Cover Image: The Monastic Heart

The Monastic Heart

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Member Reviews

“This book carries the weight and wisdom of the monastic spiritual tradition into the twenty-first century. Sister Joan leans into Saint Benedict, who, as a young man in the sixth century, sought moral integrity in the face of an empire not by conquering or overpowering the empire but by simply living an ordinary life extraordinarily well. This same monastic mindset can help us grow in wisdom, equanimity, and strength of soul as we seek restoration and renewal both at home and in the world.” (From book description). The author explains the rituals of the days, seasons at a monastery. The next step she takes is showing how those rituals could be applied to a lay person‘s life. Knowing very little about Catholicism, this gave me a great appreciation for the meaning behind all that is done behind those walls. And I found the application to my life very meaningful. Thanks to NetGalley for a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
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A beautiful and insightful reflection on how to experience and engage the contemplative life as a follower of Christ. A simple but profound read. Destined to be a classic!
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Joan Chittister's The Monastic Heart is a heartfelt paean to the Benedictine way of life--but wait! There's more! Chittister examines the little things that comprise her day:  bells, readings at mealtime, singing psalms with her community of sisters. She looks at why the practices that have been prescribed in the Benedictine rule book are valuable guides to anyone who is striving to live a good life. Each item that she examines is written about with sensitivity and understanding and with a simplicity that is poetic. It is a joy to read a section each morning and carry the thoughts throughout the day. There is no heavy theology to understand and no burdensome "shoulds" to embrace. There is joyful respect and gratitude for each symbol and practice that has enriched her life and that she offers as a gift to the rest of us.
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This was beautiful and full of concepts that I knew little about but enough information was given that I felt I could incorporate some of it into my daily life. She’s an amazing writer who makes you feel seen and understood throughout.
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I enjoyed the perspective of this book. The 50 chapters in the book coincide with that 50 monastic concepts found in Benedict's Rule of Life. Chittister argues that all of us have room in our lives for these traditions, and also that we would greatly benefit from. Some of the concepts/practices really resonated with me, while others fell flat. I think, overall, this could be a helpful too for those looking to connect with God and strengthen their faith. I enjoyed reading it. I received a digital copy of this book via NetGalley, but purchased the audiobook for myself. All opinions expressed are my own.
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This book was really interesting. I read it cover to cover, but the way it's organized you can really start anywhere. It's divided up into monastic topics. As a lay person who is interested in spirituality and Christianity I found it to be helpful in how to plan and organize my life in helpful ways and practices.
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This surprised me with its depth and relevance to all believers. 50 different practices highlighted by Benedict's Rule of Life and followed by the monastics of that order. However, Chittister encourages all of us to adopt these practices and in so doing see oneself as monastic in one's ideologies in order to live a deeper walk with Jesus.

I came to this book not sure whether I would find these practices as relevant and desirable but soon discovered that its in these practices that we can both grow deeper in love with Jesus but also live a life of embracing the communities in which with walk with love, compassion and grace.

Each practice is a mini-essay of three to four pages comprising two sections: an outline of the practice as interpreted from Benedict's words and then a second section on thoughts on how to integrate the practice in one's life. I read the book from cover to cover, however, I suspect many people will choose particular practices to read first, however, don't be surprised if some of those one doesn't gravitate towards are as relevant and impactful as the others.

I think the lasting impression I have is how the monastic life its more about a balance of both individual practices like solitude and silence and community engagement with the same humility and surrender. We can only be truly formed by Jesus with a healthy balance of both. Chittister repeatedly highlighted the community impact in the majority of practices.

I suspect this will become a useful reference book moving forward.

I was fortunate to receive an early ebook copy from the publisher via NetGalley with no expectation of a favourable review.
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“The Monastic Heart”, by Joan Chittister, is written with the pandemic and all the recent global trauma in mind. As such, it opens with a questions “Where do we go now as individuals to find our way out of the shadows and toward a new light?”. From there, each chapter unpacks just one element of monastic life, it’s origins and purpose as well as how to apply it to modern life. Joan writes “Monasticism is the single-hearted search for what matters in life.” and this is theme woven consistently throughout.

