is in the sanctuary of the cloister that she at last achieves healing - finding peace in her sometimes troubled marriage and gaining a new understanding of her challenging life in the outside world. Above all, she discovers the force of spirituality and the beneficial change it can effect - that "love can be the center of all things, if only we will keep it there." ABOUT KATHLEEN NORRISKathleen Norris is an award-winning poet and the author of Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, as well as three volumes of poetry, the most recent of them Little Girls in Church. A recipient of grants from the Bush and Guggenheim foundations, she has been in residence twice at the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural research at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, and has been, for ten years, an oblate of Assumption Abbey in North Dakota. She and her husband live in South Dakota.PraiseA New York Times Best SellerA New York Times Notable Book of the Year"This is a remarkable piece of writing.... If read with humility and attention, Kathleen Norris's book becomes lectio divina, or holy reading."- The Boston Globe"She writes about religion with the imagination of a poet... The story of her faith is attractively incongruous, and more than a little receptive to rebellion... Some bridling is worth it to a reader when the writer is as original as Norris, a Midwestern, late-20th-century mystic."- Molly McQuade, Chicago Tribune"Ms. Norris is subtle and shrewd... In The Cloister Walk, persisting in her wonderfully idiosyncratic ways, she gives us the result of an 'immersion into a liturgical world'... Most of all, naturally, these pages offer the voice of Kathleen Norris, a person of modern sensibility who dares leap across time and space to make the interests and concerns of any number of reflective thinkers her own... She is one of history's writing pilgrims but also a contemporary American one, boldly willing to forsake any number of cultural fads, trends and preoccupations in favor of this 'walk,' this searching expedition within herself..."- Robert Coles, The New York Times Book Review"With her lucid, luminous prose, hard-headed logic, and far-reaching metaphors, Norris has brought us the cloister at its most alive."- San Francisco ChronicleRelated TitlesIf you enjoyed The Cloister Walk, you'll want to read these other works by Kathleen Norris, all available from Riverhead.The PsalmsISBN:1-57322-647-5A beautiful new edition of one of the most beloved books of the Bible, with insight and illumination from Kathleen Norris.Amazing GraceISBN:1-57322-078-7Kathleen Norris explicates and demystifies words in the Christian vocabulary that both attract and trouble her. DISCUSSION QUESTIONSIn the book's preface, author Kathleen Norris admits that in the past she has employed literature as a substitute for religion in her life (p. xvii). What are the similarities for her between a writing apprenticeship and a spiritual quest? Why does the latter prove so much more fulfilling? What other things do people use as replacements for religion, and why do you think they so often fall short of the kind of life epitomized by the Benedictines? Monks' lives are often difficult, and they are little understood by the rest of society. Why do they persist in their anachronistic lifestyle and practices? How would you answer the author's question: "Are monks wasting their time in seeking to convert themselves, and the world, from evil?" (p. 128) How did the book change your understanding of the monastic life? Did it inspire you to pursue these ideas further? One of the wonderful paradoxes in this book is that only by immersing herself in life among celibates is the author finally able to understand and find peace in her marriage. How has the monastic life helped her in her relationship with her husband? What does she mean when she writes that all committed life is "sacred and self-transcendent" (p. 261), necessarily "ascetic" (p. 128), and that marriage can be "a school for love" ? The author is continually amazed by the perspective of time in a monastery as compared to that of the world outside. Whereas time is considered by the Benedictines to be a gift, what is our culture's attitude toward it? How are these different attitudes reflected in the ways we treat our elderly and approach death? How is making peace with time vital to our being at ease with ourselves spiritually? How do the rituals and daily rhythms of monastic life force a re-evaluation of residents' experience of time? What is the significance of the Rule of St. Benedict's instruction: "Keep death daily before your eyes" (p. 8)? How can this practice lead to forgiveness and love - and to the "conversion of heart" sought by all Benedictines? How can you employ this rule in your own life? Prayer is sometimes described by the author as "the joy of just being with words" (p. 93). Has this been your experience? Is it enough? What is the role of silence in spiritual life, and why is silence so hard to come by in our culture? After reading this book, do you consider yourself skilled at listening? If not, did the book inspire you with ways to improve your "quality of attention" (p. 143)? Celibacy is a little-understood lifestyle, and the author does much to illuminate it in this book. Do you agree that celibacy allows individuals to be of greater service to God and each other? Do you think the Catholic church should continue to require its priests, nuns, and monks to make this vow? Have you ever had a personal relationship with a celibate? If so, did he or she make you feel "appreciated, enlarged" as the author's friends have done (p. 121)? Discuss the dramatic contrast between monastic culture and our consumer culture. How do your homes and workplaces differ from monasteries? Are you attracted to the alternative the author describes? How do you think you would adjust to the emphases on prayer, silence, and humility that characterize monastic existence? The author's spiritual quest required unlearning the lessons and attitudes about church from her childhood. How was she able to let go of her youthful God's demand of practicing religion the "right" way (p. 92)? How do you think we can better expose children to religion so that they will more easily grow into a meaningful, mature relationship with God? Are there any of your own childhood experiences in established religion that have interfered with your spiritual development? If so, did the book provide you with ideas for overcoming the ways you have become exiled from your religion? The author conveys several times her complete astonishment at finding herself a resident in a monastery. Have you ever experienced, as she does, a new environment that became life-changing? Was there any fear or resistance on your part? Did it make you subsequently more welcoming of new experiences? Depression is a common malady in our culture, and the author writes movingly of her own encounters with it. How does the Word of God provide her with "a hope that no modern therapeutic approach can give" (p. 129)? Do you think contemporary changes in liturgy to make it more accessible are detrimental to the practice of religion in the long run? What is the value of the traditional in comparison to that of the trendy? Do you agree with the author's insistence that keeping liturgy grounded in age-old metaphor and poetry is imperative if we are to preserve meaning and the "belief in the power of words to change things" (p. 154)?

From Our Editors

The "New York Times" bestseller by the author of "Dakota: A Spiritual Geography". After spending two extended residences at a Benedictine monastery, Kathleen Norris takes readers through one liturgical year--its rituals, its prayers, its daily activities. Through her accessible prose, a seemingly archaic world becomes immediate, accessible, and relevant to people of all faiths

Editorial Reviews

"In The Cloister Walk, persisting in [Norris's] wonderfully idiosyncratic ways, she gives us the result of an 'immersion into a liturgical world'... She is one of hisotyr's writing pilgrims but also a contemporary American one, boldly willing to forsake any number of cultural fads, trends, and preoccupations in favor of this 'walk,' this searching expedition within herself." --The New York Times Book Review"Norris continues to write plainspoken meditations that expand the purview of non-fiction... She writes about religion with the imagination of a poet... In reading Norris, one comse to feel like a spiritual collaborate and, when one's spirit fails, like a spiritual rebel." --Chicago Tribune "With her lucid, luminous prose, hardheaded logic, and far-reaching metaphors, Norris has brought us the cloister at its most alive." --San Francisco Chronicle "The Cloister Walk is a new opportunity to discover a remarkable writer with a huge, wise heart... you want to share this great discovery, giving her work as a gift-- or you simply shove a copy in the face of a friend, saying, 'Read this.'" --Minneapolis Star-Tribune"Norris presents ample proof that holy people don't have to be starchy... If you learn anything from The Cloister Walk, it's that monks are people too. They gossip, crack jokes, fall asleep in church, suffer through depression and doubt like the rest of us.... Perhaps there's hope for spiritual life outside the cloister after all." --Newsday