My Years as a Nun
by Catherine Coldstream
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Pub Date 12 Mar 2024 | Archive Date 26 Mar 2024
"A profoundly moving memoir which gripped me . . . It’s about spirituality and asceticism and silence and sisterhood, but also about how flawed human beings can abuse power and how hermetically sealed communities, which should care for and protect their members, can be dangerously vulnerable to threats from inside their walls.” - Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, The Porpoise and others
An astonishing memoir of twelve years as a contemplative nun in a silent monastery.
Cloistered takes the reader deep into the hidden world of a traditional Carmelite monastery as it approaches the third Millennium and tells the story of an intense personal journey into and out of an enclosed life of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Finding an apparently perfect world at Akenside Priory, in Northumberland, Catherine trusts herself to a group of twenty silent women, believing she is trusting herself to God. As the beauty and mystery of an ancient way of life enfold her, she surrenders herself wholly to its power, quite unaware of the complexity and dangers that lie ahead.
Cut off from the wider world for decades, the community has managed to evade accountability to any authority beyond itself. When Sister Catherine realises that a mesmerising cult of the personality, with the distortions it entails, has replaced the ancient ideal of religious obedience, she is faced with a dilemma. Will she submit to this, or will she be forced to speak out?
An exploration of the limits of trust, Cloistered shows us how far youthful idealism can take us along the road of self-surrender, and of how much harm is done when institutional flaws go unacknowledged. Catherine’s honest account of her time in the monastery – and her dramatic flight from it – is both a love song to a lost community and an exploration of what is most compelling, yet most potentially destructive when closed human groups become laws unto themselves.