Ladened with insights, I found it best to digest no more than a chapter a night and, on occasion, to come back and reflect on the previous day’s reading. It is a book upon one needs to meditate in order to appreciate all it offers.

“Community is the commitment to carry others through their periods of darkness as they carry you through yours.” - “The Monastic Heart” by Joan Chittister

It is a book of hope written from the perspective of someone who has endured much, loved and encouraged many and is full of wisdom. I thoroughly enjoyed it, it is a five out of five on the enJOYment scale and highly recommended.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from Convergent Books through NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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Five stars are just not enough stars for this book. It is just the right message for me, at the right time. I am sure there will be many others who feel the same way about it. I just love the way the author digs into these, "50 Simple Practices for a Contemplative and Fulfilling Life". 

Encouraged by a friend, who she describes as her muse, the author achieves the goal of, " turning monastic language into language people can understand in their own lives." I am very grateful that while it took 25 years to come to fruition, I have had the privilege of reading it.

There are just too many words of wisdom for such a small space, I have highlighted so many in my copy that I think I may just as well have coloured the entire text :)

Some partial thoughts, "... Solitude saves you from ...", "Willingness is no substitute for preparation...", "Monasticism is a call to develop the best of ourselves... ", "God the Creator trusts you...",  and, "What we give time to creates us.."

There is much, much more to this incredible book. I do hope this short review encourages you to engage with it. You won't be sorry.

With thanks to #Netgalley, the publisher Convergent Books, and the author for my advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
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This is a book for those that are searching for more.  More peace, more of you.  This is a book, not just to be read, but to look back to, to find passages that mean something to you in that time in your life that you need it most.  This is a very good book to look to help you when you need something, but don't know what you are looking for.
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How many times have we heard people say: "It's a crazy world out there?" Saying is one thing. Learning how to respond is yet another. With the ongoing pandemic and the constant challenges of life, we all need a better way forward, besides simply taking a break, going away on vacation, or for more serious cases, going to a therapist. Many people struggle with finding a fulfilling life, and they substitute this search for fulfillment by aiming for wrong targets. Things that ultimately do not satisfy. In a world that increasingly says that they are not religious but spiritual, we need to pin down what exactly does that reveal about us. Perhaps, if we could tweak our search, and to direct our efforts to something meaningful, something that is helpful for the soul, it would make our living on earth not only more bearable but fulfilling. The premise of the book is to mine the rich ancient wisdom from the monastic era. This is far better than to adopt conventional pep-talk that often are superficial. Phrases like: "Relax, things will get better," or "Just try to think positive" simply do not cut it. In a world that are mostly distracted by issues and multiple perspectives, our hearts are crying out for something more focused and single-hearted on the most important matters in life. Like what the ancient monastics have learned, it is one thing to withdraw from the world, it is yet another to deal with the inner turmoil happening inside our hearts. This book contains 50 monastic practices that we can adopt to help us in the single-hearted search for meaning and fulfillment. It is meant not just for Christians, but for anyone seeking to find not just meaning but our responsibility in life. 

Chittister helps us through the meditations with lots of symbolism. Using practices and things common in a Benedictine monastery, she helps us discover the historical riches and how they are still relevant to modern life. For instance, she uses the the monastery bells ringing as a way to describe our rhythms of life to point us to our duties. There is the famous Rule of Benedict that brings along an ordered spirituality to give us spiritual direction. Other symbols include the choir, the incense, the candles, the divine office, vespers, private prayer, and many more. 

My Thoughts
For anyone wanting to find out more about what goes on in a Benedictine monastery, this book gives a glimpse of the daily routines. Just like a story book to tell us the meaning of a Sunday Church service liturgy, these 50 practices chosen by Chittister gives us a good idea of the rituals, the reasons, and the relevance today. Each chapter is a fascinating trip to the historical background of the symbol or practice, showing us why they were adopted in the first place. These practices draw us to reflect upon our own lives, how the simplicity of the rituals could help us read our own life stories. The author explains a spiritual aspect of each practice. For example, on solitude, we learn that it is less of an escape from life but more about an immersion in the quietness in order for us to listen to the voices in our hearts, and for Christians, to listen to the soft prompting of the Holy Spirit. 

How do we make sense of the crazy world outside of us? How do we grow spiritually? How do we become spiritual seekers in an increasingly secular society? This book provides 50 different ways to use monastic lens to view our modern world. Instead of relying on the world to tell us what to do or think, we are invited to put everything aside and to go simple. Be still and start noticing life. Chittister is not just a nun, but an extremely perceptive spiritual guide. If we could learn from how she manages to take the simple monastic practices she has learned as a Benedictine nun and apply it to daily life, once we capture the gist of it, we too could be more contemplative about our own world. Use this book as a reference, as a spiritual guide, and as a way to let the simple things of life speak to a complex world.
Joan Chittister is a Benedictine Sister who hails from Erie, Pennsylvania. She is also is a best-selling author and well-known international lecturer on topics of justice, peace, human rights, women's issues, and contemporary spirituality in the church and in society. She presently serves as the co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, a partner organization of the United Nations, facilitating a worldwide network of women peacebuilders, especially in the Middle East. 

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.

This book has been provided courtesy of Convergent Books and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
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Toward a mature spiritual life
Author of more than fifty books and benedictine sister Joan Chittister presents her book "The Monastic Heart. 50 Simple Practices for a contemplative and Fulfilling Life" which was published by Random House – Convergent Books. The fifty chapters of the book present fifty simple practices which are components of the monastic life. It is based on the benedictine monasticism not on another monasticism, e.g., the Buddhist one. Every chapter starts with an explanation of the topic, e.g., chapter 33 "Chant: On the Sound of Angels - Chant is a monastic prayer form that either recites or sings simple verses of psalms and prayers with rhythm, reiteration of ideas, and fluid musical tones. It ranges from simple psalm tones called plain chant to complex polyphonic Gregorian chant." Monasticism for her is "the single-hearted search for what matters in life".
In every chapter Chittister gives an introduction to the topic and then shows the readers how the practice can be integrated in the everyday life. The goal of her book is to invite the readers to reflection. In the introduction she states: "To live a mature spiritual life requires that we choose the values that will ground our hearts, stretch our vision, and give new energy to our hopes..." after she stated earlier already: "We need a way of living life and seeing life that brings more human entirety than it does popular acclaim. We need soul. It is those things this book seeks to explore, to test, to offer for consideration as we grow from stage to stage, from emptiness to wholeness."
I valued this book and the fact that one does not have to read it from beginning to end but also can choose the practice that is appealing at a certain moment. I recommend this book to readers who are interested in integrating some or all of these simple practices into their lives, who want to cultivate wisdom and resilience. The only thing I was missing in the ACR was footnotes or endnotes for reference and for those readers who want to study the topic in more depth. Maybe they will be included in the final copy.
The complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley free of charge. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
#TheMonasticHeart	#NetGalley
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This book has 50 chapters; one for each monastic practice.  The chapter title and subtitle provide a brief hint on the topic … such as Bells (Remembering), Hospitality, Silence, Cloister, Community, Solitude (you can see how some of these are related if not repetitive).  A short summary (aka thesis statement) follows the title, then there is a reflection on the topic within the Benedictine monastic life/history and followed by a section called "Integrating the Practice" (how you and I can incorporation this practice in our more secular life.  The chapter ends with a quick quote that is designed to restate the core concept of the practice.  

For such as ambitious work, it is fairly well put together and it is an easy read … perhaps not in one sitting though.  At times it seems to be covering them same ground, just from a different view point.  At other times, it seems the author tries too hard to connect the monastic practice to the secular life and I had trouble connecting.  Regardless, each chapter dose provide the reader with things to contemplate on and maybe come up with their own way of getting to the underlying concept of each practice … the summary of which would be to create your own community and sacred spaces where you can find and nurture a relationship with a loving God, and with a broken world.

Although it was very interesting, it ultimately was not quite what I was looking for ... 
I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
#TheMonasticHeart #NetGalley.
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I have read a few of Joan Chittister's books.. This is one of my favorites. One of my dearest friends was a Benedictine sister. As I was reading, I connected the author's teachings and suggestions on the Rule of St. Benedict to what I  witnessed first hand in my friend's community. Chittister reveals the depth of Benedict in simple language that engages the reader. Her ideas challenge the reader emotionally and spiritually. 
    I highly recommend this book for anyone searching for a way of life that leads to peace, joy, and power.  The Benedictine Rule is medicine for anyone struggling with the complexity and the chaos of modern society. Chittister ends each chapter with a simple call to action. I found these practical and powerful.
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Joan Chittister, a living saint of the Catholic Church, finds a ways to apply monastics practices and teaching to everydaylife, in a very accessible way,.
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During these disturbing times in which we live, this book gives you a peaceful purpose to begin each day.  This book will definitely be full of highlighter marks from cover to cover.
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Sister Joan Chittister provides another work through her vocation as a Benedictine Nun,  that allows the reader to discover concepts about the Order, the history behind them, and how to apply them into a manner of living spiritually today.

      What I love most about Chittister's books are how they invite the reader into a world that is simultaneously present, and unknown. This is the world of God's Kingdom, that through spirituality can be glimpsed and seen. As she takes various subjects and presents them in three parts to the reader I found the historical most fascinating, and enjoyed the biographical aspects - how these affect her life as a nun.  Almost as good, but I feel a little forced at times were taking these topics and applying them to today. Some of them fit well, and others appear to be a bit of a stretch by the author, but in her defense, when one is reading about theological concepts that stretching gives one pause and a reason to check back to the concept at another time.

     Wonderfully written, I enjoyed this work by reading as few as one short chapter a day, as a part of my daily spiritual exercises, while sometimes reading three, depending on how the Spirit moved me. Whether you want to read this through, or piecemeal as I did, I invite you to enjoy a trip through Chittister's lens where readers can enjoy how to witness, and bring the spiritual realm to the surface of our lives today.
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In The Monastic Heart, Chittister takes 50 habits that are central to Benedictine monastic life, explains each, and then offers a way to integrate each one into life outside the monastery. Her explanations of the power of these habits, the rationale behind them, and their place in monastic life are simple, straightforward, and incredibly attractive. She beautifully conveys why these are the habits that have sustained Benedictine monasticism since the sixth century and demonstrates how they are still relevant in the 21st century, whether or not one is a member of a monastery. I think it's safe to say that this is the first book that's made me want to implement the habits/spiritual disciplines discussed, rather than just making me feel as though I should implement them for my own good. This is a book I'm sure I'll be revisiting repeatedly over the years to come.
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This is a beautiful, demanding book about applying the Rule of St. Benedict here in our tumultuous everyday lives. The writing is crisp, clear, and not for the faint of heart. An excellent choice for anyone who feels like their life is not spiritually demanding enough and who would appreciate the challenge of structure to change that.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing a copy of this book.
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Even if you don't want to become a nun or monk yourself, The Rule of Saint Benedict, a book of precepts written in 516 by Benedict of Nursia (c. AD 480–550) for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot, contains useful advice to live closely with God and your community. The activist and nun Joan Chittister reflects in The Monastic Heart: 50 Simple Practices for a Contemplative and Fulfilling Life on habits, rhythms, ceremonies, rituals, and life-changing practices. She not only borrows from The Rule of Saint Benedict and the Bible, but also from the other mainstream religions that have a monastic order or fraction.

Bells to remember you about the daily patterns, hospitality, and humility up to singing praise and communal prayer. The author sheds a light on burning candles and silence, contemplation and study, staying away from worldly temptations yet serving the community around, finding inner peace, and keeping your heart pure. Fifty chapters with a short description of the Benedictine sources, verses from holy books, putting the rule in practice, and a twist or two to keep it as lightweight as possible.

Plenty of food for thought, personal reflection, and deepening your spiritual life. Go with God!
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